Romanticizing Adoption and Special Needs

It’s tough being an adoptive parent. And a parent of special needs kids.

I’m both. And today reminded me of one of the most frustrating aspects of our situation: other people romanticizing it.

Sitting on a counselor’s couch at a residential treatment facility where one of our girls has been for 6 weeks, life doesn’t look rose-colored. Discussing the need to eliminate visits because my daughter – who’s lived with me since she was 2 – can’t handle being in a family… that’s not romantic.

It doesn’t even feel unromantic. It just feels wrong, on every possible level.

So why do I feel the need to read blogs that idealize adoption? Maybe because I have a morbid curiosity for the families who seem to have no issues at all with adoption, their child, or any of the grief and loss that create adoption in the first place. But most certainly it’s because I know there are others like me who are hurting and feel alienated by those idyllic portrayals of adoptive families and their special needs kids.

It happened last week, here. The author is a dear friend and I love her heart for her new grandbaby, melded into the family through adoption and great love. I don’t know if she expected some of the comments her post generated or not, but you can be sure I expected them! I jumped over as soon as I saw the fresh headline among my feeds. Someone would hurt because of that post. Someone like me who sits on counselors’ couches, talking about how utterly pulverized her family is because of adoption.

Why must the most highly publicized stories of adoption in TIME or People magazines be romantic tales like these?

Why did I never, in 3 years of subscriptions, see one article in Adoptive Families Magazine that shared stories like ours?

What if the world knew how hard it really was to choose special needs parenting? (Because every child adopted from abuse or neglect has special needs.)

Are people afraid that telling it like it is would repel others from choosing this road?

If that’s the case, more of us need to speak up! The true story of adoption and special needs parenting is so much more powerful than that! The story of many people I know personally who knew how hard it would be and they did it anyway. The people like you and I who, once we got that diagnosis, or discovered how debilitated by neglect they were… still signed up to care for our kid.

That story is better than any romanticized, feeble version of adoption or life with a special needs child. Let’s tell those stories more. And loudly support those who already do!


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