Confessions Of An Adoption Advice Writer

This is Adoption Awareness Month, and if you’re waiting to adopt or have already adopted, chances are you’re aware of Rachel Garlinghouse.

If you don’t know her, you’re in for a treat.

Rachel is the author of five books, including Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. Her work has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post, Babble, Scary Mommy, and right here (and here, here and here). 

The mother of three children whom she adopted domestically and transracially, her blog, White Sugar Brown Sugar, and other writings focus on adoption, race, and parenting.  

Earlier today I had a chance to ask Rachel about being an adoption advice writer and about what tips she has for waiting parents and adoptive families.


Credit: La Jolie Vie Photography

1. What led you to become an adoption advice writer?

I see myself as an educated, empowered, empathetic parent-by-adoption, and it’s become my passion to share what I’ve learned and experienced with others.  When we started our adoption journey nine years ago, there weren’t many resources on transracial adoption or open adoption in particular, so these are two subjects I am dedicated to educating others on.

2. Every adoptive family is created differently and every individual has an unique story. How do you take that into account when you’re writing about a topic?

There is no adoption gospel, and any person who claims to know everything and have the perfect, correct answers isn’t someone I’d listen to!  I have been personally educated by listening to all triad members (adoptees, birth parents, and parents who adopted) and carefully selecting the voices I let resonate in my heart when it comes to parenting my own kids.  Because of this, I’m picky in the resources I suggest to others.

3. What’s the hardest part about writing about adoption?

Adoption isn’t just about head-knowledge and about waiting and parenting; adoption involves the heart.  So much is at stake when choosing adoption, so I always keep in mind, when I’m writing, what is first and foremost the most important:  ethics.

4. Do you approach a subject from your perspective as an adoptive mom of three in a transracial family and a one-time waiting mom, or do you put yourself in the shoes of a particular person dealing with a particular issue?

I think about what I wish I would have known when I started my journey or when I was in the midst of a challenging time.  I share what would have helped me then with my audience now. 

5. As your children get older and your understanding of adoption deepens, how has that changed your approach?

A mom-by-adoption, adoptee, and writer taught me something so important:  to always listen to MY children.  If I let too many outside voices, too many other opinions and experiences, influence what I do, I’m not doing my job.  My job is to mother MY children, keeping THEIR needs and desires and best interest above all else.  In this day and age (at the risk of sounding like an eighty-five-year-old), there is A LOT of noise.  A lot of distraction.  A lot that can steer a parent away from listening to THEIR child. 

6. Have you found yourself incorporating the adoptee and birth family point of view more in your writing for waiting and adoptive parents?

Yes.  As my circle of friends has widened to include more and more birth parents (and my kids’ own birth families) and adoptees, I’ve increasingly considered and shared their voices in my writing.  I should note that I strongly feel there is no substitute for face-to-face relationships.  Online connections can be beneficial, but having an in-person village is so important.  

7. Have you ever looked back at something you’ve written at an earlier stage of your adoption journey and said to yourself, “oh boy, I really blew that one” and taken another stab at it? 

Just like any parent and writer, I’ve grown over the years to be more mature, more empathetic, more knowledgeable.   I certainly am not perfect, and that’s a great lesson for my children:  we all make mistakes, but what’s important is that we learn from them.   Every article I wrote, every media appearance, every book and blog post has been layering to bring me to who I am today.  As flawed as some of those things were at times, I’m still proud of the writer and speaker I am today.

8. Is there an adoption topic or theme that you find yourself returning to again and again?

Transracial adoption, ethics in adoption, and open adoption.  These are the topics my readers are asking me to write about.  So I give the people what they want (and need).    

9. Is there an adoptive parenting topic that you’d like to write about but don’t feel qualified or ready to do so?

No.  I feel like I know where my “home” is, and I’m pretty happy here!   

10. What three pieces are you proudest of, and why?

I write on many topics including parenting, health, adoption, and race.  The three adoption articles I’m most proud of are:

We are a Real Family, Thank You Very Much

Eating Humble Pie Without Dropping the Crumbs 

The One Thing You Should Say to an Adoptive Family 

11. What’s the best and the worst comment you’ve received to your writing?

Honestly, I rarely read the comments anymore.  If I feel convicted and passionate enough to write something, I write it, knowing it was a topic on my heart and mind for someone who needed to read it.  After I write something, I release it “to the world,” and move on to my next idea or project. 

12. Who do you read for parenting and/or adoption advice?

I think first and foremost, moms need to listen to what they already know is best and right.  I believe God guides me every day, but I have to have the courage and conviction to listen and do.   When it comes to parenting and adoption, I like Dr. Karen Purvis (Empowered to Connect).  For everyday living, Rachel Macy Stafford (Hands Free Mama) speaks to my heart like no other.  For humor, Bunmi Laditan (The Honest Toddler) is absolutely hysterical.   I also think it’s crucial to surround oneself with wise, strong, kind moms and adoption triad members of different ages, races, and backgrounds; this village is incredibly valuable. 

13. If you could give waiting adoptive parents one piece of advice, what would it be?

No matter what, make ethical choices, even if it means waiting longer and saying “no” sometimes.  The choices we, as parents and parents-to-be, make today will impact our family forever.   I’m really proud to say that I can look my kids in the eye and tell them we made every choice with a pure heart and ethical intentions. 

14. What about adoptive parents, what’s the one thing they need to know?

There is no substitution for stopping to listen, encourage, guide, and embrace your child, loving him or her for exactly who he or she is. 

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