Orphan–By Technical Definition Only

I’ve been contemplating this post for a couple of weeks now and decided it needed to be said. I was recently reading the blog of an adoptive family who referred to their adopted child as an “orphan” and now that the child has an adoptive family as “an orphan no more.” And it bothered me.

Let me say that I know nothing about this child’s background; maybe this child is an orphan in the true sense of the word. But for many of us with children adopted internationally, our children were only orphans in the technical/legal use of the word.

Random House Webster’s defines orphan as “1. a child who has lost both parents or, less commonly, one parent through death. 2. a young animal that is without its mother. 3. a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship, etc. 4. (esp. in word processing) the first line of a paragraph when it appears alone at the bottom of a printed page.”

Most children who are available for adoption both domestically and internationally have not lost one or both parents to death. So it seems wrong to me to call them orphans. To do so seems to ignore the parents who gave them life.

I know that some adoptive parents fear the first parents. The adoptive parents want to be the only parents. And some decide to adopt internationally to avoid having to deal with birth parents.

But no matter how much an adoptive parent ignores the fact that the first parents exist, it seems they may be very present in the minds of the child. And why not? In a world where everyone points out how much little Jimmy looks like Dad or Sue has Mom’s eyes, wouldn’t an adopted child wonder who they look like? Or where they got their athletic ability?

Whether or not we would have contact with birth parents didn’t factor into our decision to adopt or from where. But now that I’m educating myself on adoption and it’s impact on a child’s whole life, I wish we’d pushed for an open adoption. I see our birth parents more partners, both striving for the goal of giving our son the best life he can have. His first mom gave him a start. Now is our time to be a part of his life. But someday he may want his first parents to be a part of his life again too. I hope if and when that time comes that I don’t feel any jealousy or competition. Because our son isn’t and truly never was an orphan.

1 Response to “Orphan–By Technical Definition Only”

  1. September 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I am enjoying your blog – it is similar to mine… well, as I imagine it will become over time, I just started. My kiddos are 9& 11. We went to Korea in April and met some of my son’s birth family. It was amazing and when I saw how happy my son was there was no room for jealousy.

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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Please Teach Me English
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2009 Lost Memories

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