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An Adoptee’s Perspective on Anger in Adoption

My adoption had always been a minor footnote in my ongoing story. My birth and adoptive families have always shared a very open relationship. My own experiences with adoption and the adoptions of my family members had pretty much been filled with sunshine and rainbows. That’s not everyone’s story. But it’s mine.

When I started writing for American Adoptions, I was genuinely shocked to discover that not everyone maintained the kind of positive relationship with adoption that my family had.

During a recent visit with my birth grandmother, I cautiously mentioned, “You know, not everyone really likes adoption.”

She gasped, “You’re kidding! But I don’t understand. Why not? Who feels that way?”

Other Adoptees

Some of the most common expressions of anger among adoptees include:

“We didn’t get a choice or say in our adoption.”

True. But I guess I always figured that nobody gets a say in being born or choosing biological parents, either.

“Our feelings are rarely talked about. The conversation is dominated by birth and adoptive parents.”

This, too, can be true. But not all adoptees have a strong desire to contribute to the conversation. Voices filled with strong emotions always speak the loudest— be it birth parent, adoptive parent or adoptee.

Whenever I’ve felt diminished by one-sidedness in adoption, I’ve tried to remember that my story is not everyone’s. Everyone needs to express themselves in their own way and in their own time.

“I was torn away from my real family and I’m still grieving the loss. I have no obligation to feel grateful for my adoption.”

I agree that it’s unfair to ask anyone to feel indebted to their adoptive parents — or their birth parents, for that matter. But I personally feel like I should respect and trust my birth parents’ decision to place me with my parents.

Many adoptees grieve the loss of biological family and celebrate their adoptive family — that’s ok, too! Sadness and joy and love and loss all mushed together are a part of adoption. Life is weird and messy sometimes.

Every adoptee’s experience is different and valid.

Note: I won’t touch on anger towards the unfair lack of information access that adoptees of closed adoptions struggle with, because it’s not something I’ve had to deal with, given my own adoption’s openness. 

Birth Parents

Birth parent anti-adoption sentiments I’ve heard include:

“I was coerced into giving my child up for adoption. Adoption agencies are money-making monsters.”

While I have no doubt that coercion tactics have been used on birth mothers, I have never seen anything like that at American Adoptions. As an adoptee of an open adoption, I feel sort of protective of both birth and adoptive parents that work with American Adoptions, so I’ve always been proud of how much the Adoption Specialists here care for and honor birth parent rights.

 “Adoptive parents see me as a means to an end and won’t follow through on promises.”

This is sadly the case sometimes. But not always.

A few years ago, I read a letter that my parents had written to expectant parents while they were waiting to adopt. They promised all sorts of things for this child-to-be — road trips across America, national parks, sporting events, art and exploring the world. We did every single thing that they’d promised in that letter. To this day, they send our birth families annual letters, gifts and photos, even though we’re all connected through social media and email.

My birth parents’ story isn’t mine to tell, nor can I speak for them — but I know that my parents love them and would be devastated to think they’d let them down in any way.

Waiting Adoptive Parents

Even from those who are actively pursuing adoption, I’ve heard hurtful comments about adoption, such as:

“I don’t want a baby of *this* race or *this* gender or *this* genetic medical history.”

As an adoptee, it concerns me when parents get specific about their child. When you adopt, you will not be genetically related to your child. Why try to pretend otherwise? I’m not ashamed of adoption or looking different from my family — are you?

When having a child through biological means, you don’t get to choose your family’s medical history any more than you choose the shape of the nose you’re born with, nor do you get to choose your gender or skin pigmentation when you’re born.

“I want to help a child, so I’m adopting.”

This is a well-meaning comment that many adoptees bristle at. That’s because the desire to do good in the world is not a very good reason to adopt. Do you want to raise a child or a moral superiority trophy?

“I’m not so sure about open adoption.”

I can only speak from what I know, but I firmly believe that open adoption is the reason why I’m not an “angry adoptee.” Open adoption is the reason why I defend modern adoptions. Read up. Get comfortable maintaining an open adoption relationship, keep your promises to birth parents and be forthright about adoption — always.

When I hear these thoughts from hopeful adoptive parents, I question if they really love or understand adoption. I wonder if they’ve thought enough about the feelings of expectant parents and adoptees in the midst of their own whirlwind pre-adoption feelings.

An “Un-Angry” Adoptee

I come across more anti-adoption blogs, websites and social media accounts than I previously would’ve thought possible, given my own positive adoption experiences. Each time, I feel my heart drop through the floor.

