Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Do all adoptees feel this way?

with 7 comments

Here is a question that was closed before I got a chance to answer.  (the run-on paragraph makes for hard reading, but bear with it)

Her question

A very common theme I see here with adoptees are the feelings of loss, betrayal, feeling unwanted, different and feeling like they didn’t “belong” to their adoptive families, all of which are justified. I have had these feelings too. I know there are a lot of people with strong opinions here, but please consider the fact that I am an adoptee also. What I would like to know if there are any adoptees that consider their adoption to have been a positive thing? Obviously adoption was a life changing event, whether as an infant and unable to remember your adoption or as an older child, remembering being taken from or surrendered by your family. It seems like a lot of adoptees have lots of negative things to say, almost as if their whole life has been ruined, and but I don’t think for everybody. When I first started asking about adoption on Y!A, I didn’t disclose the fact that I was an adoptee, I came here seeking information on how to adopt. I came under some really heavy criticism from people not knowing my background, assuming that I was just another infertile parasite looking for someone’s baby to take without regard to the child’s feelings at all. Do all adoptees feel like that’s what all adoptive parents are like? I was a baby, I don’t remember anything, so I never experienced the trauma of remembering being separated from my family. My parents have a bio son who I consider to be my brother in every way and I was never ever referred to as an adopted daughter. Now, that isn’t to say I had a great childhood. It wasn’t, but not in the way that a lot of adoptees describe their childhood. I had to get therapy for other issues in my early 20s and am coming to terms that I’ll likely never know my biological family. Are there any adoptees who have no desire to know their bio families? If you are one, are you content with your life as it is and consider your adoptive family to be your only family, period? I thought that my own experience as a child would make me a better adoptive parent, but it seems like that might not be the case. I figure that was the hand I was dealt and it has made me who I am today and though it took a while, I have to say I’m happy. I’ve gotten married to a wonderful man and we are looking forward to building our family, conventionally or not. Some of the comments given to people just trying to look into adoption almost make you want to NOT do it. My feelings aren’t as strong as some others here and if no matter how much empathy I can give an adopted child, if they still are going to feel this way, it makes me wonder if this is the right thing for me to do. I don’t want my child years from now having all these negative feelings, although I realize that’s not going to be in my control. All I can do is be the best parent I can be and hope they know that I know what it’s like. Is there anyone out there who is happy to have been adopted and wouldn’t want life any other way? For the other adoptees who aren’t, what is the source of your feelings, other than the obvious, of course? I understand every person is unique as is each family and each situation. I understand the need for reform. What I’m not always understanding is a lot of the bitterness, perhaps because my situation was different. I really would love to adopt but am no longer feeling as confident about it because of the responses I’m seeing from other adoptees. Is it possible for an adoptee to be truly happy with their adoptive family?
My answer
The crazy thing about adoption – what those people reading our critiques don’t understand – is how we, MORE THAN ANYONE, wanted with all our hearts to make adoption be all that it could be.  I accepted my siblings as siblings.  I thought of my mom as my mom.  I had zero interest in pursuing birth family search, and I toyed with the idea of adoption much of my life.

Pretty astounding from an adoptee who was transracial, intercountry, and sexually abused.  The deep deep level of how much we want things to be as they should knows no bounds.

To me, adoption is a process.  One that had I further complicated with adopting, I might have forever frustrated reaching an understanding of what adoption means:  personally, socially, and politically.  And recently, I have even begun to recognize adoption as a feminist issue.

I am glad that I did not participate in perpetuating what was done to me.  I am glad that I am no longer fatalistic about the hand I was dealt with.  I am glad to finally be questioning what adoption really is.

It revealed itself when I had children of my own.  It revealed more of itself when my parents passed away.  It reveals itself in new color and depth as I begin something I had no desire to  ever do – search for my birth family.   It seems to have waited until my hair turned gray; It seems to have taken that long to process and acknowledge.

What I’m finding is that adoption is a misguided solution.  It treats the symptoms of society’s problems without addressing the root causes: The thinking that by distributing orphans amongst the many who want children, the problems will be cleaned up does not work.  The problems will continue to come.  The orphanages will just be filled with new results of the same old problems, because the problems are systemic and cultural.   But people who want babies aren’t concerned with fixing the system or with the next generation of orphans.  This myopic vision, so attractive in its personal rewards, contributes to the neglect of fixing the system, because as long as people are there to relieve the system of its excess pressure, they negate the need for fixing anything.  This is why I am against saving children through adoption.  Instead of catching one falling child of many, I would rather those that want to save children work together on a safety net for all the children.  The focus should be on eliminating the need for orphanages, while at the same time reforming the system by improving social services to women and families, and creating an exit strategy to truly empty the orphanages.

Your inquiry shows me that you, too, are on this process.  That you’re starting to reflect on the more profound aspects of what a parent and family really is, and hopefully your path will lead to a further exploration of the larger social impacts of adoption.

Today I am glad I did not pursue adoption.  Just like I try to not to purchase items made in sweatshops.  I realize not all of the workers are exploited.  I realize my boycott does not directly improve anyone’s life and that my boycott could mean loss of jobs for a few.  But it sends a clear message that exploitation is unacceptable and that markets will disappear if unethical practices are allowed to proliferate unchecked.  Public awareness and pressure successfully causes systems to adjust.  For example, Walmart will not suffer another Kathy Lee scandal.  Walmart has just announced it will only purchase products from green factories.   I would rather do without the enjoyment of certain items I want, than to know I had a hand in the viability of a system that perpetuates exploitation.  So-called orphans are the by-product of systems which prey on the disenfranchised and cultures which don’t support and disrespect women.  By providing help to families in crisis, we eliminate the need for orphanages.  By increasing opportunities and social services to women, we increase their chance to succeed – and when women are successful, unwanted pregnancies and relinquishment are reduced.  Changing systems is slow and painful work, but I would rather prevent tragedies than clean up the aftermath.

