Adoption Isn’t Pretty


Photo Credit: Patrick

I get a little sick when I read articles about pretty families adopting a bunch of kids from difference sources (international, domestic, foster, birthmom, etc.).

The adoption isn’t what makes me ill.

Nor the number of children (usually very high, in these articles).

Not even how they acquired the kids.

The thing that really bugs me is how happy everyone seems.

Unsuspecting, good-hearted people read these articles and think, “Wow, they just adopted enough kids to have their own sports team. Look how happy they are. Everyone gets along. So cool!”

And then they find a real-life adoptive family and tell them how amazing they must be.

And then they sign up to be foster parents and can’t figure out why things aren’t hunky-dory.

What happened to amazing???

And then they think,

“If that family could take in fourteen and a half kids who now succeed in school and have fabulous manners, 


Preparation and expectations.

I know, I know, I keep going back to this like a monkey with a crack habit.

First of all, if you are in the middle of all the





many adoption (or foster) situations entail, please don’t give up. And also, when you read these joyous articles of how their children are together creating a solution to world peace, don’t be fooled.

Don’t get me wrong, there are probably a few really happy families out there who have created Shangri-La in their living rooms.

Let’s just look at the facts, though.

EVERY adopted child has experienced loss, or they wouldn’t be available for adoption.

EVERY adopted child has (or will have) feelings they can’t fully comprehend. These might include anger, grief, denial, abandonment and low self-esteem.

It’s almost impossible for a child to emerge unscathed from a situation that makes them available for adoption.

Traumatized kids need help learning to understand their emotions—and eventually, how to deal with them.

Let’s frame this in perspective.

Put the following adults in a house and make them live together with no prior contact:

  1. Two divorced adults whose partner cheated on them. Non-cheaters were still 100% in love.
  2. Two adults whose parents abused them.
  3. Two adults who had a great life and relationship with parents; both parents just passed away.
  4. Three adults whose spouses died.
  5. An adult who experienced physical harm at the hands of a stranger.
  6. A rape victim.

At first, they’ll all be civil and get along. After a while, it won’t be all sunshine and lollipops.

If you don’t believe me, watch any of the ridiculous (we all know they’re scripted) reality TV shows. Even adults without apparent trauma can’t get along for more than a couple weeks.

And yet.

  • We expect children with similar losses and abuses to move in with people they barely know (sometimes just parents; other times, with other kids) and surf along. No problem. Hakuna Matata.
  • We allow the fairy tale stories touted by the media to make us feel bad about how things go at our house.


Here’s the honest truth:

1. ADOPTION is the absolute toughest thing we’ve ever done.

2. There’s no such thing as an adoption fairy tale. Or if there is, I don’t know about it.

3. Adoption will not be anything like you expected.

4. Adoption will be MORE than you expected. More angst. More tears. More trauma. More grief. More celebrations. More relief. More joy. More “I’d do it all again for this kid.”

5. Adoption requires support. Asking for help does not equal weakness.

6. Adoption isn’t (did I mention?) pretty.

7. Adoption is HARD.


Yes, it’s tough. If you’re in a rough spot, trust me, I get it. Some days, sinking under the bathwater and just…staying…can seem enticing.

I want to be the best mom I can be, so recently signed up to chat with a counselor. Parenting kids of trauma is no joke. Like I told the counselor, we’re in a really good spot right now, but I can’t fully enjoy it, because I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Because it always does.

We get to a point in which we can relax a little, breathe a little deeper, and then BOOM there goes the shoe. (Sometimes it’s more like a steel-toed boot, and instead of just dropping, it drop-kicks us in the Aston Martin…)

But I have to live in the moment, because we DO have “those moments.” The breakthrough. The understanding. The forgiveness. The clarity. The diagnosis.

If you’re in the same situation, I hope you’ll find a little peace here. Know that you’re not alone. We all teeter on the edge sometimes.

And if, like me, you’re waiting for that “next big problem,” let’s learn to forget about the other shoe.

Tomorrow has enough troubles.” Right?

Focus on today, and breathe. God will take care of tomorrow (or for that matter, the next five minutes).

I promise.

*Although I write from my adoption-related experience, one of my blogging buddies pointed out that much of this applies to biological children, as well. What are your thoughts? 

How about you? Feeling overwhelmed? Tell us about it below. We all feel better knowing it’s not “just us.” (Hey, even me…)  🙂 





About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'm determined to give my kids the chance they deserve. Adoption isn't always easy. I promise, you're not alone in this. Join me at - we're in this together.

