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What is Being Adopted Like? [The Adoptee Experience]

At the core of adoption is the desire to give a child a life full of love and happiness. This often leaves adoptive families and birth parents wondering “How does it feel to be adopted?” 

Birth parents worry about whether they are making the right decision for their baby. Adoptive families might wonder how their child will feel about being adopted. Adoptees themselves may be curious about the ways they benefit from and are affected by being adopted. 

American Adoptions founder, Scott Mars, is an adoptee himself. It’s because of the positive ways being adopted impacted his life that he felt compelled to open an adoption agency of his own. 

“The love we share can be no greater than that experienced by biological children and their parents,” says Scott of his relationship with his adoptive parents. “After adopting, every adoptive family comes to learn this fact. Those who have the luxury of seeing my parents and I interact can see the bond between us.” 

While every adoptee’s experience is different, there are many with wonderful stories that echo Scott’s sentiment. 

Many studies have been done over the years to determine if there are benefits of being adopted. The answer has been a resounding yes. Of course, there are also some challenges. 

This article will give you some insight into what it feels like to be adopted. 

Challenges of Being Adopted 

Before we get into the numerous positives of adoption, we need to take the time to acknowledge the struggles some adoptees face. Even if an adoptees adoption experience has been mostly positive, it's not uncommon for them to experience difficult emotions at some point. 

Grief and Loss          

Adoptees may experience feelings of grief and loss as a result of growing up not knowing their birth parents. This is most commonly seen in closed adoptions. Since they didn’t have a choice in their adoption, they may feel like they lost their birth parents, and even a part of themselves. 

It's important that adoptive parents create an environment where their adopted child feels safe talking about these emotions. Providing them with an outlet can help them process what they are feeling.  

Identity Issues 

This is one of the most common struggles adoptees face, typically in a closed adoption. If they don’t have any information about their birth parents, it can be difficult to fill in the gaps. They may have questions about why they were placed for adoption or what became of their birth parents. While family is more than genetics, knowing their genetic background is important for some adoptees. 

By understanding where they came from, they may feel like they can better understand themselves. It can also be beneficial for adoptees to be aware of their birth family’s medical background so that they can determine if they’re at risk for any diseases or disorders. 

Insecurity 

Some adoptees may struggle with self-esteem issues. They may feel different or like they don’t fit in because of their adoption. There may be feelings of rejection or fear that their birth parents didn’t want them. 

When adoptees have a positive relationship with their adoptive family and birth parents through open adoption, most adoptees struggle less with feelings of insecurity or rejection. By knowing that their birth parents placed them for adoption out of love and compassion they will have a better sense of wellbeing. 

Being Adopted Can Create Opportunities 

Even though the challenges of adoption are very real, there are many more benefits. One of the driving factors in a birth mom’s decision to place her baby for adoption is so that they have access to opportunities that they might not have without adoption. 

The birth parents may not have the financial stability to give their child the life they want for them, or they may not be prepared to take on the responsibilities and emotional demands of parenthood. Or, it could be as simple as the birth mom not wanting to be a parent. 

That’s why birth parents choose adoption — so that they can find an adoptive family who can give their baby an amazing life. She can find solace in the fact that her child will be able to pursue opportunities that she might not have been able to provide in her current circumstances. 

For the adoptee, the benefits of being adopted can include: 

  • Their parents are able to dedicate more time to them 

  • They are able to pursue higher education goals 

  • A safe and stable home environment 

  • A two-parent household 

  • And more 

“I felt (and still feel) strongly that adoption is a great gift to give, and I think sometimes people think that gift is just for the adoptive family and the baby,” says Jennifer, an adoptee and birth parent specialist.  “And it is a great gift to them; they’re becoming a family! But it’s a gift for the birth mom too, especially if you can give her comfort in a time that must be very painful.” 

For many birth parents, the decision to place their child for adoption was a difficult one made out of love and wanting the best for their child. As an adoptee, there is both beauty and pain in this. While having the opportunity to have a stable and abundant life is one of the many benefits of being adopted, it can still be challenging to wrestle with the loss that comes with your birth parent’s decision. 

This push and pull — between appreciation for the life you have and sadness for the life you didn’t — is often at the heart of what it feels like to be adopted. Next, we’re going to look at some of the advantages of being adopted that many adoptees are thankful for, and also some of the challenges that can be difficult to overcome. 

Advantages of Being Adopted 

Numerous studies have been done to assess the benefits of being adopted. Research has shown that adoptees may have unique advantages that non-adopted children don’t experience. Just a few of these advantages include: 

  • Improved academic performance 

  • Additional extracurricular involvement 

  • Increased attention to their mental health 

  • The mentality of knowing they were chosen  

  • Having the love of two families 

  • And more 

“Overall, I was proud to be adopted. It made me feel special and unique. I grew up with the ‘where did you come from’ books that were about adoption. They highlighted, and perhaps overemphasized, how special it was to be adopted,” says Allison about her experience as an adoptee. “In fact, when I was in first grade, I had a friend over who left crying after reading one of the books because she wasn’t adopted and felt left out.” 

A 2007 report titled Adoption USA conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service showed that the majority of adoptees thrive in their adoptive families. On average, adoptees receive more attention from their adoptive families as compared to that of non-adopted children. This study supports the idea that being raised by a dependable and stable parental figure is more important than biology.  

The same report showed that being adopted resulted in 85% of adoptees having “very good to excellent health,” as well as having access to health insurance. This is largely due to adoptees growing up in households that are above the poverty line. 

The Love of Two Families 

Every adoption story is different. In some cases, an adopted child may not know their birth family or understand their motivation for choosing adoption. Others — increasingly so through open adoption — know their birth family and understand that adoption was a decision made out of love. 

Because of this, being adopted can mean knowing that you are loved by many: Your birth parents who chose to give you the best life possible and the adoptive family who has given you all of their love.  

Today, most adoptions have some degree of openness, which means adoptees are able to have some form of a relationship with their birth family. 

“My birth parents were young and weren’t ready to raise a baby. They didn’t stay in a relationship, but they both visited when they could — since before I can remember, they’ve just been there and their presence was a normal thing,” says Dianna, an adoptee. 

“My parents had struggled with infertility before adopting my brother and I, but were very much of the ‘any baby will be great, thanks,’ mentality, and were only on board if maintaining a relationship with birth parents was an option. Everyone was just kinda, ‘Let’s do this — lets raise a baby together!’” 

Studies have proven that adoptees who grow up with communication with their birth parents are happier overall and feel more secure knowing that their birth parents chose adoption to give them a better life. And what could be better than being loved by two amazing families? 

So, while the answer to “How does it feel to be adopted?” will vary depending on each adoptee’s experience. Many adoptees  feel loved by their birth parents and adoptive family. Others have more difficult stories, and everyone faces personal challenges of some kind. 

If you are reading this and considering placing a baby for adoption, you can get more information about what if feels like to be adopted when you reach out to an adoption specialist today. 

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