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Where Did You Get Them From? And Other Adoption Questions NOT to Ask

Remember that “Friends” episode where Rachel tells Joey that her boss wants to buy her baby? Everyone is completely flabbergasted that someone would be so insensitive and ridiculous. No one actually asks if they can buy your baby! Right?! Well, as a mom of four kids with two adopted from China, I must say that I have been asked some equally ridiculous questions about adoption.

When my kids were younger, it didn’t matter if people asked questions. They were too little to understand or care what I was talking about. But now that they are older, unsolicited questions that highlight their differences or make them feel like they are not a legitimate part of our family can actually hurt them emotionally. Most of the time when people ask questions or make comments their hearts are in the right place. They are often just lacking the correct terminology. My hope is that this post will provide you with both entertainment and education on the topic.

In honor of National Adoption Month this November…

Here are the eight most awkward adoption related questions I have been asked:

Q: How much did they cost?

A: All of my children are priceless.

Now, unless you are interested in pursuing adoption, I don’t think this is a question that you need to ask. Do I walk around asking people how much they paid for their car, house, jewelry, furniture, dental work, or school tuition? Do I ask to see their 401K or inquire about their salary? Of course not, because that would be considered rude or inappropriate. Well, the same applies here.

Instead say:


Q: Are they all yours?

A: No, they just started following me around the store! Do you know where their mom is?!

While I have never actually given anyone that answer, one day I want to try it just to see what happens! I realize that to many people, 4 kids seems like a lot. Or maybe even too many. When we were in the process of bringing home our fourth child I was right there with you! Four kids sounded overwhelming and terrifying! But now that I have four, it is totally and completely normal to me. So when a stranger asks me if they are all mine, it’s almost like they are calling me crazy for having a large family. I think it’s way crazier for a child to not have a family at all!

Instead say:

What beautiful children you have! You could also replace beautiful with any other positive attribute. I would accept well-behaved, smart, adorable, fantastic, you get the idea.

Q: Are they siblings? / Are they related?

A: They are now!

This is another instance where the correct terminology makes a big difference. My kids have grown up as siblings. My youngest does not remember her time in China, and my older ones do not remember life without her. To them, it is totally and completely normal to have a brother and sister who look different and were born in a different country. So when someone asks if they are siblings, it implies that my adopted children do not belong because they look different.

Instead ask:

Are any of them biological siblings?

Q: Why did you adopt from China? There are plenty of kids in the U.S. who need homes.

A: Of course there are! There are children all over the world who are without families, and every single one of them deserves a home regardless of where they were born. In our case, my husband and I had a variety of reasons that pushed us to pursue an international adoption from China. If you would like to sit down and talk with us sometime about our personal story, we would be happy to share that with you.

Instead ask:

What led you to adopt from China?

Q: What do you know about their real parents?

A: Well, I know quite a lot about myself! Would you like me to start from when and where I was born? How much time do you have?

The word “real” is the problem. From our standpoint, we are our children’s real parents. We are the ones who love them, take care of them, and will be here for them as long as we are on this earth. When you use the word real in this way, it implies that our parent/child relationship is not legitimate. As if somehow because our kids are adopted, they will never have “real” parents. This is simply not true, and we do not want our kids to think that it is.

Instead ask:

Do you know anything about their biological or birth parents? (Also note, unless you are a close friend we will probably not answer this question. This is a part of our child’s story, and we will leave it up to them to tell one day.)

Q: Now that you are adopting do you think you will get pregnant?

A: Well goodness, I hope not! But thank you for the reminder to take my birth control pill this evening.

While I acknowledge that many people do get pregnant during an adoption, there are just as many people that do not! And tons of people who get pregnant that are not adopting! Unless there is a scientific study I know nothing about, adoption does not lead to pregnancy. This comment is usually meant lightheartedly, but at its root it implies that adoption is plan B and pregnancy is plan A. My husband and I view all children as blessings, no matter how they came to be part of our family. There is no difference in status.

Instead say:

Nothing! Unless you live under our roof, help pay our bills, care for our children, or are our best friends, this really isn’t something you need to know about!

Q: Do you have any children of your own?

A: Yes. Four of them. While each one has a different story of how they came into our family, they are all our own.

Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it also comes with great loss. Our adopted children have experienced the loss of parents, friends, and a home. Attachment is something that we have had to work toward. We had to build trust and grow love. So when someone asks a question that implies our children are not ours – that they are somehow lesser than their siblings because they were adopted – it can chip away at the trust and attachment we have worked so hard to build.

Instead ask:

How many biological/adopted children do you have?

Q: Where did you get them from?

A: My shoes? They’re from Target. Aren’t they cute!

I know what you are really asking here, but when you word it like this it makes it sound like my kids are possessions that I picked up at the store.

Instead ask:

Where were your children born?


Most of the time I am happy to talk about our adoptions. I love sharing our story and educating people on the topic. In our family we celebrate adoption, but we also deal with hard stuff. We know that our kids are going to face lots of questions and curiosity, and we want to prepare them for that. We talk about these things with our children. We just don’t want to talk about them in the middle of Publix.  



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