Posted on May 23, 2016, in Adoption, parenting, relationships, Resources and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. This is incredible… heartwarming and genuine. Thank you so much for sharing the raw honesty of adoption. Fostering and adoption is always something we have dreamt of one day once we have finished travelling…and it’s so hard to find insights into what it could really be like. No one talks about it! I always worried that it could be really difficult with all the dynamics and emotions…but now I know it’s not impossible…and completely worth it. Plus if we do go down that road I feel that my eyes will be a bit more open and prepared for what ever we may encounter thanks to your writing X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you SO MUCH. Sometimes I wonder if the blog is just writing therapy for me, or if it’s really helping people (which is my goal). Notes like yours make me want to keep writing. YES, you definitely CAN do this.
      Preparation is key, and although no one can fully prepare for what adding a child may bring, walking in with your eyes open will definitely help. THANKS AGAIN. I needed that today. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am sick to my stomach right this minute. She’s my daughter..not adopted… don’t ever want that label for her.. but it’s true.
    7 1/2 years ago she was with her 5th foster family, they were frustrated with her and was going to send her back to the state (maybe not true,but I’m male and what i recall). My wife and I had been practicing to have our first, with failed attempts and fertility drugs, the miscarriage was devastating to us both. We new of her and wanted to meet this little girl, so we did with the than current foster parents and afew others help. She was so adorable, we read her some stories and talked a bit, outside and played..than she wanted me to pick her up.. From that day, nothing would stop me from protecting this precious princess. Our journy began..
    We contacted our local CPS / DSHS and began the schooling, training, in home inspections.. we know the list of things.. with in afew months we had our foster care license.. next thing you know.. she came for a weekend visit and never left. We went through hell and high water until she was legally free, by her side and she had no clue of the things going around her. These years have been nothing but joy, her past and siblings (13 of them) her bio father that I hope is still in jail for his indecent liberties on some of these children and her bio mother and I see walking occasionally that gave these kids no structure, they are not in her life.. My daughter from the Mexican Bio’s is not like us.. She now is crying because her skin doesn’t match ours.. I’m crying because her heart does… she had a “ruff” night last night. So today I decided to look at her Internet history.. she was watching videos of adoption… i was trying to protect her, now she’s hurt because I didn’t tell her. We have not had the talk yet.. I’m at work she’s at school.. tonight is going to be the hardest conversation I have ever had. I hope that she will still call me Daddy, I’m so scared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just saw your note. How old is she now?

      When you communicate to her how much you love her and how much you love being her daddy and having her for a daughter it will mean more than you know. Adoption isn’t easy and it starts with the biggest loss of all (for the child); moving through the grief process is important and necessary for some kids. Being there for them and proving you’ll never leave (over and over) truly matters.

      Praying it went well. Please let us know how you’re all doing. Sending big hugs!


  3. Thanks, Casey, for your dose of truth in a pharmacy of myth … not your pharmacy, but the over-the-counter pharmacy, Walmart-style.

    My late wife was adopted, as was her brother. Her dad was one of the best people I’ve ever met, but her mother was distant and cold(or, so I heard). Though Nancy had a wonderful dad, she suffered from adoptiveitis, in that she looked for love in all the wrong places. She always felt she couldn’t measure up, with the result that she was a chronic perfectionist. But as she was blind from diabetes, that served her well.

    We met while I was her taxi driver, transporting her to dialysis appointments. She got my attention by laughing at my warped sense of humor. After my ex-wife divorced me … mid-life crisis on both our parts … Nancy and I were wed.

    Shortly thereafter, my blinders came off, as I discovered we were about as incompatible as possible. At first we fought like a fox and a hound—she was the impatient, over-achieving fox, while I was the methodical, passive-aggressive hound.

    After several bouts of pyrotechnics—please excuse the mixed metaphor—I began praying in earnest for God to give me His love for her, as that’s the only way we could honor our vows. After an agonizing wait, God answered my prayer, “in spades.” Such a love He gave me for her that when she went home because of overwhelming medical complications, her loss devastated me. Now, five years later, I still miss reading to her, as she always appreciated it so.

    That’s my indirect experience with adoption, and I believe it is the church’s duty to provide families for abandoned children whenever possible, regardless the pain that comes from loving kids that are hard to love. Even so, adoptive parents do themselves, and their kids, a grave disservice when they try to be Super-Parents to a super-sized family. Oh, and homeschooling parents of what amounts to a medium-sized city school? I admire their gumption, but I think they need serious counseling for deep-seated self-loathing.

    BTW, thanks for following The Well-Dressed Branch.


  4. Glad you had a good experience. Me and my husband (then) adopted a newborn son in September of 1993. We lost them 10 days later to the birth mother. Apparently, Georgia had state laws giving birth parents rights in a waiting period after the birth of a baby in adoption.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We finalized adoption of our 3 youngest kids, who we’ve had placement of for about a year and a half, this past April and it is NOT a fairy tale. It is HARD! Dealing with their birth family, which is ongoing, is VERY HARD! We knew it would be, but it’s different when you’re living with it every day. Birth mom still thinks she did nothing wrong and tells the kids that, so that’s what they believe. When we have to be good parents and discipline them, they have told us they wished they still live with her or grandma. That’s an ego buster, for sure. My kids think they would rather live with someone who neglected them the first several years of their lives and lies to them constantly than with me and my husband. Ouch! But then there are the moments when you see how their lives have changed and you remember to keeping pouring in because God called you to this. I am THRILLED that we are not alone. Not because I want anyone else to have pain, but because then we don’t feel like complete failures and know we are in good company in this struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right there with you, Jess. I keep reminding myself that one day they’ll (probably) recognize that everything we did was for their benefit. And even if they don’t, at least we’ll know we did our best. It’s definitely exhausting. Are yours bio siblings? How old? You’re in my prayers this evening. (We can all use that, right…) 🙂