Seeing phrases like “natural family,” “family preservation,” and “reasons why you shouldn’t adopt” sting about as much as those cutesy viral videos that gloss over feelings of loss in adoption and hone in on “rescuing” a child by adopting them. Gross and gross. Both ends of the spectrum leave a bad taste in my mouth.

For myself, I feel shut down by adoption-haters just as much as anyone who fails to acknowledge the sacrifices that are bound to adoption. Adoption is neither inherently good nor bad; I think it takes effort from everyone involved to make it either.

Many of the “angry adoptees” that spill their hurt onto their blogs and in forums sadly know very little about their birth family and their adoption, if anything. Maybe I’d feel similarly if I didn’t have such an open adoption. As a relatively young adult adoptee of a very open adoption, I’m part of a new era of adoption that I do believe is catching on.

I love that American Adoptions advocates for open adoptions whenever possible, and I echo that sentiment at every opportunity. I think it offers the peace that so many are looking for in adoption. I hope others can find what they’re looking for.


How to Access Your Original Birth Certificate as an Adoptee

Most adoptions today are open adoptions, where information between birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees is readily accessible just by picking up the phone. But for many adult adoptees who were born during an era of closed adoptions, accessing any information about where they came from can be difficult.

If you’re an adoptee who grew up in the closed adoption era, or know an adoptee who wants to learn more about their closed adoption, share this to let others know!

In every adoption, there’s an original birth certificate and an amended birth certificate. The original birth certificate that includes the name(s) of your birth parent(s) is sealed along with your adoption records, and the amended birth certificate is handed to your adoptive parents with their names on it shortly after an adoption is finalized.

Sealing these records or omitting birth parent names on documents in closed adoptions was done in an attempt to protect their privacy. This was especially common in the old era of closed adoptions when adoption was something viewed as secretive and shameful.

Many adult adoptees in closed adoptions want to search for their birth family, or at least learn more about their adoption. This process usually begins by opening your adoption records and requesting your original birth certificate. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy.

Are you interested in accessing your original birth certificate? Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1. Understand Your State’s Adoption Laws

Each state will have different levels of adoption information accessibility to adult adoptees, and each county may have a slightly different process for obtaining adoption records.

States with open adoption records include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island

Partial-access states include:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Vermont

States with restricted open adoption records include:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Washington

States with sealed adoption records or very limited access include:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

If you live in a state with open adoption record access, you’re in luck! Accessing your original birth certificate is typically as easy as calling the County Court Clerk where you were adopted and asking about the request process for your original birth certificate.

States with limited or sealed access to adoption records may not give you your full adoption record unless there’s some sort of medical emergency or your birth parents are deceased, and even then, the identifying information is usually redacted. If this is the case, you’ll need to proceed to Step 2.

2. Petition the Court

You’ll need to file a petition with the county clerk’s office where your adoption was finalized. The petition will explain your reasons for requesting your original birth certificate. Unfortunately, medical need is usually the only instance where strict adoption access states will approve your petition.

If your birth parents are no longer living, accessing your birth certificate will also be more likely. The state no longer puts birth parent privacy first after a birth parent is deceased.

Your case will be presented before a judge, who will decide whether or not you may have access to your original birth certificate and adoption records.

3. Order Your Original Birth Certificate with a Court Order or Through Your Attorney

You can take the signed court order from the judge approving your petition to disclose your original birth certificate, then work with your attorney to submit a written request to your birth state’s department of vital records. If you were adopted internationally, you’ll submit the request to the state where your adoption was finalized.

Best of luck with your search!


9 Things Guaranteed to Make an Adoptee Roll Their Eyes

We get it. You’re curious. You don’t know any better. That’s ok, because here’s a great opportunity for you to learn about adoption.

But if you want your ignorance to show, here are nine surefire ways to make us roll our eyes hard enough to launch our eyeballs into orbit:

1. “Do you know who your real parents are?”

Uh… yes, that’d be my parents, thanks.

2. “Why didn’t your parents want you?”

We’re not rejects. Our birth parents chose adoption because they wanted the best life for us.

3. “So where are you really from?”

People will often assume you were adopted from somewhere outside the U.S. Then they get sorta disappointed when you explain that you’re from Kansas or whatever. This happens a lot more frequently for transracial adoptees, which is 10,000% NOT OK.

4. “Your brother/sister/cousin/whoever is so hot; it’s ok if you think so, too, since you’re not actually related.”


Do you even hear what you’re saying right now?

5. “What was it like in the orphanage?”

Orphanages in the U.S. aren’t a thing anymore. Tell me: what was it like in your mom’s uterus?

6. “Have you ever tried to find your parents?”

