Are Adopted Kids a “Gift”?

Dawn Davenport


are adopted children a gift?

Why does the idea of an adopted child being given as a gift rub me wrong?

OK, don’t get your panties in a knot. Yes, all children are gifts in the general sense. In my worldview they are gifts from God. In other world views they might be a gift from nature to ensure the continuation of the species. Either way, gifts they are. However, I’m talking about the general consensus in some adoption literature that adopted kids are a gift from the birth parents to the adoptive parents.

It’s a beautiful sentiment of one mother giving another the most precious gift of all – a child. I think many adoptive moms and probably many first moms feel this way. However, as much as I want to warm up to the idea, the truth is that it makes me cringe. It feels like we are selling first mothers short that they would give their child as a gift to another.

There are as many reasons as there are birth moms as to why she made the decision not to parent her child. And no doubt some would view it as a gift. As long as both parties are happy with this approach, who am I to play word cop. However, I loved this comment on my blog Adoptive Mom Feels Left Out at Son’s Reunion with Birth Mother.

“My child was not a gift to the adoptive parents, my gift was giving wonderful parents TO my child.”


Does the idea that your adopted child is a gift to you from her birth parents ring true to you?


Image credit: Bandido of Oz

08/04/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 29 Comments

29 Responses to Are Adopted Kids a “Gift”?

  1. Avatar Korrie says:

    Thank you, Dawn

  2. Korrie, your comment made me tear up. I pray that my children will feel that way about each other. I think I’ll have to wait a little while before that happens though. 🙂

  3. Avatar Korrie says:

    I use the word entrusted when I’m talking about other people and adoption in general bc it really fits. However, when I’m talking about my brother (whom was adopted, first born in our family) I absolutely say he’s a gift (like an incomprehensible treasure when I’ve had to stop and think about it) and can’t imagine life without him. Our parents didn’t say that though, they said we were all blessings equally. Just as a sister I feel that way bc he is…the best brother in the world

  4. Avatar marilynn says:

    “Karla, on April 16th, 2014 at 11:04 pm Said:
    Any and all children are a gift.”

    To say that would mean that children are owned by someone who then bestows the gift upon a receiver and that they are now the owner of the property being gifted.

    Children are free individuals not possessed by anyone in such a way that they would be in a position to “give one” to someone else as a gift. Being your parent’s responsibility is a whole different thing than being their property

  5. Avatar Karla says:

    Any and all children are a gift.

  6. Avatar marilynn says:

    Anna said: As a “waiting” adoptive parent, I think the gift sentiment has also led to a lot of first moms approaching the match process with a sense of entitlement. I’ve seen too many situations where first moms will use that notion of giving AP’s a gift to exploit the relationship, demanding money and other assistance.”

    I agree with Anna. Exploitation of children generally begins with the bio parents objectifying their children and treating them like personal property that they can gift or sell. There would be no buyers if there were not sellers. Bio parents should not treat their kids like that. Either they are in dire straights and can’t raise their kid, or they are not. Their kid should not be a vehicle for them getting goods and services from desperate people who just want to have an opportunity to raise kids. I think adoption to anyone who has provided financial assistance should be not allowed. To prevent bio parents from their kids.

  7. Avatar marilynn says:

    What Kristine said about being entrusted is very respectful. It shows that the mother who could not raise her kids was thinking about her own duty to care for her kid when she thoughtfully tried to find a person or couple who would be well suited to the task of raising her kid. Whether she chose them personally or allowed the State to find the right people is neither here nor there its just respectful that the child deserved to be cared for by mom and dad and they took the task of finding someone else to care for their child very seriously. Not like they owned a baby and gave it as a gift to needy people. They entrusted people they believed were appropriate in their absense. Love it

  8. Avatar Anon AP says:

    I do not have the same religious context, so calling a child a gift of any type isn’t part of my usual speech patterns, but I also feel squirmy when people say our daughter is a gift (besides the fact that Gift in German translates to “poison” in English, which is another thing that pops up in my mind when I hear it). I certainly feel like it objectifies her to call her that, and it makes it all about us being deserving rather than reflecting the complexity of process and emotions that led to her joining our family. And, though this is probably a bit out there, I also feel like “gift” implies something that is pretty or shiny or always positive, and I worry that it will make her feel she can’t grumble about being adopted.

    It doesn’t mean I don’t feel a strong sense of general gratitude that she is in our family and our lives, and it doesn’t mean that I am not humbled by the idea that, as Kristine excellently put it, our daughter was entrusted to our care.

  9. Avatar Tara says:

    I don’t see my son as a gift, but I do view being chosen by his first mom as a gift. I didn’t think I would be chosen because I was older and single so the fact that she trusted me to raise her child to me was an amazing gift. It probably seems like I am splitting hairs, but to me there is a difference.

  10. Avatar Diane says:

    sharing! here is another page I enjoy!

  11. Avatar Cynthia says:

    I would certainly rather be thought of as a gift rather than a duty or responsibility. When I think of calling someone (not just a child) a gift I think it is the highest compliment you can pay someone~priceless. So many of us who have adopted children with special needs who have been abandoned and sitting in orphanages we do consider these children to be gifts and priceless~not what the world would say “without value” something to be thrown away. It just depends on where you are coming from the idea of a gift.

