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Major Reader Dilemma #1: Adoption
A number of major dilemmas from readers have come through the comments (some anonymously that I haven't published at their request), and they're really toughies.

So I thought I'd throw them out there to all of you, in the hopes that through our collective wisdom we could help! I'll do them one every few days, because they're pretty deep.

Here's the first scenario (some details have been changed): Imagine you have adopted a little girl into your family and you love her to death. She even kind of looks like you.

But the reason that she was put up for adoption in the first place is that the mom was raped. So your beautiful daughter is actually the product of a sexual assault.

As her new mom for life, what should you do with this piece of information? Presumably she will eventually find out, since when she's older she can meet her biological mother. So how do you tell her? When do you tell her? And how do you deal with it?

Let me attempt to give my point of view, but please don't take it as gospel truth. I've been praying this one through lately, and here's what I've come up with:

We had a "what do I tell the child" situation in our extended family, too, that had to do with adoption. In that case, the question was, do you tell a child that he or she has siblings they don't know?

My policy was always tell them everything, because they're going to find out anyway. Instead, though, this child didn't find out about the siblings until later, because the information was not shared. And it was a big shock.

Now that's not the same thing as finding out that your father is a rapist. That can be truly devastating. So how would I deal with it?

I think I would stress, even before they could understand the words, that they were chosen. They were chosen by their adoptive parents, chosen by their biological mom, and chosen by God.

As they got older, I may gradually start teaching about how God often brings the most beautiful things in life out of a difficult situation. And keep that as a theme that you tell your kids constantly. When you see soil, you can say that it only comes because stuff rots. And yet it supports roses! When you hear of an earthquake, you can talk about those who were rescued, or about how the God's people moved in and brought beauty out of it. How beauty is often most noticed when it comes out of something difficult. Make this something you are constantly on the look out for.

And you can start talking about these types of things even as young as 4 or 5. Ask them to notice beauty. Tell them that they are beauty to you! That God chose them and they are beautiful. Share your story, about how it was in the worst things in your life that God made you beautiful.

Then, slowly, as they are older, you prepare the ground. Tell them that their biological dad made a mistake. That sometimes people do that. But your mom didn't, and she chose life.

So let them grow up knowing that the dad did make a mistake, so you don't have to spill the beans all at once. But do it in the context of God having His hand on the child. And also you can talk about how sometimes people do bad things, but they themselves probably have very good things about them, too, that can be hidden. But they are there. And even if the dad did something wrong, the dad may have had parents himself who were loving. The whole branch of the family tree isn't necessarily rotten.

Eventually you tell the little girl the whole truth. But if the groundwork is laid, I think it will be okay.

Two stories come to mind. The first is about Gianna Jesson, who is only here with us because she survived an abortion. Her mother tried to kill her, the nurse saved her, and then she was adopted into an amazing Christian family. Just watch this:

The second is from Heather Gemmen, the book "Startling Beauty: From Rape to Restoration".

It's interesting, but I only remembered Heather's name before I looked up the book. So all the stuff I wrote up there about beauty I thought of before seeing her title. So that's obviously a theme that works!

Heather was raped, but she kept the baby and they have raised her. It's really a moving story, and a great read. She was pressured, even by Christians, to abort, and she just couldn't. Initially she was going to give the baby up, if I remember correctly, but she couldn't do that, too. But her rapist was black; she and her husband are white. So they had to tell the child the truth from the very beginning. It was obvious. And so that may be a good book to read for her perspective.

That is just my opinion. I've never believed in keeping secrets that are fundamental to someone's identity, and I think Jesus' love and grace are big enough to bring healing. Just listen to Gianna talk!

But I know there are alternate views out there. So what do you think? A faithful reader of my blog wants to know, and she checks in here everyday. So do share your thoughts in a constructive way. What should she tell her daughter? And how, and when?

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At 9:09 AM , Blogger Dena @ Green Acres said…

I can't speak on behalf of the situation of rape, but I am a firm believer in telling as much as the childs age can allow them to process, and to keep adding information as they get older. We have a friend who was pregnant when young. The father wanted nothing to do with the child and signed away his rights. About a year later the girl got married and her new husband adopted the baby. They never said a word to the child about not being biologically related to his father. He found out by someone who knew his bio father when he was 15. He is 17 now and is still suffering from it all. He has run away, been involved in drugs and alcohol, is failing classes in school. It's so tragic to see him suffering this way, when had they been honest in the beginning, this might have turned out differently.


At 11:55 AM , Anonymous Amy said…

I was adopted when I was 8 weeks old. I remember my parents telling me from a very young age. I never really thought anything of it. I am now 32 and still have no idea who my birth mother is, whether I have siblings or why I was given up for adoption. I do question those things occasionally and have even contimplated looking for answers. I think adoptive parents should be as honest as they can about everything because there is always the chance it will come out later and be way more destructive. I think people who have been adopted always have a few missing pieces that bother them every now and then. Having the answers to those may help them to feel more complete somehow. Even though the situation started out as a bad thing God turned it into something wonderful. So I would say tell the child little things as they grow, talk about it often and when they are old enought to understand explain the situation. Hope this helps.


At 4:39 PM , Anonymous Patti VZ said…

As a parent of two adopted boys, I can say we have always been very open about their adoptions... to age level. I had a sign hanging in their room from infancy: You didn't grow under my heart. You grew in my heart. They knew from as soon as they could understand they were adopted. BUT we did not offer the reasons for the mother giving them up (yes, we know). As they have grown up (now 18 & 22), they are more mature and with greater understanding of how sometimes life isn't fair. We have reminded both of them that at 18 it is TOTALLY their choice to go seek out their biological mom, neither one of them has any desire to seek that information out. They have a family here that love them and support them. We have also tied the thought process of just as we are adopted children of Christ, they are DOUBLY adopted and doubly loved.


At 8:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

THANK YOU for answering and posting your feelings on this does help to hear this....I am going to keep your post for future reference and to show it to my husband. I appreciate all the comments too!!


At 8:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…



At 5:53 PM , Blogger Sophia said…

I have been thinking about this post for a few days and here is what I think about it.

I would share the information with my child. It is hard to now an number for age to share but I think if the child is old enough to ask and want to know more, I would consider his/her personality. maybe 7 or 8 yrs? maybe 10? I am not sure.
I would say that he/she was created by a daddy who didn't care about the mommy and actually forced her and hurt her into getting pregnant (You could say rape, etc if the child is old enough and understands more about sex.)
but I think what I would emphasize most is the fact that this child's mother LOVED him/her ENOUGH to give birth and NOT to abort him/her and give her as a gift to a family who really, really wanted her/him. Dreamed about having him/her, perhaps. And that ultimately s/he is a beautiful gift for his/her adoptive parents!

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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