My parents are probably home right now, getting ready for bed at 8 p.m.

But most domestic adoptions these days are open. So I could probably call up my birth parents right now if I really wanted to and ask them where they’re at this moment, I guess.

7. “Wait, seriously? You’re adopted? Haha you’re messing with me!”

Nope, but thanks for making me feel like a punchline.

8. “Oh, wow. That was so great of your parents to adopt you.”

I’m not some puppy that needed saving, alright? Adoptees aren’t moral superiority trophies.

9. “Ohhh, you were adopted? I’m sorry.” *insert pitying look here*

Why? I’m sure not sorry about it.


Reconnecting with Adoption Stories, as told by “This Is Us”

At one point or another, adoptees will become curious about their history, including how they came to be adopted and what their birth parents are like. Open adoptions like those encouraged by American Adoptions makes answering their questions easier than ever — but figuring out how to do so can be challenging.

For adoptees, knowing where they came from can play an integral role in developing their sense of identity. Whether it involves meeting their birth parents or simply learning about their adoption process, reconnecting with adoption stories is a life-changing opportunity.

We saw this process in last night’s episode of “This is Us” (spoilers ahead). Randall, a black adopted child, travels to Memphis, Tennessee (his birth father’s hometown) to learn more about his birth family history. His terminally ill birth father accompanies Randall, showing him the important places that shaped his father’s youth and reconnecting with long-lost family members before his father’s death at the end of the episode.

Their journey is a great example of how adoptees can learn more about their adoption story and birth family in a positive manner. For many adoptees, being able to meet their extended birth family and see where they came from plays a pivotal role in their self-identity as an adoptee.

So, how can you create a positive experience for adoptees like Randall who wish to learn more about their history? Each adoption is unique, and what works for some adoptees and adoptive parents may not work for others. However, if you’re ready to begin the reconnection process, here are some tips to successfully do so:

If the Adoptee is a Child

It’s normal for children to start asking questions about their adoption when they’re younger; particularly if they have little to no openness in their adoption. However, some birth parents and adoptive parents may not think that a reconnection with birth family is appropriate at a young age.

If this is the case, you still have the opportunity for an adoptee to learn more about their adoption story — specifically, the process their parents went through.

To make an adoption story more tangible, adoptive parents and adopted children can visit the adoption agency where it all started. Adopted children may enjoy speaking with their parents’ adoption specialist to learn more about their adoption in an age-appropriate manner (many social workers are familiar with how to answer these kinds of questions from a child). Adoptive parents may also take their child to the hospital where they were born and the courthouse where the adoption was finalized. Because parents likely have photos from when the adoption was finalized, it can be fun to recreate those photos, as they’ll be something an adoptee will enjoy looking back on when they’re older.

For children adopted internationally, visiting these places may be difficult. Instead, to help adoptees reconnect with their culture and history, adoptive parents may want to look into cultural camps specifically designed for international adoptees. These camps educate adoptees about their native country and culture while they’re surrounded by adopted children just like them. Check out some international adoption camps here. If it’s a possibility, visiting their native country can be very informative for adopted children.

If the Adoptee is Ready to Meet their Birth Family

When an adoptee, adoptive parents and birth parents deem it appropriate (and the adoptee is old enough), they may take steps to reconnect the adoptee with their birth family. Like Randall and William do in “This is Us,” adoptees can visit their birth parent’s hometown and see the places that shaped their parents’ lives. While many adoptive parents are interested in accompanying their child on this journey, whether or not they go with their child will depend on their individual situation and their child’s wishes.

For adoptees, seeing their birth parents’ history and meeting relatives can be life-changing. The process can be healing for both adoptees and birth parents, so if possible, it’s highly recommended.

It’s important to recognize, however, that different birth family relatives will respond to the adoption in different ways. In “This is Us,” William has to reconcile with his own family before Randall can get to know them — which, for an excited adoptee, can be a tough waiting period. Many birth relatives will be overjoyed to meet the adopted child but, depending on the adoption situation and how well they’re prepared for the reunion, things may not go as planned. If possible, it’s best to prepare all members of the birth family for the reunion.

For adoptive families and adoptees who are interested in reconnecting with their birth family, the documentary “Closure” is a great story of how one adoptee found her birth family and got to know them. It also shows how different birth family members may react to a reunion. You can watch the documentary on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and IndieFlix.

If the Birth Parent isn’t in the Picture

Sometimes when an adoptee is ready to reconnect with their birth family, it’s not a possibility. Birth parents may not be prepared to make that reconnection, their location may be unknown or they may not be alive anymore. It can be hard for a child to accept this news, especially if they’re excited about meeting their birth family.

