How to tell people you're adopting a child

Telling people that you’re about to welcome a child into your family is usually news to celebrate.

But for parents who are adopting, the experience can be a little different.

The speed of the adoption process really can vary, with some welcoming a child within six or seven months, but others waiting much longer – and it’s hard to predict exactly what it will be like for you.

It means that parents often choose to keep the news that they’re adopting to themselves until they’re further along in the process.

For’s Adoption Month, one mum explained that she and her husband chose not to share the news widely until just a few days before they met him for the first time.

She doesn’t share her name but posts about life adopting her son nicknamed Nemo on her Instagram and blog @Notafictionalmum.

She says: ‘We kept it private and announced it on social media three days before we met him. For those we did tell, we had to do a lot of explaining – it is hard for friends and family because it’s a complicated process and they don’t understand what it all means.

‘When I posted about it, there were comments which were meant with good intentions but they can be hurtful.

‘One I really hate is “What nice people you are” like we are saints. Actually we just really want to have a child. We aren’t perfect people just because we’ve adopted a child. It’s also really harmful for a child to hear they are “so lucky” to have parents – we’re the lucky ones to spend every day with him.’

Once her son came home, she continued to struggle with the questions people would ask and while she wants to be open about adoption, she wants people to think more before they speak.

The mum continues: ‘Sometimes they are completely inappropriate and people do need to have some awareness of what they are saying.

‘People probe into their history and think they are entitled to ask. They say things like “What happened to his real parents? Why didn’t they want him?” It’s very insensitive and I think that needs to stop.’

Another adoptive dad Will* explains: ‘When we told friends and family that we were adopting we were asked all sorts of things that really weren’t appropriate, even from close friends and family.

‘Some would say things like “oh so you’ve given up on real children then?” and others would tell scare stories about some distant friend who had an adoption that hadn’t worked out.

‘It was quite upsetting for us but we took a lot of deep breaths and tried to turn the difficult questions into educating those close to us.’

While you should be prepared for some difficult conversations, Maggie Davies, an adoption manager at Coram Ambitious for Adoption, explains that it’s best just to be honest with those close to you.

You don’t have to tell everyone about your adoption, but it’s good to tell some people so you have plenty of support.

She tells ‘Start with why you want to adopt and before the process starts, so there’s opportunity to discuss it and check out people’s views and support.

‘This is difficult and sometimes painful, as it often relates to infertility. It’s helpful to talk about the positives about adopting – wanting to be parents, children who are waiting for adoption, when you have a family established and home to offer a child.

‘It’s good to refer people to websites and ‘Related by Adoption’ by Hedi Argent, to get extended family and friends to understand the needs of children who have a plan of adoption. 

‘We encourage people to talk about it as soon as they have started to think about it. They need peoples support and help to parent.’

Although those around you may have difficult questions, doing your own research so you can answer as much as possible helps.

Maggie adds: ‘Read and understand the needs of the children waiting so you can answer with information which gives context, so that family and friends can think and digest the possibility of becoming a grandparent, aunt, uncle etc. to an adopted child.

‘They can also access information meetings on line, run by adoption agencies, when adoption is talked about and the needs of the children. They can also read books themselves, to support those who wish to adopt.’

*Name has been changed

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]

  • Why we’re talking about adoption this month
  • How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
  • The most Googled questions on adoption, answered

Visit our Adoption Month page for more.

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