When talking about adoption I often hear it referred to as a journey. When I think about a journey I think about something that is ongoing with no definitive end. One of the definitions for the word journey is “passage or progress from one stage to another.” I think it is that definition of the word journey that best describes the journey of adoption. You see, adoption is not a one time thing. It is not just the event that happens on the day that your child is placed with you. It is an ongoing journey or “passage or progress from one stage to another.”
Last year Catholic Charities started a post adoption program to support families who have adopted. It doesn’t matter if you adopted the child as an infant, internationally, or through foster care. It doesn’t matter if the adoption happened a month ago or 11 years ago. The program was designed to support families through all stages of their adoption journey. As an adopted child myself it has been interesting to work with families who have adopted. Every story is different, each adoption is different, and there are no two stories that are the same. The only commonality that I see is that each family is on a journey trying to navigate the world of adoption.
I was brought home from the hospital at just a few days old. Having been adopted in the 80’s I have little information on my birth family. I know their ages and that is about it. My parents have always been open and honest about the fact that I was adopted and have always been supportive of whatever decisions I choose to make when it comes to searching for my birth family (but that is a whole different story). I was never that kid who asked a lot of questions about my adoption; it never bothered me. In fact, it has never been a big deal in my family (immediate and extended). Truth be told I think that most of my extended family forgets that I was adopted. I have always been secure in who I am and never really struggled with the fact that I was adopted; at least until my late 20’s. It was during that time that I was diagnosed with a genetic medical condition. I remember being on the ultrasound table and the technician who was working on me was giving me a really hard time about not knowing my medical history and how irresponsible it was of me to not have pursued avenues of finding it. To be honest, I was shocked. I didn’t know how to respond. I had never in my life had anyone respond to the fact that I was adopted in that way. I remember leaving the office, getting into the car, and immediately calling my mom upset. I would say that this was the first time in my life, in my adoption journey, that I had ever struggled or had doubts. Was I being irresponsible or was that woman just being insensitive. My mother talked me through it of course and by the time that the conversation had ended I was fine and had just chalked up the woman’s comments to complete ignorance. But, it was at that moment that I realized how adoption is truly a journey.
It is a journey that will bring great joy to both the adoptee and the adoptive parents but it is also a journey that can bring sorrow, hard questions, and strong emotions. November is National Adoption Month. It is a month to celebrate the joys of adoption. And adoption does bring so much joy. However, I also see the struggles. The parents who can’t understand their child’s extreme behaviors. The adoptee who is trying to come to grips with the loss of their biological family. It is important to remember that these struggles can hit at any time. Your child could be like me and have a really tough day when they are in their 20’s. Or, it could be the 8 year old who has experienced extreme trauma before coming to you and doesn’t know how to properly express it.
What I want each adoptive parent to know (whether you are just starting out or you have been parenting for years) is that the journey is continuous. Have a support system, especially a support system of other adoptive families. Seek out training opportunities; there are some wonderful conferences and trainings out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; there are agencies out there that will support you. It is a personal passion of mine to walk beside families throughout their journey so that they know that they are not alone. I know many other adoption workers who feel the same way. But we can’t help if you don’t ask for help. Be honest about both your joys and your struggles and remember that this journey of adoption that you are on is an amazing one.
For more information on Catholic Charities’ Post Adoption Program go to our website