One way they can handle this is by writing letters to their birth parents and birth family detailing their feelings and asking any questions they have. They may also want to start a journal they can look back on when they finally are able to reconnect with their birth parents.

On the same note, adoptive parents may want to utilize any pictures or letters they already have from their child’s birth parents, as this gives their child a different way to form a connection with their birth parents. Adoptive parents should request these letters and pictures from the beginning of their open adoption so they have materials in case an adopted child wants answers before a birth parent is ready.

If the Reunion is Unexpected

Sometimes, a birth parent who previously wanted no contact will reach out to their adopted child unexpectedly. If a birth parent is terminally ill, like William in “This is Us,” they may feel a sense of urgency to tell their child about their history before it’s too late.

How you proceed with this kind of reunion will depend on many factors: the adoptee’s age, whether they’re prepared for the reunion, why the birth parent is reaching out, etc. As with any reunion, adoptive parents and adoptees will need to consider what will happen if the birth parent disappears from their life again (whether due to death or lack of commitment) after their child bonds with them. It’s a difficult situation, so make sure you reach out to your adoption specialist for advice.

If the adopted child is not quite ready for a reunion, adoptive parents may suggest the birth parent write letters and gather pictures for the child. That way, the child can view them whenever he or she is ready, even if the birth parent is no longer around at that time.

No matter how they proceed, reunions with birth parents and reconnecting with adoption stories can be difficult — but many times are well worth the challenges. As Randall says about reconnecting with his birth father: “He changed me. I love him.”

If you’re wondering how to proceed with an adoption reunion (whether you’re a birth parent, adoptive parent or adoptee), please reach out to your adoption specialist, family and friends to discuss your feelings and options. Our professionals at American Adoptions can always help if you call us at 1-800-ADOPTION.

Follow the links to learn more about Adoption Searches and Adoption Reunions.


Adoption Reunions – What to Expect

What Is An Adoption Reunion?

An adoption reunion takes place between members of an adoption, typically done by people involved in a closed adoption situation. The reunion is usually the first time these biological family members will have met or talked since the adoption.

Who Reunites After Adoption?

  • Adult adoptees
  • Birth parents
  • Birth siblings
  • Occasionally, other members of the birth or adoptive families

Sometimes, if birth parents are no longer living, adoptees may reunite with birth siblings or other biological relatives. Adoptive parents and birth parents may be excited to meet each other, too. Spouses, children, or even grandchildren may meet biological family members after an adoption, but only after the initial reunion occurs and both parties are comfortable with introducing their families to one another.

The first adoption reunion should be private and taken slowly. But many adoptees have adoption reunion stories that ultimately include their entire family; both birth and adoptive!

Why Would You Want an Adoption Reunion?

Adoption is a wonderful way to create a family, but there is always pain and loss involved, as well. Reuniting an adult adoptee with their birth family can be a healing experience for everyone involved in the adoption.

For birth parents and birth siblings, it can be reassuring to know that the child placed for adoption grew up loved and happy, and that they don’t hold a grudge against their birth family for the choice they made. For adoptees, it can fill the void left in their personal histories by the biological family they never knew.

Adoption reunions are a way to reconnect, talk about the adoption many years removed from the early, sometimes painful emotions, and learn more about each other as individuals.

Should You Reunite with Your Birth Mother or an Adult Adopted Child?

Not everyone wants an adoption reunion.

Sometimes birth parents or adult adoptees simply have no strong desire to reconnect after the adoption. Other times, they don’t feel emotionally ready for such a step. Some people harbor negative feelings about the closed adoption and haven’t been able to resolve those feelings.

An adoption reunion may not be the best choice for yourself or for the person you’re trying to reconnect with.

Adoption reunions can bring complicated, long-buried emotions back to the surface. Not everyone is willing to, ready to, or able to process these feelings. So an adoption reunion should be very carefully considered before you take any action to reunite.

How to Approach an Adoption Reunion with Biological Family Members

This is where things can get even trickier.

If you’ve successful managed to find your birth mother or an adult adoptee through your adoption search (which can sometimes be difficult, depending on how much information you start with), initiating contact with them might be even more difficult.

It’s scary to contact someone who you’re biologically related to, but who is essentially a stranger to you. Several things can happen, including scenarios like these:

  • You may find that this is the wrong person (often with the same name)
  • They may not respond to your message, either by choice or because they didn’t receive it
  • They may be uninterested in an adoption reunion
  • They may initially express interest in reuniting, but later back out after their emotions and fears become too much for them
  • They may have been searching for you, too and they may be equally excited about reuniting
  • They may have been waiting to see if you were interested in finding them and requesting contact, but are happy that you’re willing to reconnect

You’ll need to be prepared for any of these possibilities before you decide whether or not to request a reunion after adoption.

