In 2016, when the movie Lion came to theaters, my phone began to fill up with text messages asking if I have seen it yet. The movie is based on the true story of a young Indian boy named Saroo who was adopted by an Australian couple. My phone was blowing up because my friends know I love talking about everything to do with adoption, but they specifically thought of me because the parents who adopted young Saroo were capable of having biological children but chose to adopt. They felt there were already lots of children in the world who needed parents.
As far as I know, I am able to bear children. But I don't want to have a baby when there are an estimated 442,000 children in foster care in the United States alone who need homes.
"We feel like we should do what we can to change it, and that means opening our hearts and homes to children who need a family."
When I met my now-husband, we talked about adoption early on in our relationship because I knew it was the one and only way I wanted to have a family. To the surprise of some friends and family members, my husband was on board with the idea. When you open your eyes to see the number of children who need loving families, it's hard to unsee it. We feel like we should do what we can to change it, and that means opening our hearts and homes to children who need a family.
That doesn't mean people don't have questions — good questions, even. Legitimate questions that should be thought through carefully. And sometimes well-meaning people have questions (or even worse, "advice") that isn't so good. But that's OK. The good, tough, scary questions still need answering. Here are a few of the most common.
"Don't you want to have one of your own?"
This might be the most common response I hear from people when they find out I only want to adopt. The answer, though, is always simple. I smile on and kindly say, "They will be mine."
The idea that a child is not yours unless it was formed with your anatomy is frankly wrong, as any adoptive parent and every person who has been adopted knows. Think about what being a parent actually means: it's shaping a young life, teaching them how to live, think, and behave. That doesn't mean that any kid is going to be exactly like their parents – it's not true of biological kids either. But any child you raise is your child. Every child is different, but a parent loves every child.
"I could never do that."
You are capable of more than you think, and to be perfectly honest, I think this answer is kind of a cop out. The recent movie Instant Family, though a fictional comedy, is a fantastic example. People who don't think they're "qualified" can be great foster and adoptive parents as long as they're ready to work hard loving kids who need love.
"What if you get kids that are really messed up?"
No child is guaranteed to be devoid of difficulty. Biological children raised in a good home can battle with serious issues of trauma, addiction, or mental illness. Children who have lived in foster care are certainly not the only kids susceptible to problems.
It is true that children who have been abandoned or abused are likely to have trauma from those experience. But this is where loving foster and adoptive parents can make such a difference by providing the safety, security, and full bellies the children need. There are also counselors who specialize in helping children with trauma. If you are fostering, these therapy services are available for your child.
"I would like to adopt but it's too expensive."
Thanks to fundraising platforms like AdoptTogether, families have help to overcome the financial barriers to adoption, so the costs don't need to be a hindrance from changing a child's life. Though the costs vary widely depending on what type of adoption you are pursuing, there are local and global communities who are ready to rally around and support you through the process, because they — like me — want to see a world where there are no more orphans and no more children in foster care.
There is nothing wrong with wanting biological children. Childbirth is a magical and powerful thing and should be celebrated! I never want anyone to think I look down on them for wanting biological children. I only hope to open more eyes to the needs of hundreds of thousands of children in America who are waiting for placement, and hoping to have a safe place to call home. If I can encourage just one person to take a child into their home, that's one less kid in foster care.