An Open Letter to Our Family & Friends

February 25th, 2009

An Open Letter to Our Family and Friends,

We’ve been on this adoption journey since the summer of 2007 and we’re almost there. As we write this, we’ve just cleared court and Milo Rahimeto Hendricks will be coming home on March 27. We’re beyond excited.

Before all the crazyness of travel and bringing Milo home sets in, we wanted to share with you some of our expectations and rules. This adoption thing is new and exciting for us, but there’s also a lot to learn. We want to share some of that with you ahead of time and explain the rationale behind our choices. We’re always open to questions, but we may not be very receptive to those questions after 18 hours on a plane with a screaming infant. Hopefully this will resolve some of that.

First and foremost, we need to be sensitive with the language we use to talk about adoption. We’ve brought up a lot of these issues already, but it’s good to be reminded and will become even more important when Milo is home and as both Milo and Lexi hear you talk about adoption.

Some examples of language to avoid:

• “own child” – (example: “Why don’t you want your own child?’). Milo is our own child. Just as we are God’s children or Jesus called Joseph his father without a biological relationship, Milo is our own child regardless of a genetic connection. If you need to speak about a specific, genetic relationship, please use terms like “biological child” or “birth child”.
• “real” – (example: “Where are his real parents?”). We are Milo’s real parents. If someone asks you that question, please correct them by saying, “Kevin and Abby are his real parents.” Instead use terms like “biological family” or “birth mother”.
• Introducing Milo as our “adopted child” is unnecessary. It will be pretty obvious that he was adopted, but more importantly a statement like that can imply that he’s somehow second rate (did you introduce Lexi as our “biological child”?).
• “Orphanage” – This term isn’t offensive, but it can have negative connotations and people can make assumptions about the level of care received.  Please use the term “care center” instead. (For the record, Milo received better care and attention in Ethiopia than he would have as an infant in daycare in the United States.)
• “Third World Country” – Please use the term “developing country” instead as this is the politically correct term for countries such as Ethiopia.

Milo’s Story
The story of how Milo was placed for adoption and what happened to his birth family are private and personal. We’ve decided not to share that information at this point in time. This is sacred information to an adopted child and we want to be sensitive to Milo and make sure he learns his own story in the proper time and in the proper context. The only way to ensure that happens is to protect his story.

We realize this makes for a difficult situation. Even Lexi will be curious about Milo’s story, but we don’t want her to know the story before Milo does. As kids do, she could taunt him with details of that story and deprive him of learning about his own past in the proper context.

This is all about protecting Milo and helping him to understand and appreciate his story. And it won’t be easy. More than likely we’ll end up telling him bits and pieces or generalized versions of the story as he’s old enough, and then it will be up to him whether or not he wants to share those pieces of the story with you. If he asks you questions that you can’t answer, simply tell him to ask us.

We hope you’ll understand our reasoning and give us grace as we try to sort out what we can share, with who, when.

Coming Home
One of the biggest challenges we’ll face is the need to bond with Milo. Thankfully he’s very young and that should help the transition, but it will still be a challenge. He’s likely to regress and need to re-learn basic skills.

Because of the importance of forming a quick and strong attachment with Milo, we’ll be doing things a bit differently than we did with Lexi. We’re going to seem rather over-protective, but it’s all in the name of forming an attachment with Milo so he can feel safe and thrive in our family. We’ve done a lot of research on this, so we hope you’ll trust us and not second guess our choices.

What does that mean? It means we’ll be promoting attachment with Milo in a number of ways, including:

• Sleeping in our room/bed.
• Baby wearing. We’ll be holding or carrying Milo as much as possible. Lots of time will be spent in a sling.
• “Funneling” techniques. This is a big one. The basic idea is that we need to be the only source for Milo’s needs. Everything needs to be funneled through us. This means all feeding, changing, holding, comforting, bathing, dressing, etc. needs to be done by us. Don’t worry—this won’t last forever. It’s only during the initial attachment period, and often the younger the child the shorter this period needs to be. You will get to spend plenty of time with Milo, but he’ll need to be in our care. There won’t be the usual game of ‘pass the baby’ (you may not even get to hold Milo when we first come home) until that attachment is firmly established. And we don’t know how long that will take, so please be patient with us. Trust us, as soon as Milo’s ready we’ll be happy to let you change his diaper and comfort him when he’s crying. But until then we have to be the ones to meet his basic needs.
• Cocooning. When we first bring Milo home everything in his short life will have completely changed. One way to minimize that trauma is to minimize additional new experiences. A good way to do that is to bunker down at home and not introduce him to lots of new places. For the first few weeks or months at home we might not go anywhere or do anything. Limiting new experiences also means meeting new people. This will depend on Milo’s personality, but we may need to take it easy with visitors at first. You will get to meet Milo right away, but we may need to keep those visits short at first.
• Bonding with Lexi. Milo and Lexi will also need to bond to one another and we’ll undoubtedly face some jealousy and regression from Lexi as she gets used to losing her place as the only child. While it’d be tempting to let others take care of Lexi while we deal with Milo, that won’t always be helpful. We’ll probably have to do some of that to preserve our sanity, but we need to be sure that Lexi has her time with Mom and Dad and her new brother.