Consider how you plan on introducing yourself via confidential phone/letter/online message and how to bring up the possibility of an adoption reunion with your birth parents or adopted child. Read the message to the closest member of your personal support group before sending it.

Approaching the subject of an adoption reunion is a delicate matter that can be an emotionally-complex step for you.

Have someone you trust to support you! Talk to other adoptees or birth family members who’ve reunited after adoption to hear their adoption reunion stories.

Some Final Advice about Adoption Reunions

A few things to consider:

Some Do’s and Don’ts for Reaching Out

When initiating contact with your birth parents or adopted child, keep it private and simple.


  • introduce yourself
  • state your intentions in reaching out to them and what you hope will come of it
  • describe your emotional state
  • let them know that you’ll understand if they aren’t ready to take this step with you


  • fire off lots of questions
  • make accusations
  • pressure them into a reunion too quickly
  • assume that they’ll feel the same way about the adoption as you do
  • involve other family members until/unless you both feel ready to do so
  • make your introduction public

Keep your message for them brief and to the point. Empathize and respect their right to their feelings, even if it hurts yours. Put yourself in their shoes! Sometimes the way we feel isn’t always rational or fair, so it’s important to take time to sort out those thoughts.

Children and Adoption Reunions

As a general rule, children of closed adoptions should wait until they’re adults before initiating an adoption reunion. Unless the child already has some kind of relationship with their birth family through an open adoption, suddenly introducing a birth parent may be too overwhelming. It’s also too important of a decision to make on behalf of a child, or to ask a child to make before they’re old enough to fully understand their own adoption experience. An adoption reunion is usually a decision best left for an adult to make for themselves.

Eliminating the Need for Adoption Reunions

If you’re considering adoption, an open adoption is always recommended whenever possible. This will remove the need for an adoption search and reunion later in life because the birth and adoptive families can maintain contact throughout the child’s life.Open adoptions allow for better communication and relationships between adoptive and birth families as well as making for happier adoptees and birth mothers who are satisfied with the amount of contact they have post-adoption.

How to Begin Your Search if You’re Interested in an Adoption Reunion

If you feel that you may be ready to pursue an adoption reunion but haven’t located your birth parents or adopted child yet, here’s what you’ll need to know to begin your adoption search.


Adoption Searches – What They Are and How to Start One

What Is An Adoption Search?

An adoption search is a search for information regarding members of the adoption triad, typically done by people involved in a closed adoption situation. Thankfully, open adoptions such as the adoptions conducted through American Adoptions have nearly eliminated the need for adoption searches by providing an opportunity for birth parents and adoptive families to stay in touch after the adoption is finalized.

Who Searches?

  • Adult adoptees
  • Birth parents
  • Birth siblings
  • Genealogy enthusiasts

…or anyone who is interested to learn more about the people involved in their closed adoption.

Why Would You Want to Conduct an Adoption Search?

For adoptees and birth parents that entered into an adoption before open adoption became the norm, they may have little to no information about their adoption roots.

Birth parents of the closed adoption era sometimes spend decades not knowing if the child they placed for adoption grew up happy, healthy, or even if they’re alive. Adoptees of outdated closed adoptions grow up not knowing who their birth parents were or why they were placed for adoption and feeling a disconnect between their biological history and their adopted present.

On the other hand, many birth parents and adoptees decide not to search for their biological family members. You might not feel emotionally ready to take that step, or maybe you simply don’t feel compelled to seek out that adoption connection. Not every adoptee or birth parent experiences a desire to reconnect with that part of their history.

Whatever you decide, your adoption search (or decision to not search) should be emotionally satisfying for you — not draining. Deciding whether or not to search for biological family members should done in an effort to achieve a sense of peace with your adoption and your personal adoption story. It’s 100 percent your choice to search or not; nobody else’s.

Should You Search for Your Birth Mother or an Adult Adoptee?

An adoption search isn’t the right path for everyone. Carefully research how to find your birth parents or how to find an adopted child before you begin your search, and be prepared for laws regarding adoption records in your state. Talk to others who’ve searched, are searching, or who’ve had a successful adoption reunion for tips, support and advice.

How to Search for Biological Family Members

There are five steps to finding your birth parents or the person that you placed for adoption as a child.

