National Adoption Awareness Month: Starting the Conversation Without Being a Putz

Woman kissing baby boy

My husband and I announced we were pursuing adoption just after we completed our home study, which was eight months before we were chosen. While adoption isn’t uncommon, it’s not very common either, and well-meaning friends, relatives and even the lady doing my pedicure can say things that set adoptive parents on edge.

So, here’s a crash course in what’s not OK and what’s OK to ask or say to adoptive parents. It’s natural to want to ask questions and that’s great! Please do. Just be a little sensitive.

Would you believe I experienced all of these?

  • Never, under any circumstances, ask, “What’s wrong with you?” “Which one of you can’t have kids?” or some similar version. Trust me. You don’t want to hear about the status of my uterus or my husband’s plumbing. And we don’t want to talk about it. Besides, how do you know we’re not just adopting to adopt?
  • Please don’t start telling adoption horror stories. We’ve heard them. We’ve read about them. It’s our worst nightmare.
  • I never understood why the first question people inevitably ask about our birthmom is her age. It’s not that it’s offensive, but it’s just satisfying a morbid curiosity and not at all relevant.
  • Don’t slam or make judgmental comments about the birthmom. Also, she didn’t “give away” her baby/ies. She made an adoption plan, which is the most difficult thing anyone could do.
  • When someone tells you they’re adopting, please don’t react with sympathy.

Now that the no-no’s are out of the way, let’s talk about the fun stuff, with the politically correct terms.

  • You can’t go wrong reacting with pure joy and excitement. When someone tells you they’re adopting, respond exactly the same way you would if they told you they’re pregnant.
  • The adoptee has a birthmom and a birthfamily. “Biological” makes them sound like science experiments. “Real” mom is also frowned upon. I’m the real mom and there can be only one.
  • Ask about the process, how they got started, what agency they’re using, where they are now and how the home study went. You can also ask about the relationship with the birthmom—if she’s in the picture, if the adoptive parents met her, etc.
  • The typical questions are all fair game: Are you going to find out what you’re having? How old is the child? Is he/she from around here, or is it an international adoption? When do you think you’ll get a baby/child? This is a fun, exciting time. Allow yourself to get wrapped up in it.
  • Ask for reassurance. People want to know if the birthmom can take away the kid(s). The answer is yes and no. She can change her mind until she goes to court to relinquish her parental rights. This usually happens in the first 30–60 days or so. Once the birthmom goes to court, she has officially given the greatest gift anyone could give. It’s safe to breathe now.

– Rebecca Calappi, Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health System and adoptive parent of multiples

4 Responses to “National Adoption Awareness Month: Starting the Conversation Without Being a Putz”


  1. 1 Anonymous November 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Oh, this is SO GOOD! Thanks for nailing it, Rebecca!

  2. 2 Erica Surman November 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Rebecca, I LOVE your blogs. I really look forward to reading them!

  3. 3 Shelby November 11, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Thanks for the tips 🙂

  4. 4 Anonymous November 13, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for the article Rebecca, and for being the mother of the multiples! The day you told us you were adopting was one of the best days of my life (second only to the day the kids were born!)


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