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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been blessed with a beautiful daughter we adopted from another country. When we go out, we hear a variety of comments from strangers. Some of them -- while well-meaning -- are potentially hurtful to our little girl.

I am writing in the hope that sharing our point of view will help others to be more sensitive to adoptive families:

-- Please DON'T ask if I have children of my own. My daughter IS my own. If you must ask about other siblings, a better term is "biological children."

-- Please DON'T ask about my daughter's birth family and why they are not raising her. These are issues I wish to discuss with her privately, in my own time.

-- Please DON'T make disparaging remarks about my daughter's country of origin, regardless of how you feel about their customs or government policies. My daughter needs to hear positive things about her culture of origin. Many of the negative comments I have received have been untrue or one-sided.

-- Please DON'T ask how much my daughter "cost." While adoption fees are expensive, so are hospital bills for labor and delivery. The difference is, many people have either insurance or public assistance to help them pay hospital bills; adoptive families have little equivalent to help to pay adoption fees. I did not "buy" my child through adoption fees any more than a family who pays hospital bills for the birth of a biological child has bought theirs. If you are truly interested in adoption costs, your local adoption agency or an adoption Internet site can provide those answers.

-- Please DON'T tell me I got my daughter the "easy way." Adoption has its own unique challenges. Like any parent, adoptive parents consider their struggles worthwhile, given the end result. However, adoption, like childbirth, can be both wonderful and difficult.

-- Please DON'T ask me about my fertility status. I would rather not discuss it with a stranger.

And to the many kind, discreet and polite people I have met -- thank you for your positive comments and encouraging words. They warmed my heart. -- BLESSED THROUGH ADOPTION IN WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR BLESSED: Thank you for telling it like it is. Sometimes people engage their mouths before engaging their brains. Unfortunately, there is no end to the thoughtless, insensitive questions some people ask -- which brings to mind a letter that appeared in my column many years ago. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Our son is a dark-skinned child whom we adopted when he was an infant. My husband and I are both fair-skinned.

When our son was about 4, we attended a pool party at our townhouse complex. I got into a conversation with a woman who was very curious about him -- asking how old he was when we got him and where he was from. She looked confused when I answered "Milwaukee" -- as I'm sure she expected a more exotic location such as Africa or the Australian outback.

I almost lost my cool, however, when she asked me in all seriousness, "Are you going to tell him he is adopted?" -- MIDWEST MOM

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