"How Much Did I Cost?" – Navigating Adoption Topics with your School Age Child


International AdoptionEight and a half years ago, we arrived home with our beautiful six month old baby boy. We completed our adoption before adoption education was required, so we tried to educate ourselves as best as possible. Throughout the adoption process, my husband and I scoured the internet for information on the culture of our son’s country, attachment, bonding, and appropriate adoption language. We joined adoption and parenting forums online in hopes of meeting other families who were adopting, and we participated in activities with other families who had adopted from our son’s country. Needless to say, we felt fairly well prepared by the time we brought our son home.

Our family was fortunate and we didn’t have to deal with many attachment issues, and our son was loved and adored by all of our extended family before he even arrived home. From day one, we have done our best to use appropriate adoption language in our home, and when friends/extended family don’t use appropriate words or phrases we are happy to share our knowledge with them. In addition, we have always talked openly with our son about his adoption and given him as much information as possible about his birth family, foster family and birth country.

Over the years, we have stayed in contact with his foster family via email and Skype and we visit regularly with the other little boys who shared his foster home. About a year after we brought our son home, we were also able to connect with the family who adopted his biological brother and are thrilled that the two boys have been able to spend several days each summer with each other, even though our two families live thousands of miles apart.

Our son’s birth country is special to our family; my husband and I have traveled several times on mission trips and our college age daughter just returned from a trip in which she was able to explore the country and spend a short amount of time with our son’s foster family. We plan to take our son back to visit in the next few years, so that he can see the beautiful country where he was born.

After eight years of smooth sailing, I was taken aback when my son recently asked me, "How much did I cost?" I wasn’t sure how to respond. Where did he even get this idea? As I quickly let this all process, I realized that he isn’t sheltered anymore. He sits in a classroom with 23 other eight and nine year old children, and most of them have probably not been educated about adoption. He watches TV shows and movies that don’t always portray adoption in the best light. And, he is now old enough to fully understand the concept of adoption and much of what it entails.

Kids are curious, and usually don’t have filters when they are asking questions or trying to gather information about something new or different. Information on movies and TV shows is not always accurate. I don’t know where the question about “cost” originated from, but it did make me realize that he is growing up and as he gets older it will be up to him to answer those tough adoption related questions. We won’t necessarily be with him at the movie theater when an adoption theme is introduced in a movie and we don’t get to go to school with him and present his “All About Me” project to his class. He does know, of course, that his dad and I will always be there to help him understand and work through anything that might come up.

I must admit, I was surprised that I wasn’t prepared for this aspect of parenting an adopted child. My advice is to educate, educate, educate! All MLJ families are required to complete five core classes as well as take a culture class and three core assignments, including writing a cultural essay; we also have quite a few additional and elective classes available for our families. We allow (and even encourage) families to take our classes more than once. Additionally, we offer support groups on a regular basis and cultural events several times a year. It is our hope that all of our families would take full advantage of the educational opportunities that MLJ offers.

Take advantage of all your agency has to offer in terms of adoption preparation. Reach out to other families who are adopting or have adopted. Talk to some adult adoptees. Invite your relatives to share in your adoption education. Share age appropriate adoption knowledge with your other children. Take your kids to cultural events in your city. You can’t do too much!

Photo Credit: elaine faith

For more information about MLJ Adoption’s international adoption programs, please click here.

Stacy Jacobs is the MLJ Adoptions Associate Program Director for Eastern Europe and Latin America. She is the mother of four children, three biological daughters and one son adopted from Guatemala.