Ethics in Adoption – What is their story?

My daughter Ania (and photographer -more about her here) is studying a unit on the right’s of a photographer according to the Constitution and the amendments and she shared the info with me. A photographer has the right to take photos in a public place. When public events happen, a photographer can capture them on film.


What he cannot do is invade someone’s privacy by taking photos on a ladder while peeking into someone’s home. That is unethical. Americans have the right to free speech, there is freedom of the press. but not when it invades the privacy of another.


ethics-the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture,

In the culture of adoption/foster care, there are some rules that may be confusing for those outside the arena. Moms of bio children love to tell birth stories. How many hours were you in labor? Really, I was in labor (just double what the other mama said). And so on. We (myself included) all love stories. We adoptive/foster moms have another sort of story to tell. It is how long did you have to wait? What agency did you go through? Did your INS approval come right away? And eventually, adoptive/foster and bio moms find some common ground. Preparing the nursery. Planning the first birthday party. Parenting. Schooling.

There something that parents of ONLY bio children may not know. In the adoption/foster world, it is unethical to ask the story of origin of the adoptive/foster child. C.S. Lewis said it best in the Horse and His Boy through the Lion, Aslan-

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy


There are parts of our story that are common knowledge. Everyone has seen them. My close friends and family members know the day that my children got off that plane and stepped onto U.S. soil for the first time and became part of our story. Those parts are worth sharing. A new day. A new beginning. But, there was an older day. There was a beginning, before us. Before they became part of this family. And that part of the story is not mine to tell and not fair game for asking about.

I don’t know the backstories of most of my friends. Once and awhile they will divulge in confidence something. Usually, they need someone to pour it out to so they can put it in perspective or they are sharing to help me sort something out. They choose to share. And I don’t share it. I cover them like a friend should.

So when someone asks me, “What happened to them before you adopted them?” I simply say, “That is their story. They can tell it when they are ready and only when they want to.”

My children’s stories are their own. I don’t share them. Anything I share on my site or through support group I have their permission too I often read posts to them and ask what they think. That is the ethical thing to do.




12 thoughts on “Ethics in Adoption – What is their story?

  1. Kathleen- thank you for sharing this message- as an adoptee I was thankful that my story was MINE to tell. As a mama through adoption I know so well the importance of being entrusted with these stories. They are OUR CHILDREN’S. ❤

  2. Thank you for this perspective. Even though I blog anonymously through our journey, I try to focus on my parenting (and mostly, how I’ve needed to change) rather than my children. Even now, I feel like I need to go back and reword some posts to protect my children even further.

    1. Alex, I know, it is hard to know how much of our story to share. I run a support group and tell everyone what we share for help and healing stays in the room. And as a blogging mom I may have shared too much of our story in this chapter of our lives. So, I hear you. But, my kids are always fine with it when I ask. So, keep that in mind. Also, sometimes I protected my kids so much that when others encountered real life issues they were shocked or thought I not doing a great job parenting. It is a difficult high wire to walk. Blessings!

  3. Awwww, that is so sad. Yes, hurt children had something happen to them, it is not who they are, but what someone else inflicted upon them. It should not be their life label! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great post! I advocate for children from my daughter’s orphanage and I struggle with how much to share and how much to leave private. It’s such a tough balance but I know that when in doubt, privacy wins.

  5. Kathleen. Good for you that you recognize their story is not yours to share. Often, parents choose to share the trauma/drama of their children’s histories in an effort to get people to accept and empathize with their kids and to appreciate what they’ve overcome. No only does this violate the children’s privacy, it frequently backfires in the future because people will remember that “hard stuff” with comments like “Do you worry that he will do “X” like his parents?”

    1. I agree Gayle. We should share info with teachers or professionals only when absolutely necessary. We share too much we are teaching our children it is okay to overshare. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I LOVE how simply you’re able to put boundaries between what you can/should share and what is private. You’re right, it’s THEIR story.

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