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What Will My Child Know About Me and Their Adoption?

How Your Child Will Learn About Their Adoption

As a woman considering adoption, you likely have many questions regarding your child’s knowledge of their adoption and maybe even the information they will know about you. You may be wondering:  

  • How and when will your child know they are adopted?  

  • What is the best age to tell a child they are adopted?  

  • How will the adoptive family refer to you when explaining their adoption?  

  • Will you get a chance to talk to them about their adoption?  

Today, children are told about their birth families and their adoption stories from essentially the moment they come home, and open adoption is more popular than ever. Adoption is always a part of their family’s story, so it’s always a normal part of their lives.   

American Adoptions has helped thousands of birth parents place their children for adoption through our agency, most of them through open adoptions. Our staff includes many birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees who personally understand how important it is for children to grow up knowing how special adoption is and how heroic their birth parents are.

We can help you create a strong, positive open adoption relationship so you'll always know that your child understands your adoption decision and appreciates you as the hero that you are. 

If you have questions or concerns about how the adoptive family will talk to your child about adoption, give us a call at 1-800-ADOPTION or fill out our online form to get the answers you need.   

Until then, these findings of how adoptive families talk to their children about adoption may help put your mind at ease.  

Why Children Grow Up Knowing About Their Adoptions  

A 2012 study from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute titled “Openness in Adoption” found that 95 percent of adoptions today are open or semi-open, meaning children and their adoptive families maintain some form of contact with their birth families. As the statistics show, modern adoptions are more open than ever before. This has been shown to benefit everyone involved, but most of all, the adopted child.  

Because of our staff’s personal experience as birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees, we understand just how important openness is to every side of the adoption triad. While it is always up to you to decide what kind of relationship you want with your baby and the adoptive family, American Adoptions requires every adoptive family to agree to open adoption.

Our adoption specialists also provide education and support to ensure that our adoptive families tell their child that they were adopted from a very early age, so they grow up understanding their adoption story.  

Keep in mind, you are in complete control of the family you choose for your baby. You will get to know the family throughout your pregnancy, so you will have the confidence and comfort level needed that they will talk about adoption the way you want them to. 

Most families begin with books and storytime to help familiarize the child with the vocabulary of adoption. As the child gets older, they’ll share more details of the adoption story, making sure that they are age-appropriate to the child’s stage of development.   

Take it from Cole, who is growing up in an open adoption. When his mom asked him if he remembered finding out about his adoption, his answer was, “Nope!” Because he always knew.  

“It’s just like you’re growing up knowing to spell your name,” he said. “I’m growing up knowing that I was adopted.”   

You can watch more of Cole’s adoption conversation with his mom here

Most importantly, adoptive parents try to make sure the child feels safe and loved and has a positive self-identity. The adoptive family you choose will tell your child everything you want him or her to know about you, your adoption decision, and the rest of your family. In addition to sharing this information, the adoptive parents will tell your child about the time they got to spend with you, how special you are and how much you love your son or daughter.   

If there is anything special that you would like the adoptive family to share with your child or keepsakes you’d like for them to have in the future, talk with your adoption specialist and the adoptive family to ensure your wishes are met.   

Keep in mind that if you and the adoptive family agree on sharing an open adoption, you will be able to share the adoption story with your child yourself one day. Many birth parents choose this type of adoption so that their child can come to them with any questions as they grow.  

Birth mother Marda chose to place her son, Joshua, in open adoption for exactly that reason.  

“I never wanted him to think I didn’t love him,” she said. “That wasn’t why I was doing it. I wanted the best life for him that I could give him, so I made sure that when I let him go that there was never that question... If my child ever wanted information when he grew up and reached a certain age, to find out why I did what I did, I wanted that option to be open to him.” 

Read more of Marda’s adoption story here

What Adoptive Families Will Tell Your Child About You

Even if you decide you do not want contact with the adoptive family after the adoption, your child will still hear about you from their adoptive parents, to whatever extent the adoptive parents know about you.   

Closed Adoption

Adoptive parents are taught by their American Adoptions specialist how to talk to their child about birth parents who prefer a more closed adoption. Your child will know whatever details about you that you would like him or her to know, and they will always know that you love them and that you chose adoption because of that love.

Any concerns you may have about the family talking down or poorly of you should be erased. You have provided them with their dream of parenting, so they will always think highly of you and appreciate the gift you have given them.  

Take it from American Adoptions cofounder, Susan Mars. She and her husband, Ted, adopted their son Scott during the era of closed adoption when adoptive families received no information about their children’s birth parents.  

“Scott grew up knowing he was adopted and was allowed to talk and wonder about his biological family,” Susan said. “We wanted him to feel good about adoption and feel good about his birth parents. We always told him that his birth mother loved him enough to want better than she could do for him at that time in her life.”  

When Scott was an adult, he met his birth mother and family, and Susan felt blessed to be able to finally meet the brave woman who made her a mom.  