To find your birth parents, you’ll need to:

  1. Talk about your decision to begin an adoption search with your parents (if living) to gather any helpful information they may have
  2. Check with your state’s adoption reunion registry
  3. Request your adoption records from the county where you were born
  4. Get in touch with the person or agency who arranged your adoption, if possible
  5. Determine your adoption search strategy

To find an adult adoptee, you’ll need to:

  1. Talk to the person or agency who completed your adoption, if possible, to gather any helpful information they may have
  2. Request access to your adoption records
  3. Talk to the County Court Clerk where your adoption took place
  4. Check with your state’s adoption reunion registry
  5. Determine your adoption search strategy

Some Final Advice about Adoption Searches

Searching for birth parents or an adult adoptee is a major undertaking on both a practical and emotional level. You should be very sure that this is something that you want and that you’re ready for any outcome before you begin.

Having a support system in place can help you through what is often a difficult process for adoptees and birth parents alike. An adoption search can be an incredibly rewarding and emotionally fulfilling experience for those involved in an adoption, but it can also be a complex journey; having people you can talk to about what you’re experiencing will be important.

For many, the goal of their adoption search is to achieve an adoption reunion — reconnecting with a birth family member or an adult adoptee, often decades after their adoption.

Learn more about Adoption Reunions!


Our Open Adoption Story – Diana

Hey there. I’m Diana. I’m a writer and social media manager at American Adoptions. I was adopted as an infant in 1991 through an open adoption.

I Always Knew I Was Adopted

There was never a time when I didn’t know that I was adopted. My older brother was also adopted through an open adoption, so I remember assuming that this was the norm. I do remember a moment when I was about 4 that I realized other children came from their mom’s tummies and that my brother and I did not. That was the first time I realized what being adopted actually meant.

For most of my early childhood, being adopted meant that when either of our birth parents came to visit, we cleaned the house even beyond its normal spotlessness. I had special chores like dusting and making the lemonade, and more importantly, my brother and I got presents. We understood that these visitors were special and I did feel an odd back-of-the-brain kind of connection to them, but beyond that, it felt a bit like close family friends coming to visit.

Yes, Sometimes Being Adopted Was Frustrating

As I got older, I had common adoptee thoughts and experiences. I didn’t look much like my family, but in the sociable milling around that followed church, people would “compliment” my parents on how much their children looked like them. It bothered me that this was something that people seemed to value.

I experienced momentary feelings of rejection, insecurity and abandonment, despite being absolute in the knowledge of my family and my birth family’s love for me. Sometimes the things that you know and the things that you feel are two very different things. These feelings crop up in most adolescents; adoptees are no exception.

We were inevitably assigned the dreaded “Family Tree” school projects or assignments where we talked about where we were from or who we got our hair and eye color from. When it came up in school that I was adopted, there were ignorant questions and teasing. “Why didn’t your real parents want you?” “What was it like in the orphanage?”  “They must have hated you.”

It didn’t faze me too much. I parroted what my parents had always told me: “My parents are my real parents. I have birth parents and they placed me for adoption because they wanted me but couldn’t keep me.”

My Relationship with My Birth Parents

When I was a baby, my birth parents and birth grandparents visited often. As I grew up (and they grew up) they visited less and less. My family moved around frequently, and my birth parents were busy building their own lives.

My Birth Mother

I remember my birth mother making a trip that took several hours with her fiancé to visit us. He gave my brother and I stacks and stacks of Pokémon cards, so naturally he received our solemn approval. It was only as an adult that I realized how important that trip must’ve been for my birth mother and her soon-to-be-husband; introducing him to the child she placed for adoption several years earlier. That was the last time I saw her until she was my sponsor at my Catholic Confirmation when I was 17.

When she came for my Confirmation, her husband and their two young boys stayed at our house for the event. Meeting my half-siblings was surreal. Sleeping under the same roof as someone I was biologically related to for the first time was even weirder. Her youngest son held my hand and I think I stopped breathing. It’s one of those things that only other adoptees can understand. I haven’t seen her since then.

My birth mother has since had two little girls and teaches pre-school (if you’re wondering why the visits stopped)! I always love seeing photos and updates of her kids on Facebook.

My Birth Father

I don’t remember my birth father visiting much when I was young, but he and his wife visited more often as I grew older. They were probably mildly terrified of me — I certainly wouldn’t blame them for that! As an adult, I’ve grown much closer to my birth father, in part because we live relatively near to each other and also partly because he doesn’t have any additional children of his own to tangle up his schedule!

It surprises people to learn that we hang out; I’ve cat-sat for him, I helped his family with their annual Halloween haunted house this year, we regularly email and have grabbed lunch a few times.

