Today is the last post in a fantastic five-post guest series by Laure Kline, who has so graciously shared all she knows about about adoption fundraising. Lack of funding can be the biggest roadblock for many prospective parents and it is our hope that this series will encourage, enlighten, and maybe even help a little one find their way into a forever family.
If you haven’t already, read through the entire series. And if you know of a family who might need some fundraising wisdom and encouragement, be sure to share!
Post 1: Writing a fundraising letter
Post 2: Applying for adoption grants
Post 3: Fundraising sales and events
Post 4: Using social media to raise funds
Post 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process
Dealing With Negativity During the Adoption Process
Out of the blue, there it was, a statement of a fact that I’d suspected but dismissed — this person did not support our plans to adopt. What’s more, he wanted us to know it for sure. It was awkward, hurtful, and, frankly, sad.
Adoption is complicated, filled with pain, and surrounded by misinformation and ignorance. It’s no wonder that prospective adoptive families often face negativity during the fundraising process. Negativity comes with the territory, and it can linger long after all the process fees have been paid in full. Learning to cope with and defend yourself and your family from negativity is an important part of becoming an adoptive parent.
Negativity surrounding adoption and adoption fundraising comes from a variety of places and sources. Adoptive families have to learn to identify what form of negativity they are facing so they know if and how to address it appropriately and effectively.
Meanness & “Trolling”
Trolling is when someone makes deliberately offensive or upsetting comments online. If you share your story publicly on a blog or on social media, expect to be trolled a few times… or more.
If someone anonymously posts something that is obviously offensive for the purpose of being upsetting, don’t feel obligated to leave their post there or to reply. Report the offensive comment, block the user, and move on. In person, this one is harder, but the principle remains. If someone is deliberately offensive, take a breath and, if possible, walk away without reply. It will be hard not to get into it with every person who tries to goad you into a fight, but, trust me on this one, if you engage, they’ll come out in greater numbers. Trolls enjoy watching people get upset, so don’t give them what they want. You’ve probably heard it said, but I’ll reiterate it here.
How to handle it?
Don’t feed the trolls.
Unnecessary Commentary and Ignorance
“If you could really afford to adopt, you wouldn’t be asking me for money.”
“They hate girls in that country.”
Bring up adoption, and you will likely be regaled with tales of adoption woe as well as comments riddled with misinformation, stereotyping, and racism. It can be difficult to know how to address these types of negative comments, because they often come from unexpected sources — our grandparents, neighbors, grocery store cashiers, and hairdressers.
My best suggestion for comments like these is to pick your battles. With family or friends, I am more likely to try to open a dialogue so they can understand my perspective and learn the truth about how adoption works. In line at the checkout with my kiddos in the cart? Not so much. It depends so much on the particulars of the day and what was said. I’ve definitely changed the way I respond to ignorance over the past three years, because it’s emotionally exhausting to get all fired up over every unfortunate thing that’s said in my earshot.
How to handle it?
If it’s the right moment for a response, try one of these:
“That’s not actually true.”
“That’s offensive. Please don’t speak that way in front of me or my family again.”
“I understand that you feel that way, but I disagree.”
“You may not mean for it to be, but what you are saying is insensitive.”
“Thank you for your concern. I have done my own research, and I know the facts about what we are doing.”
Comments that come from a place of hurt or a bad experience
The Americans will kick you to the curb shortly […]. You’re disposable, muffin.”
That’s part of a comment that came through on my adoption blog shortly after we returned home from China with our new son. My first instinct was defensiveness and fury. I’m not going to kick my sweet boy to the curb! How dare you?!?
But then I realized that a person who would write such a thing to me and my family could be speaking from experience. It is true that foster care, orphanage, and adoption systems around the world are greatly flawed, and even families with good intentions can fall apart under the weight of stress and sin. This commenter may very well have been adopted and then abandoned or rehomed; such a history would make it easy to understand why he might see adoptees as “disposable” to their adoptive families.
In one of my online adoption groups, there are several people who have expressed that, in no uncertain terms, adoption is horrible and should be illegal. They have equated it to child trafficking, kidnapping, neocolonialism, and baby-buying. While I know that those are all horrific things that really do sometimes (perhaps even often) happen within the corrupted parts of the system, I believe that adoption has its redeeming qualities and merits.
I understand their perspective on these complicated issues because I know their past experiences have lead them to their conclusions. I don’t argue with their life experiences. I affirm their beliefs and thank them for their perspective; then I add their thoughts into my own understanding of adoption, giving it more dimension.
How to handle it?
If it’s the right moment for a response, try one of these:
“I’m so sorry that you’ve been hurt by adoption.”
“Your unique perspective is important to me.”
“That’s a way to look at it that I hadn’t really considered.”
“Thank you for sharing your thoughts.”