“I wanted to thank her for all the wonderful memories she allowed me to have, memories that I would never have been granted without her amazing choice — a choice of incredible sacrifice and love,” Susan said. "A choice that finally allowed me to become a mom.” 

Read more of Susan’s story here.                                                   

Open Adoption

If you choose to have an open adoption, then you will be able to tell your child these things yourself in addition to their adoptive parents telling them this as part of their adoption story. You and your child can get to know one another directly with this option. Many birth parents have a relationship with their child and the adoptive family much like an extended family.  

Birth mother Lindsey chose open adoption for her daughter, Charlotte, so that she would be able to reassure Charlotte of her love as she grew up.  

“When you decide on adoption, it’s because you love that baby so much,” Lindsey said. “That’s why I wanted an open adoption. I wanted her to know, ‘I placed you for adoption because I love you. I wanted to give you that best chance at life.’" 

“I knew that that family could send her to college, take her on vacations, have her join all the sports she wanted to,” Lindsey adds. “She would have the best chance at life, and I would be able to have updates on that — get pictures, letters, texts on what she was doing. And since I’ve had Charlotte and I see how well she’s doing and how happy that family is, it just reaffirms that I made the right decision.”  

Watch more of Lindsey's story here

Whether you choose an open or closed adoption, the adoptive parents’ gratitude and appreciation for you will stay the same — and your baby will be raised knowing that they have you to thank for placing them with the family they love so much.  

Adoption is Spoken of Positively

From the moment the parents you choose for your child bring their baby home, they’re encouraged to speak to him or her positively of their adoption story and of you. Despite the loss that is felt in adoption, so much of adoption is rooted in love. Adopted children are always made aware of how much they’ve always been loved and will always be loved by both their birth and adoptive families.  

This is why the use of positive adoption language is so important. As young adoptees grow, their families won’t be the only people they hear speak about adoption, so it’s important to encourage everyone to use positive adoption terms. 

Outdated phrases that paint a negative picture of adoption not only hurt your sense of self-worth, but they can also hurt that of an adopted child. Positively speaking about adoption assures children that their adoption is never something to be ashamed of and reminds them that adoption means love.  

“Adoption has a stigma,” Casey, a proud birth mother, said. “You know, there’s that ignorance that you’re ‘giving up’ the children when you do not ‘give up’ a human being. In reality, you’re choosing something for them… I know a lot of people try to hide it because they’re ashamed of it, and you shouldn’t be. You made a big and hard decision for what was best for your child, and you should be proud of that.” 

Ultimately, you’ll be able to talk directly to your child’s future parents about how they’ll talk to your child about adoption if you like. Together, you can discuss how your child’s adoption story will be a part of his or her life, and how you’d like that story to be told.  

To learn more about how the adoptive parents you choose will talk to your child about adoption, or to get answers to any other questions you may have, fill out our online form, or call 1-800-ADOPTION now.

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

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is American Adoptions the right adoption agency choice for many birth mothers?

American Adoptions is one of the largest licensed adoption agencies in the United States. Each year, we work with thousands of women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and offer assistance to these women. Our large, caring staff is able to assist you seven days a week and provide you with one-on-one counseling about your pregnancy and available options.

You should choose an adoption agency where you feel completely comfortable with their services and staff. With American Adoptions, you will work with an Adoption Specialist who is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Adoption Specialist will be your advocate and will provide support and guidance as you create an adoption plan that is right for you.

How will the family tell my child about me and the adoption when my child is older?

Each family has their own style of introducing adoption to the child. When you are matched with an adoptive family, you can ask them this question. If you would like your Adoption Specialist to discuss it for you, just let her know. He or she can share your wishes or provide good ideas from other adoptive families.

You will also be able to share what you want your baby to know about you. You can complete a keepsake booklet to share hobbies, stories, photos of you and your family and a letter to your baby. The adoptive family can provide this to your child as he or she grows older. Be as creative as you like! Some birth mothers have even knitted a special blanket as a gift to their baby or given a similar symbol of their love.

The father of your baby can fill out the birth father's keepsake booklet or write a letter too. You may have other family members who would also like to share photos or a letter to the baby. This is your opportunity to pass on your and your family's love and to share your personality, history and reasons for choosing adoption. The adoptive family will treasure whatever information you provide and will share it with the baby at an appropriate age. In most adoptive homes, the word adoption is in the child's vocabulary early on, and adoption is celebrated in their lives.

Additional Resources

Teen Pregnancy - Information for Young Women

While not every woman who chooses adoption is a young mother, many are. Through adoption, many young women have found an ability to give their babies the best life possible, while finding the opportunity to realize their own dreams, as well. Call American Adoptions today at 1-800-ADOPTION.

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Adoption Glossary

Do adoption terms and phrases leave you feeling confused? Learn the meaning to key adoption words and phrases with our comprehensive adoption glossary.

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