  6. Here’s an ADOPTION FAIRY TALE…I’ll try and be brief.
    After seeking several agencies we found our fit. Husband took me to NYC for my 40th B day. That weekend was also Father’s Day. Returned from holiday on a Monday and our case worker phoned. 3 day baby headed to foster care and we should move quick. 12, yes, 12 families were also waiting for a child. We quickly grabbed some photos and a hastily typed bio and behold…birth mother chose us!!!!!!!! He was less than a week old when he came to our home. He’s now 8 years old and was born on Father’s Day!!!! And was officially adopted on St Parick’s day..My husband is Irish…So, yes there are some FAIRY TALES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Marini Svigelj

    I am relieved you finished w “it is all worth it”.
    As an adoptive mother of two daughters I feel your frustration and disillusion w adoption . Twenty plus years ago I fostered my daughters with the intent to adopt . They are (were) children of color . I am white. It took seven years of horrific struggle court battles and bucking a racist system to achieve the goal.
    My daughters were 7 and 5 at the completion. I have three biological daughters as well and still feel guilt bc I know at times I ignored their needs in pursing the adoption. My marriage suffered and eventually ended in divorce . My oldest adopted daughter had many mental health issues as a result of her birth mother’s drug habit during pregnancy . I am sure the uncertainty of staying in a stable loving home attributed to her issues as well. I tried as best I could to minimize and shield her from the worst of it. However failed visits abandonment and neglect from her birth mother doing the seven years prior to adoption could not be avoided bc of careless cruel caseworkers.
    Would I do it again? In a heart beat. The 14 short years I had with my daughter( she passed in 2002) could never be measured by the heartache but only by the love and joy. My youngest daughter is now a successful college grad . She is a dynamic young woman. No one who has met her had ever walked away without being touched by her gregarious personality radiant smile wit and humor . We were by no means the poster family for adoption but our family is enriched blessed and stronger because of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your story. I’m sorry to hear your daughter passed away; I can’t imagine. Thank you also for your willingness to share the imperfections and the hard things. Of all things it is, adoption is definitely not easy, but it IS so worth every moment. So glad to hear your youngest is doing so well. Thank you again for stopping by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey there, I have not been over here for way too long! Great post. It’s a bit like with everything, isn’t it. People seem to always pretend that there are no issues, especially with something like fostering or adoption. After all they don’t want to look like the ones that can’t manage it. And yet it comes to no surprise that there are issues and will be. The sister of a friend of mine has adopted a girl and is facing all the little and bit obstacles to deal with her feelings of neglect. It will be a long journey but at least she had some great people really getting her ready for the journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you hit the nail square in the forehead. We’re afraid to look like failures anyway, and when you compound it with the possibility the children could be removed from a foster home in the middle of trying to adopt, no one wants to speak up. Our social worker definitely inspired fear of removal if she didn’t feel we could “handle” the issues.

      If only everyone (especially the system) would focus on what’s best for the child and how to educate the parents in order to foster success…maybe we’d see a positive change.

      So good to see you!! I know, I need to pop over to yours as well. Things just get crazy. Hope you’re doing SUPER! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi there, I am still trying to figure out how this works but I wanted to post my own comment as well. I’m so encouraged by the Mom’s who are going through the many difficult challenges brought on by adoption. I too am an adoptive mom of 7. We have 2 biological children and we adopted a sibling group of 5 from Latvia. They have various “special needs” so I know first hand the challenges faced on a daily basis. It is a tough job. I’m always refreshed when mothers are real about what they go through instead of trying to mask it….because just like you said, it makes us feel like we’re not alone! Thanks for your real and authentic posts. I hope you’ll follow me too. Let’s spur one
      another on!!! This job is definetly Not for Sissy ‘s. We are BRAVE!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. This applies to birth parents as well. Many couples actually believe that babies are soft bottoms and cuddles and are completely shocked with the reality. And adoptive parents have it harder because of all the trauma that led the kids into the situation they are in . Motherhood is meant for the tough women who know it is a lifetime commitment

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Once again, so insightful! I have the same feeling when I look at happy pics of families with so many kids and I am struggling with just my 2. Then again, my 2 have been through things no one ever should have to go through!! So thanks for the pep talk! You are right, we will make it!! And I hope it takes awhile for the other shoe to drop in your family 🙂 HUGS! Cherish the Moment!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for the link! 🙂


  12. Thanks for the link back! 🙂


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