Dear WIC lady (or anyone else that wants to talk adoption with me in front of my adopted kid),
I appreciate that you want to have a dialogue about adoption. As mother who believes that all children deserve a home, and that foster children are worthy of adopting, I appreciate the opportunities I am generally given to share our experience.
That being said . . .
My recent visit to the WIC office (well, actually all visits) have caused me to feel uncomfortable about the way our adoption is handled.
I understand that there are a series of personal questions that you must ask — like about our income level, and our children’s medical histories. And then there are questions that just don’t make sense to me at all — like why you, as a non-medical provider, would need my child’s iron count — but I let that one slide. Whatever. You need it.
But then there are the questions that I feel have really crossed the line of professionalism.
“Is your child adopted?”
Does this matter? Does it matter if she is adopted, or a foster child, or my bio child? I have already established that she is indeed mine, and I have also already given you the adoption decree that you should have on file.
What if we chose to keep Leyla’s adoption a secret? What if she didn’t know she was adopted, and here you are bringing it up in front of her. If I had been keeping it a secret, this is not the way I would have chosen for her to find out about it. If I wanted to mention the adoption to you, I would have told you she was adopted when you asked if she was mine. Instead, I just said, “Yes, she’s mine.” End of story. It doesn’t matter how she came to be mine.
“Do you have an open adoption?”
Does this matter?
“Are her bio parents involved?”
Again what does this have to do with getting a check for oatmeal and cheese?
I don’t talk with Leyla about her bio parents, and now that she is old enough to comprehend my words, I choose not to talk about her bio parents in front of her. She doesn’t know these people. As far as she is concerned, Ryan and I are the only Mom and Dad she knows. We will bring up bio parents when she is older and is ready to ask those questions herself.
But I just have to ask you. What if she DID have memories of her bio parents? What if those were traumatic memories, and you asking how involved they were, and me having to admit, “well, they aren’t involved at all by choice” brings up some trauma for her? What if it’s too much for a child to handle — having strangers ask why her bio parents have, in essence, abandoned her? Is this something that really needs to be brought up in an office visit?
“So I noticed on her growth chart that she is on the low side. Were her birth parents small?”
Could we maybe STOP talking about her birth parents?
“Does she go to preschool?”
Again, why is this pertinent? And when I answer that she went to Holly Ridge, but will start going to preschool in the fall, this is not an open invitation to ask about all her “issues.” And yet it seems that by answering that she went to a developmental group, you now are expecting to be privy to all her history.
“Was she developmentally delayed?”
“Does she still have issues now?”
Yes, she has sensory issues.
“What kind of sensory issues?”
“Can you write that down? Tell me about that. I’m curious.”
Please, tell me again why I need to be explaining to you about her sensory issues while my child is right here in the room with me. She is a person. I hate talking about her like this as though she is just a case, or some curiosity. She’s a person. Can we please just get on with our appointment, and leave the personal details out?
Now if you are asking all these questions about adoption because you want to adopt yourself, I would be open to you saying, “I’m interested in adoption, and would love to hear more. Would it be OK if I contacted you at a different time to ask some questions?” Actually, in the right context, I love talking about adoption. But this does not feel like the right context to me.
And as it is, your questions are scattered in between other questions I feel I am obligated to answer…
“What medications is she on?”
“What is your income each month?”
“Does she have any allergies?”
“Is she adopted?”
“What are her sensory issues?”
“Does she do lactaid or soy milk?”
“Are her parents involved?”
See how I sort of feel obligated to answer all of the questions, because I can’t tell which ones you are REQUIRED to ask, and which ones are just out of curiosity?
And then I leave your office feeling as though my child’s privacy has been ripped open in front of her, and that I’ve been complicit in the process. I leave your office feeling like I’ve shared far too much in front of her than I am comfortable with.
So I kindly ask that at our next appointment, only ask me questions that are required in order for us to receive our checks. I am contacting your supervisor to request that they train the staff (no matter how nice and innocent their questions seem) to acknowledge that adoption and foster care require a certain amount of privacy and respect. That not every parent wants to talk about the details of adoption in front of their children. And that as foster parents, we must maintain confidentiality regarding some of the details of our children’s cases.
And please be aware that we as parents have the right to disclose or keep confidential the details we want to about our children’s histories and lives.
Thank you for wanting a conversation about adoption. But please, make sure it’s an appropriate time and place to be having this discussion. And just a hint, right in front of my child is not really appropriate.
The “Real” mom