I think it is an over simplification to categorize adoptees as happy or bitter, and it is also an over simplification to correlate that with adoptive family relations.  One can hate adoption and love or hate ones adoptive parents.  I am not bitter about adoption, I am sad about adoption because it is a preventable tragedy.  I am bitter about some things my parents visited upon me, but I can also distinguish their individual issues from the fact of me being adopted.  I can also say that adoption distinguished me and that it influenced some of my parent’s actions, which is an added burden for children.

Is it possible for an adoptee to be truly happy with their adoptive family?  Yes.  Part of them can be truly happy.  But part of them will always be deeply disturbed in some way by adoption.  There’s just no getting around this dichotomy.

Written by girl4708

December 2, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Q&A

7 Responses

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  1. We may be writing to the converted here, but anyway, we do our best to debunk the myths about adoption by circulating this link >


    December 3, 2008 at 4:00 pm

  2. It is good that you have “come to terms” and are happy…but the questions is why put another human being through all of that? WHY? Why do you want to adopt? Is it because you are infertile and want a child, then that is the wrong reason because adoption should never be about filling a demand, it should always be about finding homes for orphans and children whose parents are not able to raise them, after being given all the resources to do so.

    There are half a million children in foster care in the US. More than 100,000 of whom COULD be adopted, if your wish is t help one of them have a more permanent stable home than that is admirable. Otherwise, I pray you rethink your decision and listen to all the adoptees and how they feel.

    Not everyone expresses how thy feel. Some people deal with things differently and some are in denial. Some adoptees have a strong need to “justify” that adoption is a good thing (and thus their lives and THEY themselves are good) and so they adopt. Look deep and hard within yourself to your motivation.

    Anyone knowing they are adopted at some point in time recognizes and feels they were rejected by their original parents and feels the sting of that, on some level – if even subconsciously – and may act out in various ways to reject or justify it. Why inflict that on another UNNECESSARLY?

    Be aware that private (including religious) adoption – domestic and international – is a huge moneyed industry that is rampant with corruption and you could wind up with a child who was stolen, kidnapped or simply pressured away from a perfectly capable and loving mother.

    Be aware that you are causing the separation of a family…and thus pain to th mother and other family members, as well as whatever the effects are on the child as he or she grows to an adult.


    1. Child Trafficking by David Smolin

    2. Romania for Export Only

    *** 3. *The Lie We Love* by E.J.Graff

    4. Read what those adopted internationally and or interracially feel as adults:


    5. The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

    Check with the UN. They state that adoption should always be a LAST RESORT!

    Taking children one at a time from their origins does nothing to ameliorate the poverty of their family, their village or their nation. there are far more humanitarian ways to help without exploiting poor nations of their future generations and contributing to cultural genocide. And, you are contributing to and supporting unscrupulous baby brokers unless you adopt through state social services.

    If you do adopt – insist on a totally OPEN adoption so another human being doesn’t have to WONDER, as you did!

    Mirah Riben, VP of communications, and author

    Mirah Riben

    December 3, 2008 at 4:01 pm

  3. Mirah,

    The adoptee that wrote this question won’t see this, because she posted this on another site. However, thank you for taking the time to write this comment. Maybe it will help others.


    December 3, 2008 at 6:09 pm

  4. Thank you for the link, Stella.


    December 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

  5. “Is it possible for an adoptee to be truly happy with their adoptive family? Yes. Part of them can be truly happy. But part of them will always be deeply disturbed in some way by adoption. There’s just no getting around this dichotomy.”

    That really says it all to me. That is what I’m doing my best to learn right now.

    I have felt so guilty for the pain and the sadness I feel about my adoption that I’m afraid to talk about it to my parents because I am afraid they will think I don’t love them or that they aren’t enough for me. Or even that I’m feeling sorry for myself or being a “victim”. I’m struggling with allowing myself to come to terms with my own pain in the respect that yes, I can be happy and deal with this pain too. That there’s nothing wrong with me for feeling pain.

    There is really so much that I have ignored about myself or denied myself of feeling because I was always guilted into feeling completely grateful and not allowed a chance to be sad.


    December 15, 2008 at 3:01 pm

  6. Mirah said: “It is good that you have “come to terms” and are happy…but the questions is why put another human being through all of that? WHY? Why do you want to adopt? Is it because you are infertile and want a child, then that is the wrong reason because adoption should never be about filling a demand, it should always be about finding homes for orphans and children whose parents are not able to raise them, after being given all the resources to do so.”

    I say: Nope. As an adoptee and AP I sincerely hope that people don’t adopt to “rescue a poor orphan”. This is the very idea that spawns APs to also think their child should be “grateful for the rescue”, which is wrong on so many levels.

    I and every other AP should only ever adopt out of the selfish want to become parents. As an adoptee, I would hate to think that my parents adopted me because they felt sorry for the poor orphan. I want to know that I was/am truly wanted. Being wanted is something an orphan can never really feel in an orphanage, I think. BTW, I am not infertile, just want to adopt because I think adoption, although complicated, is awesome! :o)

    The answer to this question is YES, there are many many many adoptees out there that are happy. There are many adoptees out there that are also choosing to adopt (not out of infertility) because we feel we have so much to offer an orphan, in ways many will never understand.


    January 30, 2009 at 8:01 pm

  7. Mirah, Thank you for the above links. I just stumbled across this website earlier today and I’m moved beyond words. Some of the things I’ve read today are heartwrenching. I have a lot to learn.


    May 1, 2009 at 11:16 pm

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