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10 Things about Adopted Children [They Want You to Know]

Why it's OK for Adoptees to Feel Both Sadness and Happiness

Being an adopted child brings many complex emotions that tend to change over time. Ultimately, there are important things to know about what it means to be an adoptee. 

  • Being an adoptee involves feelings of sadness and happiness, and it’s OK to be both. 
  • The health of the adoptive family and willingness to be open positively impacts adopted children. 

Adoptees deserve to have access to advocacy and a reliable source of information to help address the complexities involved in being an adopted child. 

To that end, we strive to provide educational support for both adoptees and adoptive families. 

Here, we’ve compiled 10 important things you need to know about adopted children that they want you to know.  

1. Adoptees Need More than Just Love 

When a birth mother places her child for adoption, she’s not only creating a better future for herself and her baby, she’s also giving an adoptive family a chance to grow or start a family. 

However, an adoptive family providing a safe home and love isn’t always enough. 

As an adoptee approaches adulthood, they begin to create an identity. Who they are, who their parents are, and the community they live in are all part of an adoptee understanding their place in the world.  

As adults, many adoptees wish they had more education on why they were adopted. Trying to understand the love an adopted family provides them without knowing why can be difficult. 

Adoptive parents should talk about adoption with their adoptee from a very young age. These open and honest conversations help a child form a positive sense of identity that includes — rather than hides — their adoption.  

2. It’s OK For Adoptees to Experience Negative Emotions 

Sadness, anger, grief and loss are all emotions an adoptee is likely to experience.  

One message is apparent: adoptees want you to know that’s OK. It’s OK for an adoptee to face difficult emotions about their adoption.  

The challenges, the adjustment to new surroundings and the difficulty of being an adopted child doesn’t negate the good. It’s another aspect of coping, acceptance and growth that being an adoptee can be challenging. Still, those challenges are part of an adoptee's identity. All of life’s most meaningful experiences have both good and hard parts — being adopted is no different. 

3. Adoptees Experience Both Happiness and Sadness 

By and large, adopted children are happy and very thankful for their adoptive parents and the life they have. 

While there will always be the complexities of adoption like why, where and how? An adopted child eventually recognizes that their life has presented a world of opportunity they otherwise may not have had. 

Adoptees want you to know that adoption can be both happy and sad. It never has to be one or the other.  

4. Adoptees Can Feel as Though They Have No Control 

When it comes to closed adoptions, many adopted children start to consider finding their biological parents. It’s also possible an adopted child eventually wants to find a birth record, even if that means they have no intention of contacting the biological parents. 

However, many adopted children feel stuck in the middle of wanting to learn about where they came from and feeling loyalty to the adoptive parents. 

Will my adoptive parents be upset if I search for my biological mom and dad? 

That is a common concern with many adoptees in a closed adoption. The idea of disloyalty to adoptive parents is a natural feeling that detours an adopted child from searching for birth information. 

This is only one challenge when it comes to getting information about their past. The feeling of not having control over finding information on their birth and birth parents also results from strict state laws making it difficult to access records.  

For example, adoptees in Maryland are trying to get legislation passed to grant access to birth certificates. However, some state representatives argue that obtaining birth records leading to identifiable information of birth parents is a violation of privacy. 

Adoptees argue that the denial of birth records is a human rights issue and not a privacy issue. 

As you can see, finding information about their own past can be a serious challenge for adoptees. Here’s what adoptees want you to know: The legal hurdles are enough. Don’t add personal barriers — like making an adoptee feel guilty or disloyal — to the equation.

An adopted child’s desire to understand and even connect with their past is not a condemnation of the adoptive family.

5. Open Adoption Isn’t Just About Knowing the Biological Parents 

As closed adoption becomes less common, the advancement in technology (namely social media) gives adoptees and birth parents the opportunity to stay connected. However, open adoption isn’t always about sharing pictures and messages. 

