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Reality: Behind the Scenes of the Happy Adoption Photo

Reality: Behind the Scenes of the Happy Adoption Photo

There are a whole lot of orphans in the world, and there is a big push for more parents to adopt. Adoption is a great thing and a worthy cause, but in our passion and desperation to find homes for children, I feel that we often tread closely to manipulation. Look at this happy adoptive family photo! You could do this for a child! Yes, you! All they need is a home and a family to love them!

And yes, so many need homes and they all need love, but how often do we gloss over everything else that they needan exorbitant amount of patience and a ridiculous amount of grace? They don’t trust adults; they don’t feel worthy of love; they test limits; they tell you they don’t love you or want to be in your familyall to protect their little hearts that have been broken one too many times in their short lives.

People just don’t talk much about this part of adoption openly. It’s not pretty or fun, and it is hard to talk about. I know that we all want to protect our children’s privacy and reputation, but I feel like if we don’t talk about the hard stuff, then new parents get there and feel blindsided.  They aren’t prepared. They question their decision to adopt and they question the child’s fit in their family.

This is not right and it’s not fair to anyone in the situation.

Our family has adopted two children. Both were special needs, “older” children.

Often when I talk to people about adopting, I get one of two responses: “I could never do that”, OR “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

And my response is usually, “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

We adopted our newest son two years ago from China. At the time he was seven years old. He is blind, has ADHD, and has experienced trauma. We read books before our trip and expected his adjustment into a family to be difficult. It wasincredibly challenging. But educating ourselves on why he behaved in certain ways, helped us understand him, love him well, and not panic that he was not going to fit into our family.

I have heard many stories of people who had a big heart and good intentions in adopting older children but were not prepared for how difficult it would be. When their world was rocked, and their new child seemed so out of place in their home, they questioned (and sometimes decided) that they could not handle it, and they changed their mind.

When things were dark and painful for us, I had to look far and wide for support. My husband and I were determined to make this work, and giving up was not an option for us. But many people feel so ill-equipped and unprepared that they convince themselves that they could never make it work, no matter how hard they try.

It seems to me that there is a lot of support out there for foster families and families who are thinking of adopting, but once the adoption is final, the honeymoon is over and the rubber meets the road; people often have lots of questions and don’t know where to turn.

We have been there, and it was very lonely.

Seeing the need for community and support post-adoption, I decided to create a website with the purpose of encouraging families during this hard season:


One of my goals in this is to simply help struggling families know that they are not alone.

I won’t sell my kids out or throw anyone under the bus, but I am real and vulnerable with the stories that I share. It is hard. It gets easier, but it takes years, not months. The progress is so slow that sometimes you don’t even notice it. Or you think things are going great and then suddenly take two steps back and feel very discouraged.

I also share things that have worked for us in regards to new parenting dilemmas. I have learned more in the past two years of parenting a hurting child than I did in the first 10 since we had our first biologically. The circumstances in which your child came into your family matter; they shape him or her and affect the way they view the world and the people around them, especially adults or parents.

Adopted children (no matter the situation) have experienced loss. Infant or toddler adoption sometimes can be less challenging, but do not expect that. Transracial adoptees struggle with identity and feeling like they don’t belong. Many, if not most, adopted children have experienced neglect or abuse.

I encourage prospective adoptive parents to put on their big boy pants, step forward when being led to adopt, and expect it to be incredibly hard. It is indescribably rewarding to watch a child grow and blossom into a son or daughter, but it is a rocky road and a bumpy ride. The videos and photos that people show do not capture that. Usually, that is to protect the children and their stories, but also if they revealed the reality of how hard it can be, most people would back out.

We cannot do this alone. It takes faith, a strong family, and a network of people who understand. Not only what we are going through, but what our children need. We all need each other to travel this bumpy road, and not grow weary alone.

You’ll also like Parenting a Child Choosing Hard Things Is Never Easy, but Always Worth ItWhat it’s Like to Be the Mom of a Multi-Racial FamilyWhen You Want to Completely Change Your Parenting StyleKids With Anxiety—They Need You on Their Team, and When Dreams Die… Grieving What Should Have Been.


Dawn enjoys movies, books, podcasts, and pretty much any story with an underdog. She loves finding beauty from ashes and helping people discover hope in desperate situations.

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