My Birth Grandparents

I rarely see my birth grandparents on either side as they get older, but in true grandparent form, they Like just about everything I put on Facebook. My parents still sends our birth families letters, gifts and photos every Christmas, which I know they appreciate receiving, just as we love receiving their annual letters to us.

Some Final Thoughts on My Birth Parent/Adoptee Relationship

My relationship with my birth family was a bit more formal than I think most people would imagine a birth parent/adoptee relationship to be. There’s this strange animal sense of being connected. My birth father and I hold a pen the same weird way. My birth mother is passionate about the same things I am. Little things that people who aren’t adopted take for granted. To an adoptee, it’s astonishing. But of course it doesn’t feel like a parent-child relationship.

My adoption has become more informal now that I’m an adult, which has opened up my relationship with my birth family to a flexible level that makes me happy.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to my birth parents. I received more than just my name and my genes from them. They gave me my family.

I like them as people and I love them as birth parents and I think that’s a rare thing. My heart aches for the fear and pain they must’ve gone through when they became pregnant at a young age and the difficult decision they made for me.

I’m sure that decision still weighs on them. But I’ll say what I’m pretty sure they already know: they made the right choice.

My Family

I haven’t mentioned them too much up until now, because I was saving up for the gush of gratefulness you’re about to be subjected to. My family is the best.

My parents are great. They never set out with any intention of being a role model for adoptive parents, but they absolutely are. If you’re thinking about adoption, look to my parents for how to do it right; with an open adoption.

I’m very close with my extended family. My brother and I do stand out a bit from them personality and temperament-wise, but don’t worry — that’s never mattered for a minute. They’ve always accepted us as we are. There wasn’t an inch of difference between us and our many cousins in the way we were treated and loved. In their minds, our adoptions simply meant that there were two new people to love.

Several years ago, my cousins went through the same infertility heartbreak that my parents once did. My parents stepped in to offer their support. This led to my cousins adopting their now-5-year-old son from (of all places) American Adoptions, where they also chose an open adoption with my parents as godparents.

The whole family met him at his Baptism. Once again, his being adopted didn’t matter for a millisecond; he could’ve dropped from the sky… it wouldn’t make him any less ours.

I have an amazing family who provided me with opportunities and experiences that my young birth family couldn’t have. My parents worked so hard for the privilege to become a family, when for others it’s so easy that it happens by accident! I often wonder if that’s why their love is so fierce. Or maybe that’s just parents, right?

Working with American Adoptions

For the majority of my life, my adoption was something that I kept pretty tightly to myself. But as I got older and my feelings about my adoption began to sort themselves out, I realized the intense need for better education about adoption.

I watched couples sticking themselves with needles, taking pills and taking their temperature in an effort to have a baby. I watched young friends get pregnant and struggle between parenting or abortion.

Why were all of these people so resistant every time I mentioned that I was adopted? Yes, everyone’s situation is different. Adoption isn’t right for everyone. But they just didn’t know enough about adoption to even consider it as an option, and it seemed so tragically limiting.

I felt that I had a responsibility to sort of “pass on” the goodness of my own adopted life. I wanted to use my experience as a writer to be an advocate for pregnant women who weren’t ready to become parents, hopeful couples who were ready to become parents and fellow adoptees.

When I saw a new writing position at American Adoptions, the adoption agency that helped bring my baby cousin into my family, and it was located only a few hours away from my family, it felt so “meant to be” that I had to laugh. I packed up and moved from Chicago to Kansas City a few weeks later.

It’s strange to have adoption go from this half-forgotten backseat role in my life to the forefront of my days. But this is the best job I’ve ever had. Everyone here at American Adoptions is so caring and passionate about helping pregnant women and adoptive parents become families together.

It’s as an adoptee and not as an employee that I say what a fantastic adoption agency American Adoptions is. They can help you. I promise.

The Truth About Open Adoption

Since starting at American Adoptions, I’m surprised at the number of potential adoptive parents who balk at the idea of an open adoption. I understand where their fears are coming from. But I can be the grown-up voice of the baby they hope to adopt: Don’t be afraid of an open adoption.

I’m a happy, well-adjusted adult (or at least as much as any of us are!) because I grew up with an open adoption.

My friends who had closed adoptions or who grew up with little to no contact with their birth parents harbor understandably negative feelings about their adoptions. I can’t imagine living with such a huge hole in my heart and my history. With a closed adoption, the questions can consume you.

Closed adoptions are sometimes necessary for the safety and stability of a child. But I’m here to tell you, whether you’re a pregnant woman considering adoption or a prospective adoptive parent — always choose an open adoption when you can.

