How much of your adopted child's history should you share?
How open should you be about your child’s pre-adoption life history?

When we are first matched with our child or are in the midst of the early stages of adoption, it is tempting to want to share with the world all about our practically perfect child that joined our family in the practically perfect way of adoption.

We had placement 3 weeks ago of a beautiful 17 month old girl from foster-adopt. Friends and family have questions about why she was in foster and what her story is. Honestly, I’m an open book….I’ll tell anyone anything and I understand their curiosity, but I wonder, should I?

Be extremely careful about sharing too much personal detail about your child’s story. This goes for friends and family.

Can’t Tell Just One Person

I am a very good secret keeper. I don’t have a tendency to judge, and I don’t have a tendency to share someone else’s story. BUT, I often tell my husband what I’ve been told, unless specific told not to. He is my trusted other. I don’t feel like I’m violating a confidence, unless they’ve asked me not to. I assume what I tell my best friends will be shared with their husbands. That is just how it is. Most of us have a trusted other. Some people have quite a few.

You tell one person and they tell one or two people, and they tell one or two people, and pretty soon many people who comes into contact with your kiddo has heard some version of his story. Once shared, you can’t un-share.

Come Back to Haunt Your Child

People don’t forget juicy stories. It may not matter to you at all that your child’s (take your pick):

  1. Birth dad is in jail for drugs, domestic violence, or murder;
  2. Birth mom is a drug addict that lost every child she gave birth to;
  3. Was conceived by rape, born drug dependent, or was abandoned on the side of the road.

While it may not matter to you, trust me, it will matter to others.

When our kids are little it seems harmless. I mean, who would judge an innocent toddler? It’s far more likely to elicit sympathy, rather than judgment, when they are young.

Your child, however, won’t always be an adorable toddler. She will be a petulant tween going through a fairly typical sticky finger stage and snatching a candy bar at the grocery. He will be a sullen scary looking teen with facial hair asking someone’s daughter out on a date.

I know this sounds harsh, but I have seen it happen, and the people doing the judging aren’t intentionally mean.

Examine Your Reasons for Wanting to Share

Maybe, just maybe, do you feel that sharing the deep dark parts of your child’s story makes you look a little braver or a little more like a savior? It’s worth some thought.

Stay General and Stay Positive

I personally don’t like the “that’s private information” response to people asking intrusive questions. Not because it isn’t true since of course it is “private”, but because it implies something dark that you are hiding. It also tends to shame and embarrass the questioner.

Most times people are simply asking without having thought through the implications of their question. Most of us humans are curious, but not mean. No need to embarrass someone for being human.

I like to give them the truth, just a generalized and edited version of the truth, with an eye to educating them.

  • “Her birthparents weren’t able to parent her.”
  • “Conditions in her birth country weren’t ideal for her, so we were blessed to be her parents.”
  • “There are a lot of people in her life that love her, but her biological parents weren’t ready to parent. Adoption has been great for our family. If you want more info on adoption, I suggest you go to and check out some of their resources.”

Bottom line: you may be an open book, but the only book you have a right to open to the world is your own.

What do you say when people ask for too much information about the specifics of why your child was placed for adoption?


Image credit: muffin9101985