I Could Never Say No

Person: “How did the match meeting go?”

Me: “Thanks for asking, it was really informative. But unfortunately, I don’t think we are the right fit for this child.”

Person: “Ugh, I could never, ever say no to any child.”


How would you respond?

A) Start some shit. “Well, I did kick it off with a pretty huge yes by pursuing adoption in the first place.”

B) Verbal eye roll. “Wow, you MUST be a MUCH better person than me then. I just find it SO incredibly easy to say no to children in need.”

C) Get real. Spend the next half hour delving into the complexities of a broken system and pouring out feelings of grief, shame, sadness, disappointment, and longing.

D) Say nothing.

The thing is, I could never say no either. But I have to. 

After each match meeting, we have to do something incredibly hard: picturing our life, day in and day out, forever, with that child, as best as we can with the limited information we have. How many appointments will we have throughout the week with therapists, OT, skills workers, and teachers? Will school be a struggle, or sleep, or meals, or something else, or all of the above? What things will be trauma triggers for them, and are we prepared to parent them through the healing process? Are we ready to welcome not just this child, but their birth family, whatever that may look like and whatever may come with that, intimately into our personal lives? Can we say yes to this child, now and in all of their future forms?

Then, after all of that, sometimes we have to do something even harder: we have to say no. We have to grieve the fact that for whatever reason, we weren’t enough for this child. We have to sit in the discomfort of knowing that our decision kept a child in the system a little longer. We have to send the worst email ever, cry together, and pray over this child, their birth family, their support team, and their foster family. We have to break the hearts of our friends and family by telling them this wasn’t the right fit. Then we have to rally ourselves to start all over again.

I have learned that there is much joy, hope, and excitement wrapped up in saying yes, but there is even more guilt, sadness, and disappointment wrapped up in saying no. It feels icky and wrong. It is laced with platitudes like “You have to do what’s best for you AND the child,” and “Just think, your no got them one step closer to their forever family.” It results in feeling like I was stabbed in the heart when someone says “Oh, I could never say no to any child. I don’t know how you do it.” This is how I do it. Painfully.

So please, of all the things you could say to me about this process, PLEASE don’t tell me you could never say no. Trust me, neither could I.

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