When my husband and I began to consider adoption, we kept it to ourselves: my husband, myself, and our two children by birth (ages 13 and 11). The only exception was a couple of friends who adopted a few years ago.
Why would we keep such a big decision to ourselves? First, we wanted to explore our feelings on the subject and see exactly where our kids stood, without outside influences coloring our perspective. We didn’t want to hear warnings from people who know nothing of adoption. We know the risks; we’ve done the research. And people often forget that biological children don’t come with guarantees, either!
Once the process was officially underway, we mailed a long letter to our families telling them of our decision and answering the common questions people have. We thought that a telephone call might feel like cold water in the face, but a letter would give them a chance to collect their thoughts. A similar letter or e-mail went out to friends a few days later.
It turned out that “The Letter” was a wonderful way to go. Those who were immediately thrilled were pleased to have the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) we included in the letter. It seemed they couldn’t get enough information; they wanted every detail! We didn’t hear from some recipients right away, and we’re guessing those were the ones who needed some time to adjust to the idea.
Below are some of the things we included in our letter. We used a question/answer format because it was clear and concise. Regardless of how you choose to present the information, remember that when announcing your adoption, personalization is key.
This is your opportunity to set the tone for the letter. Pretend you are speaking to your readers face to face. What would you say, and how would you say it? In our case it was “Dear Family, Grab a Coke or a cup of coffee and sit down. We have some good news we want to share with you!”
With a generous sprinkling of exclamation points, we shared our plans. “Sitting? Good. We’re adopting a little boy! We’re hoping for a little guy between the ages of three and five. Time frame? Within the next six months…give or take a few months.”
Anticipate Their Questions
Put yourself in their shoes. What questions might be swimming around in their heads?
“Why a letter?” We explained that we didn’t want to broadside anyone with a phone call out of the blue. The letter would give them time to digest the information and gather their thoughts.
“Why didn’t you discuss this with anyone?” Keep in mind that, although the letter is intended to introduce the news gently, it may still come as a shock. It certainly did in our case, as we were already a happy family with two healthy children.
Make sure you indicate that everyone is learning the news at the same time. Nobody likes to feel they’ve been the only ones kept in the dark.
“Where did this come from?” Word the question any way you like, but it’s safe to assume they will want to know what led you to the adoption decision. At this point you can address the details of your personal situation.
You can be sure everyone will want to know why you chose international or domestic adoption. And the question of infertility will almost certainly occur, although whether or not you answer it is strictly a personal choice.
“Is it possible to love an adopted child as much as a biological child?” We knew this question had to be addressed, even though we’ve never understood it. I looked for anything I could find on the subject and tried to explain it as best I could. It may help to point out family members you love who are not blood-related. I’m very close to an aunt who is related to me by marriage. I also mentioned a family that has been a strong presence in my life since childhood.
Health concerns: While it is virtually impossible to predict your child’s medical status, you can paint a picture of what family and friends may expect. This is especially important if you’re adopting a child with special needs. Knowledge dispels ignorance, so the more you can prepare your family, the better.
End on a happy note! Share some of your experiences up to this point. Describe some of the process you have yet to encounter. Let them see your excitement. Above all, let them see what’s in your heart.