  12. Avatar Von says:

    You say as long as both parties are happy it’s ok – it seems you have completely forgotten that adoption also includes a third party, the essential adoptee!! I have yet to hear an adult adoptee say it’s ok to talk about adoptees as gifts whoever they are supposed to be from.

  13. Ann, as you say, words matter!

  14. Avatar Ann says:

    I don’t think of the ChILD him/herself AS the gift. I Think the GIFT is PARENTHOOD. It’s semantics but words people need to think about.

  15. Kristine: [ look at our childrens’ birthmom as ‘entrusting’ her children to us, rather than ‘giving’ her children to us (because they are still hers too). ] YES. Beautifully said.

  16. Avatar Rachel says:

    I don’t like the term. A child isn’t a thing to be given.

  17. Avatar cb says:

    “As long as both parties are happy with this approach, who am I to play word cop.”

    And what about the third party?

    I dislike it is that it comes across as sounding as if the happiness of the adoptive parents is the most important factor.

    Also, it makes us sound like objects with no feelings of our own.

    I was watching an episode of “She’s having their baby” (yes, I record it and watch it occasionally) where one couple decided to get pregnant and have a baby for their friend and everyone was going on about how wonderful it all was (except for a sister) and I was like “Hello? Does the child have any say in this? Who is the most important person in this situation? It sure aint the baby”.

    • cb, good point. I was thinking in terms of when the adopted person was a baby, but that type of thinking is falling into the trap of not thinking past the child stage. Adopted children are not babies forever. They grow up and I should have addressed the adopted person might feel. Thanks for pointing that out.

  18. Avatar Anna says:

    As a “waiting” adoptive parent, I think the gift sentiment has also led to a lot of first moms approaching the match process with a sense of entitlement. I’ve seen too many situations where first moms will use that notion of giving AP’s a gift to exploit the relationship, demanding money and other assistance. Personally I agree with your quote Dawn, the gift was given to child. I’ll take it one step further even and say it’s a gift from God that brings all the parties together- all of those in the adoption triad are “gifts” to one another.

  19. Avatar Kristine says:

    Dawn, I agree with you and feel that all children are a gift from God. I do not personally see adopted children as a gift from the birthmother to the adoptive parent. I have heard that expressed before, and it may be a sentiment that comforts some first mothers and that some adoptive parents treasure…but I look at our childrens’ birthmom as ‘entrusting’ her children to us, rather than ‘giving’ her children to us (because they are still hers too). Our childrens’ birthmother did want her baby to be a blessing to a family that didn’t have children, and our child is a blessing to us that is true and we are so happy that she chose us to be her childrens’ parents. However, our children were not ‘presents’ from their birthmom, but precious children that we have been entrusted to raise. They are her children and our children, and our children together, but above all I feel that they really belong to God. and whether a parent is a parent by birth or adoption, we are all only entrusted with them by God.

  20. Avatar Robyn C says:

    I don’t think people are gifts at all. Gifts are things. Objects. Items. Possessions. People are not. So, no, I wouldn’t say any child is a gift, even from God, and I definitely do not believe that children are gifts from birth parents to adoptive parents. I wrote a blog post about that as well.

  21. Avatar R.N. says:

    They are not knotted 🙂 lol. I didn’t read the blog just the title…..had I done so I would have seen that Dawn Davenport 🙂 that’s what I get for skimming.

  22. Well Rayne, that is what I started with right after I said to not get your panties in a knot. 🙂 (Not that your panties are knotted.)

  23. Avatar marilynn says:

    I do like this post very much and agree wholeheartedly that people are not property to be given or received as gifts. I don’t know that the statement made by the mom who had to let her kid be adopted is a super ton better, but it is respectful of her child’s rights to be viewed as a free and independent person to whom she owes a duty of care and has a responsibility to raise, rather than as her property dispose of either by selling or gifting.

    Saying that she gave the adoptive parent to her kid as a gift, if I follow the same line of logic, would also be objectifying to them. The mom in that case, hopefully with the full agreement of the father, came to a heartbreakingly sad conclusion that they could not raise their kid themselves and, sounds like, followed the laws that protect kids, and relinquished their authority in court to people who had been found capable of raising her child. She did the next best thing given the circumstances which hopefully worked out well for the kid, again under the circumstances.

    Gifts are some extra special thing someone gives you because they care about you. Raising her child was her responsibility so receiving that would not be a gift its a duty and finding someone to cover for you in your absence is just good responsible parental behavior

    I know I’m slicing up a cute hallmark sentiment but its not really a gift to your kid when you can’t raise them. Finding someone competent is pretty much the least a parent can do under the circumstances. Many don’t do that much so she and the father are to be commended for following rules that protect her kid and hopefully landed her in very loving and capable arms. A big stuffed bunny is a gift for a kid. Capable caregivers are something they are just freaking entitled to and better have or someone is slacking off.

    Again she sounds very respectful of her child’s adoptive parents. It’s a good hallmark type saying it just kinda treats delegation of parental duty to someone well qualified like its something the kid should have to be grateful for.

  24. Avatar R.N. says:

    I just want to say ALL kids are a gift. A gift from God.

  25. Avatar andy says:

    As both an adoptee and an adoptive Mom, I’ve never liked the “gift” idea. People are not something that you own and give away.

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