How To Balance Being Honest And Staying Private

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

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The foster care and adoption journey brings many trials and tricky balancing acts. One of the biggest is the balance between sharing your child's story and protecting their privacy.

My husband and I struggle with balancing honesty and privacy. As adoptive parents we respect the privacy of each child’s personal story. It is their own to tell…or not. Our top priority is to protect. But, as writers our top priority is to share. We have found strength in building relationships with others who have similar families. That bond is priceless. It is our desire to share some of our struggles with others so that they may find that strength.

It is also our desire to protect our children who have been through enough struggles to last a lifetime. We fear that as we share, we will open the door for prejudice and the judgment of our children and their birth families. This fear has been made real many times over the last 11 years. It has caused us to retreat and close our family off. We hope to find a balance that will allow us to share honestly about our struggles and successes in a way that will bring hope and healing to other parents.

Two of our children are diagnosed with Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND). Their brains were damaged by alcohol before they were even born. They struggle with anxiety, impulsivity, lack of focus, lower IQ, auditory processing, low tolerance for frustration, verbal communication and a rigid need for routine. They also have unbelievable creativity, strong imaginations, honest character, sensitivity to the emotions of others, generosity and compassion.

The Danger Of Honesty.

Many years ago, when both of these children were young, we joined a small group of friends that met throughout the year. Each time we had a get-together planned our sons would have a melt down. Both children deal with a lot of anxiety around large groups of people. One son would refuse to get out of the car and the other would cling to me as if he was holding on for his life. After some time had gone by we told the adults in the group what we were dealing with. They were kind but immediately began to shake their heads in disgust at the choices of our children’s birth mothers.

We began to back peddle but it was too late. Over the next few months we stood by and watched helplessly as our children were described as “a handful,” or “difficult.” I was dumbfounded as mothers of unruly children asked if I was ever able to find someone who could “handle” my sons so I could have a break? By sharing something that we thought would bring understanding, we had inadvertently handed others the freedom to criticize. We were sad and lonely. It took years before we attempted to share our story again.

The Hope of Camaraderie.

In the spring of 2011 we reluctantly joined an adoption class called Creating Attachment and Permanency at the Children’s Bureau of Indianapolis. Honestly, we were skeptical. We sat rigid in our seats, mouths clamped shut during the first meeting. Then other parents started to share. Their emotions were raw. Their stories were sad, angry, frustrated, comical, hilarious and, most of all, hopeful. Our lips parted and the words came tumbling out. We finally knew there were other families like ours. We weren’t alone. We knew that it was time for us to face our fear, find a balance and share our story honestly.

Finding Balance.

We didn’t open Pandora’s Box on our kid’s story altogether, with just anyone. After all, there are plenty of people in this world, like those in that small group, who will never understand, and potentially use their story against them. We had to find a balance. We had to determine whom we could share openly with, and whom we needed to keep at a distance.

The way we did this was simple. We interviewed people. Not like you do for a job. Much different, in fact. We did this in secret. That may sound odd, or a bit creepy, but here’s what we did, and continue to do…

We subtly released general, but honest, bits and pieces of our family’s story and then watched the person’s reaction. You can always tell, fairly quickly, whether the person you are sharing with can handle the reality of your children’s story, or not. If the reaction is non-judgemental, understanding, and kind, we would then release more, and later on, more, and then more, until we’ve reached complete transparency. For those who could not handle our story, or showed signs of using it against us or one of our children, we stopped sharing immediately after the release of general information.

Doing so has brought us a healthy balance but also allowed us the freedom to be…us!

So, what about you? Are you a foster or adoptive parent struggling to find the balance between being honest about your children, and staying private? If so, we want you to know, you’re not alone. We’ve crawled through that trench more than we can count. We would love to hear more about your story!

Have you ever been in a situation, as an adoptive or foster parent, that caused you to move into protection mode?

We will be live at 1pm EDT this afternoon on #Periscope to discuss ‘How To Balance Being Honest And Staying Private’ with your family’s information. To join the discussion live you can download the app here. Make sure you search ‘Mike Berry’ or @ConfessParent to follow us.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.