We adopted our children through an Interstate Compact, which means they were placed with us by another state for the purpose of adoption. Their sending state was in the Southeast. During the meeting where we signed the final papers before bringing them home the area Adoption Director of the Department of Social Services said, “They’re young enough. You don’t even have to tell them they’re adopted.”
They were four and five-and-a-half.
They’re African American.
We were obviously dumfounded.
Luckily, we did our foster care training in our home state where we were instructed to be as open as possible with our children’s stories. Creating a lifebook for each child was encouraged. The social workers suggested we post photographs of birth family and former caregivers on the wall in their bedroom.
We completed our training and were quite pleased with ourselves for being so well-informed.
However, our children came home and as we utilized “best practices” in our home, we were getting unexpected responses from our children.
Something I’m just now realizing is that, although our training was highly informative and helpful, it tended to lump our kids together in a this-is-how-to-parent-through-trauma sort of way.
Individual comfort, acceptance, and personality were not considered. Likely the social workers assumed we could figure that part out.
A couple years after our children came home I finally thought to ask them, individually, “What do you want to know about your adoption and about your life before coming into this family?”
Surprisingly, they wanted to know very little and they each were comfortable with separate facts. When I gave them only the information they requested, they treasured each detail and retained the information for the first time.
My children were asking for their story in small doses and were taking the time to digest what they had learned before asking for more.
Thanks to the brilliance of a treatment provider, our current goal is to begin new lifebooks that include only the requested information in them so we could build them over time.
And everyone’s thrilled about it.
I would love to learn what openness in adoption looks like in your family!