If I could tell potential adoptive parents one thing, I’d tell them to learn everything they can about adoptee trauma before they adopt. Take time to listen to the voices of adult adoptees. When you hear what they have to say, take a serious look at your motives for adopting. Work on yourself and your own heart before you bring a hurting child into the mix.

3 Things I Learned from Listening to Adult Adoptees

While you should still do your independent research and listen to adult adoptees, the following are three things I learned from listening to them.

1. Adoption is NOT the solution to your infertility.

When a Christian couple is struggling with infertility, people typically tell them that if they can’t conceive, they can always adopt. After all, we Christians love adoption and adoption language. It’s sprinkled into our Scripture.

However, adoption is not the solution to your infertility struggles. An adoptive child will not erase the years of hurt and anguish you felt due to your infertility. It also puts an unfair burden upon a child who feels like they have to be a certain way to fit into your dream.

Many of the stories I heard from adult adoptees included outright scorn for adoptive parents who started their adoption story by talking about their years of infertility. When I first heard this, I have to admit I thought that maybe they were overreacting (because to me, chronologically telling the story, starting with the infertility would make sense).

Yet when I went to the comments on stories like these, I saw dozens of other adoptees lamenting the fact their adoptive parents made the adoption all about their infertility and not about the child they were adopting.

2. Research shows that placement with family will always be the best option.

This really shatters the pro-adoption narrative most of us have heard for years (or even decades). However, children do best when they are in an open, kinship adoption. Even if the biological family is “less ideal” than a prospective adoptive family, children will feel most secure when placed with family.

Does this mean you shouldn’t adopt a child unless they’re related to you? No, of course not! But it does mean that you shouldn’t consider yourself the best long-term option for a child until all viable family options are exhausted.

So what happens when there’s no family to step up? Many of the adult adoptees I listened to said that an open adoption can be a healthy way forward for non-familial adoptive families.

3. Stop buying into the “foster-to-adopt” narrative.

For years, my husband and I have been saying we’ll probably do foster-to-adopt when we want to grow our family. I cringe so much when I hear people use this phrase, although I usually ask what they envision that looking like (since not everyone’s use of the phrase means the same thing).

If you think getting a foster license and only taking infants is your ticket to a “cheaper” adoption, I urge you not to foster. Far too many foster families get into it as a pathway to adoption, only to struggle against the fact that reunification will always be the priority of social services.

In the short time I’ve been fostering, I’ve heard foster parents say horrific things out of a desire to get and keep a young child. One friend summed it up well: “Foster parents are vicious.” If you’re going to foster or adopt, take time to learn about why adoptees hate the “foster-to-adopt” narrative.

There are children in the system who are eligible for adoption. These children are in the foster system and their parents have run out of time for reunification. Most of these children are older. Many have siblings in the system as well.

If you want to adopt a child for the good you can do in their life, there are lots of children with great need. But how you conduct yourself throughout the foster and adoption process matters. You better believe it will matter to your adoptive child down the road.


Adoption is a beautiful thing and we should continue to celebrate ethical adoptions. Unfortunately, many of us do things that are harmful to adoptive children without even realizing the damage we’ve done.

Christians, it is our responsibility to do no harm to others, especially those we claim to love as our own. The most loving thing you can do as a potential adoptive parent is take the time to listen to what adult adoptees have to say. Some of it will offend you. But all of it will help you grow into the parent your adoptive child deserves.