Open adoption makes it easier to have access to family medical history. Suppose an adoptee falls ill or develops a medical issue. In that case, access to medical history is extremely valuable and can be life-saving. 

Additionally, when adoptees have children, they may need medical history for their children. 

The benefits of adoption are numerous, which is why most adoption agencies and professionals strongly encourage birth mothers placing a child for adoption to remain “open” or “semi-open.”  

6. The Health of the Adoptive Parents is Crucial 

No, we’re not talking about physical or medical health. We’re talking about psychological health —encouraging and supporting an adopted child to search for information on their family history. 

As mentioned, adopted children may feel reluctant to seek out birth information and the identity of their biological parents out of fear of hurting their adopted parents’ feelings. 

It’s important for adoptive parents to be supportive of an adoptee’s desire to find out more about their origin and even attempt to contact a biological parent. 

When an adoptive family is emotionally against an adopted child wanting birth information, it can create a difficult environment and harm an adoptee developing an identity as an adult.  

7. Adopted Children Don’t Like Labels 

No one likes being labeled. Adoptees are no different. 

Adopted children learn, grow, get educated and join the workforce to contribute to society just like everyone else. Being an adopted child doesn’t change that. 

Many adoptees have childhood memories of being told no one wants them or other bullying references to being adopted by kids at school. Not every one of those adopted children are able to shrug off being labeled. As a child, that type of bullying or labeling can have serious negative consequences related to identity. 

It’s crucial for adopted parents to have an open and honest conversation about adoption at an early age so that their child can face being labeled knowing they are proud of being an adoptee. 

8. Adoptees “Are Adopted” 

Like most groups of individuals coming from different backgrounds, adoptees tend to experience misuse of language. 

For example, some people may use “were adopted” when speaking to an adoptee. In reality, adoptees “are adopted.”  

While there are differences of opinion on this, many people believe that their adoption as a child wasn’t a one-time event that took place and ended. They are forever adopted, and being an adopted child is a significant part of their identity and who they are as adults. 

9. Adoptees Aren’t Stalking Their Past 

When an adoptee searches for birth information and identifies their biological parents, they aren’t stalking their past. Many adoptees get criticized for wanting to learn more about their history. 

As mentioned before, lawmakers in states where adoptees are advocating for better rights have claimed adoptees are “destroying families” by searching for birth certificates and other identifiable information. 

An adoptee wanting to learn more about their origin isn’t a crime. It doesn’t mean they are stalking their past. They simply want to know more about who they are, answer some questions and continue to shape an identity as an adult. 

In many cases, even though a birth mother initially preferred complete anonymity, they often find themselves open to the idea of meeting their child later in life.  

Because of this, many adoptees and biological parents experience happy reunions. 

10. Adoption Can be a Celebratory Event 

Lastly, many adoptees and their adoptive families celebrate an “Adoption Day.”  

Despite some of the complex emotions associated with being an adoptee, many families celebrate their child and the adoption. It can help create a positive atmosphere for the adoptee and bring awareness to their story to recognize it as an essential part of their identity. 

Many adoptees view their adoption day as more important than their birthday. 

Through open adoption, birth parents may be involved with an adoption day celebration. After all, the decision to place a child for adoption was largely to provide a child with the best possible future. 

Having an open connection allows everyone to maintain a relationship and experience milestones, special events and holidays together. 

Ultimately, trying to suppress adoption or actively not bring attention to an adoptee’s story only creates potential challenges later in life.  

Adoption Professionals and Resources 

Whether you’re an adoptee, an adoptive parent or a prospective birth mother considering adoption, it’s important to have resources to understand better what adoption is and what it means for the child’s life. 

While adoption is a decision that helps create a better future for a birth parent as well as gives an adoptive family the chance to raise a child, it’s impact on the child is most important. 

American Adoptions has helped create thousands of families for more than 30 years, and we think it’s vital that adoptees have a voice.  

You can hear directly from our many adoptees who want to tell their adoption stories by taking this link.  


Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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