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What NOT TO SAY to Adoptive Parents (And How to Get it Right)

Aug 30, 2018

Have you ever been to the grocery store and seen a family that made you wonder, “What’s their story?”

Maybe the kids were a different race than the parents.

Or maybe the siblings were a mix of ethnicities.

In this episode, host April Fallon talks about her family’s experiences in public as a transracial adoptive family. She playfully shares some of the strange questions she gets and how best to address them.

Have you ever wondered how to approach an adoptive family in public? Listen to this podcast to learn WHAT NOT TO SAY in a humorous, down-to-earth way. By the end, you’ll feel confident in knowing the RIGHT things to say that help and encourage an adoptive family.

To kick off this episode, host April says that people stop her all of the time and ask if her children are foster kids. She says she doesn’t mind the question, but she does mind the tone of how the question is asked. 

To build off of this common occurrence, April was stopped the day before this episode was recorded. Although the lady who had stopped her to ask questions was very nice, she wasn’t quite sure how to ask the questions that were on her mind in a sensitive way.

She had the best of intentions, but the first question she asked April was very broad. The lady wanted to know the story of all of April’s children. That is a huge question to ask! Where would you start? Your childhood? Your first memories? Perhaps how your parents met? 

April stresses that these types of questions--the overarching, broad questions--can be troublesome for adoptive parents.

After learning that two of April’s children were from the same biological mother in Florida, the next question that she asked was, “doesn’t the mother know about birth control?” not a question or comment that is the most tactful by any definition.

April says that the birth control question is difficult to answer. Firstly, if the mother had used birth control then April and Noah would not have been blessed with their two beautiful children. So that type of question may seem harmless, most adoptive parents feel that is a sensitive question to answer.

April says that she cannot imagine life without her daughter Maliyah. So when asked, “doesn’t the mother know about birth control?” she was put in a very confusing position, not really knowing what to say.

She did have an answer though. April brought up the parallels between the poverty she witnessed in overseas and the little pocket of Florida where they picked up the two girls. And the conditions in Florida would have made it difficult to even suggest getting birth control because maybe her Medicaid wouldn’t have covered the cost, and maybe she would have had trouble finding transportation. 

All of this really put such a common question into perspective. 

Continuing with the conversation, she told April that she was interested in foster care. She then brought up how her family had taken in a stray cat and treated it so well. Yes. Unfortunately, this misplaced comparison between adopting pets and human beings happens often.

“It’s a completely different category. So, don’t say that to an adoptive family...that is incredibly hurtful!”

April also talks about encouragement in this talk. More specifically, she mentions the importance of stepping into the shoes of an adoptive parent before approaching and asking questions. 

If you knew that they were exhausted, maybe their adoption agency was treating them poorly, or they were having doubts about their own parenting, you wouldn’t approach them in an insensitive way. 

April suggests starting with a positive compliment: “You are doing great. I love your family!” Starting off on the right foot like that is very important.

It goes without saying that you should not approach an adoptive family and their children in a rude, aggressive way. This happened to April and Noah when AJ was just 3 years old. A stranger approached and accused them for taking AJ away from his biological mother. Stunned by the rudeness, April and Noah were followed throughout the mall by this lady until Noah turned around and told her how inappropriate her actions and words were.

April says that if anyone comes up and is rude or aggressive, it’s alright to stand up for your children and let someone know they are being inappropriate. 

For a lot more than was discussed here, including a couple more anecdotes and examples from host April Fallon, please bookmark this episode and return to it for verbal reinforcement. Thanks for listening!