Monday, June 27, 2011

Privacy matters relating to adoption

I came across this article on and wanted to talk about it a little and share the portion of the article with suggestions for friends and family.

It is understandable that many people are curious about adoption. Adoption is a curious thing. No two adoptions are the same. However, when it comes to information specific to a child's background, we do feel that that information is part of their personal story, and shouldn't be spread like gossip or used in conversation. Adoption creates families, but it only happens after there has been a considerable loss, both for the birth family, and for the children themselves. We want our children to know their stories and share when/if they want to. 

As a visibly adoptive family, we have many people ask questions or tell us about people they know who have adopted. Occasionally someone will feel it necessary to include why their cousin's neighbor's adopted daughter's birthmother 'gave her up' <---this phrase is a big no-no, the correct term is 'placed' or 'chose adoption for'. I know they aren't purposely gossiping, I think they just don't understand that some things are personal. After all, nobody tells a story about how their neighbor's cousin's c-section daughter was conceived, do they? ;)

If you do know information about our children's background or birth family, you must be a trusted friend or family member :) However, this information is personal and we ask that you not share it. As an example, if you are telling your friends about how adorable our children are and the topic of adoption comes up, a safe story is that Jenavieve was adopted domestically and we have an open adoption with her birth family. Information about the birth family is not ok to share. Journey and Little Boy were born in Ethiopia. We do know their backgrounds and have information about their birth families, but that information is private and we don't talk about it outside of our immediate family.

 If the friend you are speaking with is curious about the adoption process or interested in adopting, you are welcome to give them my email address or the link to this blog. I am more than happy to talk to others about adoption and the process and to encourage others who are considering embarking on such an amazing journey. Otherwise, that information isn't necessary in telling the story of how they came to be in our family. Besides being their own personal story to share, it really isn't anyone's business. 

Here I have copied and pasted the last part of the article (the beginning is a bit long but you can read it here)

For Friends and Family, a Few Suggestions:
Not in front of the child
Critically, no matter what adoption questions you have, try no tot ask them in front of the child. It's a recurring complaint among adoptive parents that people ask inappropriate questions in front of their children (as in me asking about the birthmother in front of the child).  Even if you feel assured that any question you have is legitimate, the parents will thank you for asking it out of the child's presence.  Remember that even a child's adoptive status is not a matter for casual conversation (i.e., "Was he adopted?"). In fact, many adoptive parents, though they may make significant eye contact or vague comments indicating a mutual recognition when they encounter other apparently adoptive families, say they try to respect the privacy of their children and other adoptive children and don't comment on or question their apparent connection with strangers.
Ask yourself: Why do you want to know?
There's an important new person in the life of your loved ones and you want to know everything about them.  But before you ask a question about the child, in order to determine whether it may be relevant, one strategy is to ask yourself, "Why do I want to know this?"  If you don't have a good answer, maybe it's not information you need to have. Ask yourself if you should know about things like the existence of siblings or the role of the birthfather before the child is able to know and understand it himself. Remember that it's the child's information first, even if he doesn't yet know all of it.
Don’t take boundaries personally
Do try not to take it personally if you're told, hopefully graciously, that certain information is off-limits to you. You don't mean to intrude. But parents have to let you know where their boundaries stand. It's part of their responsibility to the child. If you have questions, consider framing them so that they show you to recognize there are boundaries around some information: "Please let  me know if I’m overstepping, but I wondered…"
All of the child’s information is precious
Finally, it's helpful if those who hold any private information about the child are careful not to treat it casually. It's not fodder for small talk; rather it's precious and should be treated as such. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to discuss the child's adoption with someone who doesn't know the family or the child. Remember that you show respect for the child and for adoption by preserving the child's privacy, even when you don’t have to. When it comes to protecting a child’s privacy, you can provide tremendous support to your loved ones: by understanding what information is personal, by respecting the family’s boundaries, an by protecting information on behalf of the child.
What you can do:
  • Understand the child’s right to own his own personal history, some of which he may not even yet know himself.
  • Differentiate between secrets and privacy. Adoption is not a secret. But some information about an adoption will remain private. Recognize what information is and is not necessary for you to know about a child’s background.
  • Understand the parents’ responsibility to protect their child’s privacy until such time as the child can do so for himself. Don’t take it personally when they enforce boundaries around information.
  • Refrain from asking about the child’s personal history in front of the child.
  • Demonstrate respect for the practice of adoption by maintaining the privacy of others, even when you don’t have to. Avoid sharing the family’s personal information, even with people who don’t know the family.
For more information or to buy “In On It,” you can or Amazon at


  1. I just have to say I love all of the posts you make regarding adoption and the dos and donts that come along with it. I think most of us don't understand the first of it (such as the bonding period, why others can't hold them at first, etc) and you do an amazing job at explaining it all. I feel like if I had a local friend ever have to experience that I would be a little less "dumb" when it came to the things I should or shouldn't do, or understanding why they are doing the things they are! So-thank you :)