what (and when) an adoptee should be told

If you have not read my entry titled adoption is a promise, you may want to start there for context.


Although each family will make its own decision regarding how to communicate about adoption, we firmly believe it is best to tell him or her early and to talk about it often. Healthy relationships are not built on secrets.

We provide honest, accurate information as our kids are developmentally ready.  Notice that WE (adoptive parents) want to be the main source of information.  Primarily, we want to help them sort out reality because — quite frankly — we have heard some erroneous and incomplete stories (gossip) about their birth and/or first families. We seldom correct people who make false statements because, until the adoption is finalized, we are not permitted to share stories.



In The Whole Life Adoption Book, the author suggests that preschoolers should learn their own adoption story. In this stage, the child needs to sense the positive dimension of adoption. (When he or she is older, an understanding that adoption involves both family building and family loss will come on it’s own. And we will talk about both then.) For now — between the ages of 2-4 — we have 3 goals (as suggested by Lois Melina in Raising Adopted Children):

First, acquaint the child with adoption terms rather than adoption concepts. Second, use the time to create a positive environment where adoption can be discussed. Third, become comfortable with talking about it [as parents].

And we are doing that. Even as toddlers, they hear us pray for their biological families and acknowledge God’s hand in providing a new family when circumstances warranted it.  We read pre-screened, age-appropriate books about adoption, too.  Books we love include:



We do not want to broadcast “M”‘s personal story. It is HER story, and she gets to decide what and when she will share.  Until then, you should keep curiosities to yourself.

“Our family is … blessed with the amazing child that adoption brought to us, NOT the other way around.” –Jackie Gillard

Moreover, we honor birth families.  And we pray for them.




f you are part of our lives, you will get questions from kids! So be ready.

1. Be honest.

Always tell the truth. A child will likely ask: “Why does she have brown skin?” (Meaning, her skin is different than her mom’s skin.) This is an accurate observation. It’s natural for people to wonder. “M” does have beautiful brown skin and I do not! You may choose to say,”M grew in the belly of another woman; a woman with brown skin. When she was born, she came to live with her parents. She was adopted.”

2. Be concise.

There is absolutely no need to sensationalize a story.

A child might ask, “What is adoption?” or “Why was she adopted?” You might want to reply, “Adoption is when a person permanently joins a family that is different than his or her birth family” (or biological family or first family, whatever term you like). “Children are adopted for a lot of reasons. M needed a safe home, and Joey and Elaine had one to offer.”

3. Be sensitive.

Again, it is not necessary to sensationalize a difficult story. Speak about her birth-family with respect. We do.

Please ask us sensitive questions when children are not around. I am not offended by questions but I do want to protect my child. So, please understand if we decide to keep some things private.



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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. 





One thought on “what (and when) an adoptee should be told

  1. I applaud your dedication to keep the lines of communication open with your daughter. It’s not always easy as they get older, but starting a foundation of open, honest sharing is the best way to ensure a solid connection when she needs you!

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