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Adoption is a multifaceted gem. We often see the photos of families at courthouses or at home, celebrating having found one another, and it paints a heart-swelling picture of happiness. And it is true, adoption really is sparkly and beautiful. It is also messy, painful, and deeply consequential.

Speaking about the hard parts of adoption doesn’t diminish the good. Like all parenting, the good and the bad are interwoven in the days and years. Just when we think we are drowning in struggles, little arms wrap around our necks and we realize that it is all worth it. Adoption is a small part of the bigger picture of parenting, yet it permeates our whole lives.

I am a biological sibling to an adoptee and I am also an adoptive mother. I’ve fostered and reunited children with their birth families and I’ve cried over the heads of children that have no homes to return to. I’ve seen the nitty gritty of adoption up close, and there are truths to it that need to be brought to light. Whether you’re considering adoption or are just interested, these are the hard truths that you should know about.