The Greatest Adoption Myth

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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I posted this in November 2012, just a few short months after Confessions Of A Parent was born. I wanted to repost it because, more and more, I am having conversations with adoptive parents who have a mixed up view of their role in their new son or daughter's life. It's easy to view yourself as a rescuer or a savior, because your heart is full for the children you are bringing home. However, this viewpoint can be toxic if there's not a clear understanding of what adoption really is.

We were so excited! Out of 5 families we had been chosen to adopt 2 little boys, who were biological brothers. We looked at the pictures the case manager passed around and without even knowing them, or having met them, we just knew- “Those little boys are our sons!” It was meant to be.

For the next 2 weeks we planned. We moved rooms in our home around to make space. We bought extra supplies (diapers, toys, clothes, etc.). We called our friends and family and shared the exciting news. We prayed. We anticipated. We hoped. And finally we went for our very first visit with them.

It did not go the way we expected it to.

The older brother stared at us for what seemed like forever. The younger brother continually scooted away from us and screamed- at the top of his lungs, the entire time we were there. Finally, the older brother warmed up to my wife and actually let her hold him. The younger brother did as well, but hesitantly.

Once we got the boys home, a day later, we continued to see struggles. The oldest brother connected almost immediately but the younger did not. Our first trip to Florida with him was disastrous. He spent the entire week screaming, pulling my wife’s hair, and throwing himself on the ground, not happy with anything. As I watched this unfold, I found myself at a loss. This was not how I pictured this going, at all!

I, personally, pictured something like this (honestly)- we would rush to the foster home the boys were living in, scoop them both up, carry them to their brand new car seats, play Finding Nemo the entire ride home, and smile contently at one another as we listened to their sweet giggles from the back seat. In other words, I saw us as amazing rescuers on a valiant rescue mission.


You see, we weren’t rescuers and this wasn’t a rescue mission. We were adopting 2 little boys from a difficult place. My sons didn’t need a rescuer, they needed a father. They needed a mother. They needed parents. And above all, they needed stability!

In their short existence, they had traveled to several different homes and experienced a revolving door of people and faces. Nothing was forever in their little minds. And that was traumatic.

Our world, our culture, has a way of glamorizing adoption. We have the Angelina Jolie’s or the Madonna’s who jump on private jets to third world countries and “rescue” children. While there’s nothing wrong with celebrities doing this, it is not representative of real-life circumstances. Nearly 100% (okay, maybe 98 or 99%) of adoption cases are NOT going to unfold like that.

The greatest myth when it comes to adoption is that everything will be perfect, the child will immediately latch on to you, and every dream you had in your mind, previous to the child entering your home, will come true. If this is your view, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you will be disappointed.

And more than ever, stop seeing yourself as a rescuer (if this is you). I saw myself as this and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m called to be a parent, not a rescuer.

Here’s what I’ve learned through my own personal (and painful) experience-

  • You must take on open-mindedness over a fantasy.
    If your adoption experience is fueled by fantasy you are going to struggle more than you know. You need to be open-minded to the fact that your new son or daughter may be coming from a difficult situation and that will prompt a lot of different emotions, behaviors, and reactions to you. Obviously this is slightly different if you’re adopting a newborn baby, but if you’re adopting from the foster care system or internationally, it’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.”
  • You must choose unconditional love regardless of circumstances.
    This is key because the circumstances could be very difficult or very hard to understand. Truthfully, we were blind-sided by this. We kept thinking that we were doing something wrong and that was why they were pushing us away or screaming in our face. However, the truth was that these behaviors were coming from a place of fear and the best thing we could do was love them deeply, no matter what we experienced!
  • You must provide the most stable, consistent environment possible.
    I can’t say this enough! I’m already a huge fan of consistency. But I’m the biggest fan when it comes to parenting. Today, nearly 4 years later, our two sons are stable, grounded, emotionally healthy and I do not believe that’s because we’re “awesome.” I think it’s solely because, through thick and thin, we’ve worked hard at being consistent and stable. We’re far from perfect at this (trust me), but I can honestly say that it’s made a world of difference in their development.

Have you had a similar experience with adoption? What were some ways you navigated or coped with the emotions or behaviors your child (or children) had? 

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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.