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Adopting the Truth

Samantha Olivares-Ramirez, Special Features Editor

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It’s just another class period and you are strategizing the quickest route to the center when you hear your teacher say, “I’m assigning a project due next week.” As you snap back to reality to listen to your teacher explain the project you realize that there is a problem.  The assignment requires you to know your family’s medical history to determine whether or not you are at higher risk for certain illnesses.

For most people this wouldn’t be much of a problem, but for some students knowing their family’s history can be an obstacle. It can be easy to forget that there are people all around us who are adopted, but it’s our job to educate ourselves so that everyone’s comfort is ensured.

This can begin with not taking the representations we see in the media, such as in shows like The Fosters, at face value. This is not to say that the show is not based on some truths, but it is important to keep in mind that everyone does not goes through the same experiences.

The adoption process is different for everyone. Some people go through foster care while others are adopted straight from birth. Within these there are closed adoptions, which do not allow contact between the child and their birth family, and open adoptions, which allow free communication between the birth family and the child, with the adoptive parent’s consent.

When asked about her own experience, senior Lizzy Martin says, “People assume being adopted is some type of fun adventure when it’s not…I don’t have any exciting news or stories to tell.”

In addition, rethinking how people react to someone who shares that they are adopted is crucial. “In my experience after I’ve told someone I’m adopted,” says senior Alisa Michel, “there have been times where I get a response that’s something along the lines of  ‘oh wow that’s so cool!’ and phrases like that, which in my opinion I don’t necessarily agree with.”

Of course, the preferred response varies from person to person but many agree that the way you say something can be the difference between an awkward conversation and a normal one. A simple, “That’s cool,” acknowledges the situation which is favored over an excessively enthusiastic, “OMG that’s SO cool!! Tell me more!” Responses like the latter often make the adopted person feel like an attraction or a source of entertainment.

When someone first says that they were adopted, people generally don’t know the details about their experience and how it has affected them. By finding other ways to respond, making them uncomfortable can be avoided.

It is important to keep this in mind when asking about someone’s birth parents, which can be a very sensitive subject. Not everyone who is adopted has met their birth parents, so when others insist on knowing about them it can be perceived as rude or intrusive.

Making assumptions about someone’s birth parents is also something that should be avoided because of many of the same reasons. Someone’s two-minute assessment of something an adopted person has to deal with their whole lives is not helpful or welcomed.

The relationship adoptive families have are just as authentic as the ones within birth families and being constantly reminded and asked about people that those who are adopted may not know can be frustrating, painful and annoying.

“Having parents that I’m not genetically related to has never detracted from our connection as a family,” says senior Gabby Albert. “Adoption doesn’t cheapen that experience and there are plenty of kids in need of good homes who won’t be adopted due to these misconceptions.”

So remember, the next time someone confides in you that they are adopted, be considerate of what they have gone through. With about 5 million Americans being adopted, it is essential to be aware of how to respond and react.

 

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