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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

The Power of Viewing Photos of Adoptive Families

While the reassuring words of adoptive families and calming information provided in adoption education materials can help address the concerns of hesitant prospective parents or loved ones, I recently realized—while clicking through hundreds of photographs of happy, well-adjusted adoptive families submitted to AdoptiveFamiliesCircle's "2011 Hugs and Kisses" photo contest—a picture is worth a thousand words.  

adopted sister love
Uploaded by Aung Family to 2011 Hugs and Kisses Photo Contest

"Is it hard to have a child who doesn't look like you?" "Do your children get along with each other even though they aren't biologically connected?" "Did your family have a hard time accepting a child who was adopted?" "Do you truly love your adopted child?" These are just some of the questions I've fielded from prospective adoptive parents over the years as an active adoption advocate. While they might seem intrusive, as a former hopeful parent and a current proud adoptive mom to three children, I can relate. I had many of the same worries.

I usually answer such questions by talking about my own kids—gushing about how beautiful they are, how smart and clever they are, or how I can't imagine my life without them—hoping the love I have for my children will pour out through my words and set any anxious potential adopters' minds and hearts at ease.

There are limitations, however; why should they take my word for it? Given their state of uncertainty, they may doubt what I am saying and think, Well, she's just saying what I want to hear.

While words and body language can be misinterpreted, it's much more difficult to interpret a photograph. When you see a snapshot of a mom and her son gazing at each other with love in their eyes, you can't doubt that they have an intense connection. When you see two young sisters laughing and hugging, you can't doubt that they enjoy each other's company. When you see hundreds of photos like these, it's even more powerful.

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of looking through all of the photographs submitted to AFC's "2011 Hugs and Kisses" photo contest. As part of my job as the AFC Community Moderator, I was asked to narrow down the hundreds of entries to the few that I deemed the best of the best (as you can imagine, that was pretty difficult!). In the beginning, I took to looking at the photographs as if it were any other work-related task. Yet, within minutes, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the photographs and admired each and every one at length. I immediately thought that prospective adoptive parents should view photos like these.

There were pictures of parents holding their children for the first time, grandparents snuggling with their grandchildren, cousins relaxing in the grass, older siblings meeting their new little brother or sister at the airport, and children receiving hugs from teachers or neighbors. I can't remember the last time I smiled as much for as long a time as when I viewed this collection of photographs. With every snapshot, the love each family member had for each other could easily be felt.

Not sure if you can bond with a child who looks nothing like you? Look at all of the pictures of a parent of one race or ethnicity holding, snuggling, and loving on their children of another race or ethnicity. Not sure if your biological child will accept a child through adoption? Look at the pictures of the siblings from blended families who are obviously enamored with one another. Not sure if your father could ever love a child you did not give birth to? Look at the way the toddlers are looking up at their grandpas, who in turn are looking back at them, with happiness. These photographs say more than any one person could.

If you or another prospective adoptive parent is, or has a relative who is, hesitant about growing the family through adoption, I suggest taking a look at these “Hugs and Kisses” photographs. I know there are books written for the friends and families of prospective adoptive parents that explain adoption. But wouldn't it be a lot more fun (and perhaps more persuasive) to sit down together in front of a computer and page through the “Hugs and Kisses” album? Maybe afterward, you'll be able to submit your own family photos in the 2012 contest!

Thanks to all of you who submitted your photos for this year's contest. Viewing your beautiful and loving families has been inspiring. I hope they will touch others, too.

 adopted brother and sister love
Uploaded by SharonR to 2011 Hugs and Kisses Photo Contest

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Beautiful! Definitely touched me.

By Stacy Clark on Monday, April 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm.

Thank you, Sharon. This post (and the reminder to take another look at those fantastic photos) put a smile on my face this morning.

By Meghan on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm.

Yes! I love this.  Let’s get more beautiful pics of adoptive family love out into the world and help heal the shame around being adopted.

By adoptiongoddess on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm.

Danielle, I agree whole-heartedly with your post above.  I myself regularly thumbed through these photo galleries on Adoptive Families website 2 years ago when my husband and I were waiting to be matched with our precious baby girl Emma Kate- who is now 14 months old. 

After three years and 5 miscarriages, I was SO fearful about the adoption process (what if it didn’t “work out”- up that point, it had not for me) and I worried about all the things you mentioned - would we bond, what if she didn’t look like me, etc.  I read the books and the articles, which helped, but the photographs reassured me in a whole new way.  Like you said, photos don’t lie. 

As soon as those worries would well up, I would shut my door at the office, and scroll through the pictures- study the faces, the expressions, the gestures, the beautiful blends of ethnicities and ages of the children and the Mommies and Daddies and sisters/brothers.  For the first time, I could SEE first hand that the LOVE and the bond of these families was as real and tangible as any relationship (family and close friends) that I had ever known in my life.  To this day, I think the JOY in the parents and children’s faces helped to heal some of the wounds that my previous losses had left. 

I was blessed enough to be in the room when Emma Kate was born- and minutes after she was born, and the nurse put her in my arms- I knew that this was MY precious girl in every sense of the word- and I also knew that I would never doubt the sacred bond of a Mother and a child who was adopted - ever again.

By J Mac on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm.

HI Danielle,

I absolutely found joy and comfort in looking at the pictures of all types of happy families while waiting for our referral. Getting our the picture of our daughter was amazing.  But I remembered what pictures did for me so I try to post some of ours here and include pictures in my blogs .. a picture is truly worth a 1000 words in my humble opinion smile Thank you for sharing!


By Ellenore Angelidis on Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm.

We are looking to adopt and I have included many different photos in our website.

By RalphandPatty on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 10:42 pm.

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Meet the Author

Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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