I’m so lucky to have such a fantastic relationship with both my birth and adoptive families. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without both of those sides of me. Open adoption gave me that.

I hope you’ll give that to your child, too.

You can read Diana’s parents’ side of the story here.

Share this to reach those who may be considering adoption or who’ve been touched by adoption!


How Miss Texas is Using Her Platform to Spread Adoption Awareness

headshotWhen Shelby Jenkins was only months old, her birth mother left her at a caretaker’s house — and never returned.

Luckily, after more than a year in the foster care system, Jenkins found herself adopted by two loving parents. Despite her rocky start in life, Jenkins became a skilled dancer, graduated from high school and college and even cinched a Miss Texas US International title. Today, she’s teamed up with Adoption Share and Adoption is Beautiful as an adoption ambassador, sharing her story across the country and spreading awareness about the realities of adoption.

“I wanted a platform that I can relate to and I can speak to kids that are in the foster system or are adopted,” she said. “After 16 years of my life, that’s when I decided to come out and say, ‘I’m adopted.’”

Because, you see, Jenkins didn’t know she was adopted until 10 years after the fact — and she spent the majority of her teenage years keeping it a secret from everyone she knew. You can read about what happened when she finally started telling her adoption story and how it’s impacting her work today on Considering Adoption.


What Does an Adoption Specialist Do?

Adoption SpecialistChoosing adoption is a big decision.  It doesn’t matter if you are looking to be the adoptive family, or if you are the birth family.  Both parties have a lot to consider when they choose adoption.  The support of loved ones is extremely important and necessary.  Also important is the support of an adoption specialist.

An adoption specialist’s role is vast.  They are educators, counselors, and advocates for both birth families and adoptive families.  Their services include (but are not limited to):

For birth families

  • educating birth parents on what it means to choose adoption
  • helping them create an adoption plan, choose a family, and form a hospital plan
  • providing education about the emotional experience birth parents will have, from being matched with a family to their hospital stay
  • providing advice about the financial aspects of adoption
  • answering all questions the birth family will have

For adoptive families

  • educating adoptive families on each step in their journey to growing their family
  • answering all questions from the adoptive family
  • providing advice about the financial aspects of adoption
  • facilitating communication between the birth family and adoptive family
  • helping adoptive families be prepared for when they get “the call.”

Another hat worn by an adoption specialist is that of “friend.”  The adoption process can be daunting, overwhelming, and confusing.  An adoption specialist can help navigate the path, ensure all needs are being met, and provide encouragement along the way.  They are a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.  And most adoption specialists would probably say this is their most important role, one they are privileged to have.


How One Mom Talks to Her Kids about Her Adoption

img_0010Jennifer Van Gundy is an Adoption Specialist at American Adoptions who is an adoptee herself. She’s also a mom to two kids, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old who weren’t adopted, and a wife to a man who wasn’t adopted. So it’s natural, then, that tough questions sometimes arise about the adoption process.

Jennifer had a closed adoption and doesn’t know her birth mother, so her sons haven’t been faced with trying to understand a birth mother relationship. Like all kids, though, they wonder where babies come from — but it’s not so easy as citing the stork theory when you’re an Adoption Specialist! Jennifer explains that some kids come from their mom’s bodies and some don’t, but it really makes no difference.

“We talk about the difference of, ‘I wasn’t in Mimi’s tummy, but you were in my tummy. But it doesn’t matter if you were in my tummy or you weren’t. It doesn’t matter if I was in Mimi’s tummy or if I wasn’t. We’re still a family.’”

It’s been interesting to share her adoption story with them, Jennifer says. She’ll tell them, “Oh yeah, mom’s adopted. It’s just a part of how I joined this family.”

It gets trickier when questions about her work arise. Jennifer is the Director of Social Services, so when she gets calls at home, it generally means there’s a question or that someone needs help working through a problem. And while she tries to take these calls in privacy, it’s natural that curious children will occasionally overhear bits and pieces.

She explains to her kids that she’s helping a family or a birth mom, which brings up the question, “Oh, somebody doesn’t want their baby?”

“No, it’s not that they don’t want their baby,” Jennifer tells them. “Somebody loves their kiddo so much that they want the best for that baby. And they can’t give the best for that baby right now, so they’re picking another family who maybe doesn’t get to have a baby on their own.”

Teaching kids about adoption is an ongoing process, especially as they grow older, but it’s an important conversation to have — whether adoption is as prevalent in your family as it is in Jennifer’s or not. The specifics can be tough depending on your child’s age, but letting him or her know there’s more than one way to grow or join a family can be done at any age!

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