These are just a few of the ways that we’ll be working on bonding with Milo. We’ll need your help as we go through this, but unfortunately that help will likely mean doing things around the house as opposed to holding the cute baby.

Racial Issues
We’re now a multi-cultural and multi-racial family. There are a lot of issues that can come up here and we want to be open and honest about them. More than anything it’s important to keep an open mind about racial issues. We’re all learning here.

As an example, it’s important that Milo see people and families who physically look like him and his family in his books and toys. This is also important for Lexi. As a family (and really as people) we should be celebrating diversity. That means all races and cultures, not just black and white. For example, it’ll be kind of weird if Lexi always gets a white baby and Milo always gets a black baby. They’ll both need diverse toys. This is more our responsibility as parents, but we bring it up just as something to keep in mind. Diversity is the goal, and as Abby has always said about her classroom, it’s not diverse if everyone is black.

We also need to be clear that we will not tolerate racism. We will not put up with any prejudice or racist comment of any kind about any group of people. We hope that you will also not allow negative, hurtful, racist, or bigoted statements to go unchallenged. Our family will have a zero tolerance policy to these kinds of comments. That may mean confronting someone immediately or simply leaving a situation completely and dealing with the person later. This is non-negotiable. We understand this may be a difficult issue for some, and we’re more than willing to educate and promote understanding, but we will not tolerate continued racist comments or attitudes, whether they’re directed at Milo or not.

In relation to that, we will be working very hard to keep Ethiopian culture alive for Milo. We hope that you will respect and encourage that as well as this culture is now part of our family’s culture. We will not tolerate any negative statements about Ethiopia, her people, culture or food.

In Closing
If you have any questions please feel free to ask us. Part of being adoptive parents is helping to educate others in adoption and it’s a role we take very seriously. Ask the hard questions and we will do our best to give you an honest answer. If it is too personal we will simply say “that’s not something we are willing to share” and leave it at that. We want you to be familiar and comfortable with this whole process and talking about it before jetlag sets in is the best time.

Finally, thank you. You have all supported us through this long and tiring process and that means the world. We’re almost there and we know you’ll continue to support us and help us welcome Milo into our family.


Kevin & Abby


If you are interested in any of our resources these books were a huge help to us during the process:

The Weaver’s Craft

There is No Me Without You

Attaching in Adoption

Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections

I am Chocolate, You are Vanilla

8 Responses to “An Open Letter to Our Family & Friends”

  1. rebekah on February 26, 2009 7:18 am

    This is great. I wish I’d done it in this format. If you can get any family members/ friends who are uncomfortable about anything to talk with you now, everyone will be happier later!

  2. jaime on February 27, 2009 8:07 pm


    God bless your family in this exciting time! I am always so impressed with the maturity and wisdom you and Kevin share. You are already raising a delightful daughter and I am sure Milo will be just as wonderful! I am thrilled for you both and for your kids!



  3. Julia on February 28, 2009 9:37 am

    I love reading your blog, it brings me such comfort. Ido and I have all the things you say in mind but have not written them to our friends and family. We will have to explain all of the same things as you have above. The bonding discussion will have to come up soon–even before we get our referral.

    Even through I don’t know you Abby, growing up in school with Kevin has really inspired me to follow your story. Your story and it’s similiar timeline to our own adoption story has an importance in my heart that is hard to express. Yesterday, we found out that a flight will leave Korea on the 20th of March. Referrals are often brought home this way. We know that we are very close to getting the next referral. It is all getting so close but so abstract– watching Milo’s stroy helps keep it all real.

    I am thrilled that you have are adopting a child Ethiopia. Ethiopia was our second country choice. Korea became our final choice as we listened to the social situation and realized how it parelled a story of a cousin of mine. I had a lot of personal struggle as we made a choice between these two countries. Now all is settled in my heart but I love reading about your experiance as you get ready to travel to a country that I have spent so much time thinking about.

    Ido and I want you to know that we think about your adoption every day. Thank you for blogging, thank you for getting out all that is also in our heads.

  4. Adopting1soon on March 5, 2009 7:46 am

    Can I borrow this? What a well written and sensiive letter. Awesome.

  5. abby on March 6, 2009 4:59 pm

    Sure, you can borrow it. We got the idea from someone else – I’d give them credit for it but I can’t remember who’s blog I read it on.

    (If you’re reading this and it was your blog, let me know!)

  6. Kim on April 14, 2009 8:42 am

    Hey there~ i’m going to use this when our kids come home, too! I saw you posted it was OK to use- I really appreciate it. It’s a great post!!! If you don’t want us to use it- of course you can contact me and let me know. Congratulations to you on your upcoming growth to your family!!

  7. abby on April 14, 2009 3:18 pm

    Go right ahead. And that goes for anyone else reading this…if you’d like to use this letter for your own adoption purposes, please feel free.

  8. Ariah Fine on July 5, 2009 9:21 pm

    Great and thoughtful letter. Found your blog through a friend.

    I’ve been meaning to sit down and write something similar out. I think I’m going to have to do it now. And thanks for permission to borrow from yours, it’ll be a great start for me.

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