“Forever Family” is a term popular in the human adoption industry (it’s “furever” in pet adoption). Many adoptees have expressed discomfort with the term, especially those who know firsthand that adoptive families do not always last forever. The terms we use are incredibly important, especially when stewarding a child’s growth and development. I propose we drop “forever” and take up “Entrusted Family” instead.
FOREVER FAMILY SOUNDS FUN AT FIRST,
BUT IT’S NOT ACTUALLY REAL.
AT BEST, AN IDEAL,
AND A JAB TO THE ONES TWICE REJECTED AT WORST.
ENTRUST FAMILY SOUNDS REAL AND FAIR.
IT’S PROVING WORTHY OF THE NAME,
NOT STAKING A CLAIM,
AND EARNING ANOTHER SOUL’S LOVE WITH TIME AND CARE.
It’s great to have ideals. Shouldn’t all families aspire to be “forever”? However, as an ideal, “forever family” is a term that centers the adoptive parents by making a claim about who they are.
It implies that they will always be a healthy and safe place for the adoptee. It implies that a family bond and sense of belonging is a forgone conclusion; inevitable as soon as the deal is done and the adoption is finalized.
This family is the right family because they are the kind of people who will provide a forever home.
And since this term contributes to a narrative that centers the adoptive parents and implies their perpetual commitment and worthiness, if the relationship does end or change in a negative way, the fault for that tends to tip toward the adoptee.
For example; “They just needed more than what the family could reasonably offer” or “They chose to distance themselves from the family.”
“Entrusted family” is a commission that is focused on the care of the adoptee. All families, biological or adopted or otherwise, have trust bestowed upon them by God and by the children themselves, to care for the children.
It implies that the adoptive family’s value to the adoptee is contingent upon their ongoing fulfillment of their responsibility to provide a loving, nurturing and safe family environment. Entrusted isn’t about who they are but about what they have been given.
“Entrusted family” allows for a change in the relationship between the adoptee and adoptive family at any time. It allows for either side to be the initiator of that change as well. Either the family was no longer worthy of the adoptee’s trust and care or the adoptee chose to no longer extend their trust for other reasons.
By the time we’re adults, starting our own families, it seems people don’t believe our separation and subsequent adoption can be relevant anymore. The struggle, if there is any, for the adoptee is supposed to happen during our childhood development years.
If we’ve reached our 20s or 30s and we’re still in good relationship with our adoptive family, then case closed! Stamp us with the seal that says “Forever” and everyone can feel good about it.
The reality is, that adoptees are allowed to begin to wrestle with any aspect of our adoption at any point in our lives. We can change our perspective of our own life at any point in our lives. The relationship with our adoptive family can change or completely break down at any point in life.
We don’t need a fairytale forever in order to find comfort in a loving home. Especially when so many adoptees learn that forever doesn’t last as long as promised.
Adoptees need families that recognize they are not entitled to our love or our lives because they were decent enough to give us a home, but that an adoptee’s love and desire to be in relationship depends on their ability to earn and keep our trust.