Attempts to Help and Educate
Admitting that we don’t know everything can be the best thing that happens to us. When we started the adoption process, I was sure that all of my reading had turned me into an adoption expert. Looking back… well, let’s just say that I’ve removed a lot of my old blog posts because of how ridiculous they sound now.
At some point in our early months of fundraising, when our adoption journey was made more public, I was confronted by someone who challenged me to consider how a non-white child would feel about being raised in my mostly white world. Immediately I felt defensive.
Of course, I’d considered that there could be difficulties, but love is enough, right?
I quickly learned after some research into transracial adoption that there’s a lot more to it than unconditional love and keeping our fingers crossed that things turn out okay.
When we applied to a Chinese adoption program, I took what that person had said to me and ran with it. My husband and I started taking Mandarin language classes, watching documentaries about China’s history and culture, attending a Chinese-speaking church, and learning to cook more authentic Chinese foods. Even our then-three-year-old daughter joined us in learning; she watched “Fun Fun Elmo” videos and learned to count and sing in Mandarin far faster than I did. Once, when our childcare for during our language class fell through, we brought her with us, and she answered one of the teacher’s questions before any of the adults in the class!
I am so glad that I didn’t write that question off as nosy or inappropriate. My appreciation and love for China and my son’s birth culture are infinitely more important to me than I ever thought they would be.
If someone you trust asks you if you are truly prepared to parent a child of a different race than you, with a certain complex medical need, or who may have severe emotional struggles due to adoption trauma, don’t get defensive of your plan. If someone comments that you should take a parenting class or implies that you aren’t financially prepared to adopt, don’t get angry.
Think about what they have brought up to you. Consider whether or not they are right (and not just by asking a friend who will reinforce that you are perfect and in need of no growth, as lovely as those kinds of friends are). Do some research. Talk to your social worker, pastor, pediatrician, or friend who is the same race as your prospective adoptive child. Make an effort to learn something new.
If you come to the conclusion that you are doing okay, then that’s that. But, if not, you may find that someone’s off-hand comment has lead you to something hugely important that you hadn’t fully considered.
How to handle it?
Consider whether or not you have something to learn.
Ask follow-up questions to gain clarity.
Learn and grow.
Your Own Negativity
Last but not least, there’s the negativity of our own inner voices. I was my own biggest critic during the fundraising and adoption process (and now too). If a fundraiser didn’t go well, if we didn’t get a grant we’d applied for, or if donations slowed for a few weeks, I worried that it was because our adoption wasn’t “meant to be”. I felt overwhelmed and unprepared and inadequate.
At one point when I was struggling in the midst of three simultaneous fundraisers, a load of paperwork, and a bunch of normal-life parenting-a-toddler stuff, I wrote this:
[…M]ost of it isn’t related to the adoption process. Doesn’t matter. Today, Satan is in my ear, telling me that [my future child] isn’t real… That I need to just stop all of this nonsense. He’s whispering that no one is really supporting us, that we’ll be all alone, that this is all for nothing. He says that if I can’t handle one toddler, I’ll never be able to handle another one (especially one with a special need). He’s trying to convince me that this exhaustion isn’t worth it.
I want to give in to these obvious lies. I want to imagine that if we just stopped all of this — canceled the consignment sale, used the gift cards ourselves, closed my Etsy shops, and hid under a very fuzzy blanket with a jug of Turkey Hill iced tea and a giant chocolate bar — that everything would suddenly be rainbows and unicorns and bunnies made of cotton candy.
I don’t even like cotton candy.
I can see now that this is self-centered nonsense, but, at the time, I had allowed everything to build up until the little things seemed like a mountain. Fortunately, I had awesome friends and a supportive church family to help me to refocus and see that the mountain I’d imagined was really just a series of small bumps on a long path. They sent me scripture and song lyrics, prayed for me and with me, and reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
Over the past five months, I’ve covered writing fundraising letters, applying for grants, fundraising events and sales, and using social media for adoption fundraising. When you are in the middle of it all, it can feel unending, like the paperwork will never be done, never get authenticated, never make it to the other side of the globe and back. It can feel like you’ll never just be snuggled on the couch with all of your pajama-clad kiddos, reading Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site for the twentieth time.
But you will be! One day, in two years… three years… you’ll look around you and find that you are home, and all of the fundraising craziness will feel like a different lifetime.
You can do this, friend.
Laure Kline and her husband Joel have two children, a biological daughter and a son adopted from Hubei, China, in 2014. She blogs about adoption, faith, fundraising and more at One Thousand for One. You can also follow her family’s post-adoption life at Adopting Baby K. Laure is the owner and principal graphic designer of Lime Creative, a creative studio specializing in design for churches and nonprofit organizations. She and her family dance awkwardly, sing loudly, and pretend to be completely normal from their home in Lancaster, PA.