Adoptive Families Should Embrace “Just Ask” Before No One Asks At All

The 2016 slogan for National Adoption Month ended with the phrase: “Just Ask Us” and, I loved it.

I thought of that tag-line as I read Dr. John DeGarmo’s piece entitled “7 Things You Should Never Say To A Foster Parent” – an article that lists several statements or questions that are potentially hurtful and very likely inappropriate for foster families.

I greatly respect Dr. DeGarmo’s work and dedication to foster care and adoption.  I, however, think that such lists are misguided and dismissive – driving the public further from, not closer to, adoption and foster care.

A “Just Ask Us” culture cannot handpick the questions that are acceptable.

As an adoptive father, though, I understand what DeGarmo is saying.  I have been asked ridiculous questions that made me simultaneously mad and embarrassed (both for me and the person asking) – questions such as:

Your kid is that black one?

Are you rich? Adoption is really expensive, right?

My family has been the subject of inappropriate statements:

Just think of how lucky your son is!

Man, you guys are amazing for having adopted him.

I agree with Dr. DeGarmo – I’d rather not hear these ever again.  The reality, though, is that I will.

Unlike DeGarmo I won’t draw attention to the aimless, uneducated curiosity.  In fact, I say, bring it on.

Let’s not spite the uninformed question – adoptive and foster care families should welcome every query.  To me, each interaction provides a chance to bring others in.  While it is difficult to shed the initial disdain for the pointed statement, a measured response creates an opportunity that anger would have missed.

I find it much easier to be cordial, if I focus on three ideas:

  1. I convince myself that all questions about adoption and foster care, even when seemingly inappropriate, are asked out of genuine curiosity.
  2. I feel an obligation to waiting kids to talk about my adoption experience in the hope to spread the word that more help is needed.
  3. I try to separate the words used and the message intended.  Assume that people want an answer, even if they don’t know how to ask.

This is my way to create my personal, “Just Ask Us” culture around my family.  I hope other families of adoption and foster care join me.

Our families are thick-skinned – the process makes us tough.

Our children are resilient – kids from foster backgrounds are off-the-charts with can-do attitudes.

No question can hurt us, no ignorant statement should take our families aback.  Adoptive families have been through too much disappointment, too much loss, too much waiting to be brought down by a passerby.

It’s time for adoptive and foster families to call upon our proven strength and spread the good news of foster and adoptive care.

It’s time to welcome any and all questions that allow us to talk how our families came to be – even if the questions may seem offensive, and the statements are just plain stupid.

Our responses are educational.

Our stories are inspiring.

Our replies have the power of drawing people in.

Indeed, “Just Ask Us” – even out of ignorance and misconception.

The future of adoption and foster care can be limitless only if nothing is off-limits.

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