What does an Adoptee think about adoption?
Adoptees should have every opportunity to learn about adoption. This sounds simple and obvious, right? But you might be surprised to learn what Adoptees know — and don’t know — about adoption. So, I’d like to give you a glimpse into some of the many questions young Adoptees have asked me.
During camp, I asked one group of Adoptees if there were any adoption-related questions I could answer for them. They wrote their questions down on plain, white-ruled index cards — imagine cross-outs, doodles, and misspellings. Oh, and lots of hearts drawn on the backs of the cards. Though this was one specific group, these questions represent the same types of questions we see over and over again across the country. Although there are many different questions that could be asked on different topics, I will focus on the three major areas that bring about the most questions.
1) The Process. Adoptees are interested to learn about how the adoption process works. Some questions can be answered easily and others are more involved. These questions often concern how Adoptees came into care and what happened to them. I refer to this as the Adoptee “filling in the blanks.” They wonder what exactly happened to them during a period of time when their adoptive family most likely wasn’t present.
- “Why are so many children abandoned around the world?”
- “Why do people adopt?”
- “What does it take to adopt?”
- “How does the process of adoption work?”
2) Statistics. Yes, its true, teenage Adoptees ask me for statistics! Why do they want to know this? My best guess is that they’d like to know the relative impact of people like them. Are we rare? Are there others out there like me? Where are other Adoptees?
- “I would like to learn about some adoption statistics. Like how many children globally are adopted each day? Or how many children are given up each day?”
- “Approximately how many kids are adopted in the U.S. that were born in countries other than the U.S.?”
- “How many kids are adopted each year worldwide?”
3) Birth Search. I once had a group of 70 Adoptees in one room who all had questions. Since it was impossible to answer all of them, we sorted their index cards into major groups. The largest pile by far was our “Birth Search” pile. Birth search is such a mysterious and powerful idea for young Adoptees. It’s out of reach because they’re too young, and it’s heralded by the media as the end-all-be-all for the adoption journey. It’s scary, it’s taboo, and it’s something they don’t feel they can talk about with their parents.
- “Why do we have to wait until we’re 18 to start looking for our birth family?”
- “What’s the process for finding your birth parents?”
- “What does a birth search involve and how can you start a birth search.”
- “I am from India & I heard it’s hard to locate you birth parents … is it impossible though?”
Ok, so you might be wondering, “What do I do with this information?” Answer: Make the answers available to your children. You may not be a good source for all the answers, and that’s OK. Your children might feel more comfortable talking with an adoption professional (like at Camp). It’s OK to look to the Adoption Community for support in this area. But do make these answers available to your children. If they want to know (and they will), they should know!
You also might be wondering if your son or daughter is even curious about adoption. You might think that if they haven’t asked you about it directly or in several years, they might not be curious, or think about it, or even want to know. But they do wonder, they do think about it and they do want to know — at least something about adoption. While I’ve met a few young Adoptees who have no interest whatsoever in any part of adoption, the vast majority at least have some question about some component of adoption.
So why haven’t they asked you? Why haven’t they brought it up or expressed interest in the adoption topic like they do with their toys, sports, home life, people, etc? The answer is because they likely don’t have the language to talk about adoption and may not feel comfortable talking directly with you about it. That’s OK. Don’t worry. Again, this is where you can defer to the Adoption Community to help. Do consider, though, that you’re the one who best knows where your child is at in their maturity, and you have the power to tailor their education around that. You also have the power to make the culture of your family one that’s more open and available to discussing adoption. One advantage we have at Holt Adoptee Camp is that we break the Adoptees up into age groups so we can better target our education and activities. You should seek out the same age-appropriateness as well.
Most of all, understand that your support for your child and their adoption education is an amazing opportunity to create a trusting bond with them. Even if the information isn’t coming from you, you’re still showing care and support in this part of their journey.
One of the sentences I hear sometimes from young Adoptees is: “I know a lot of this stuff.”
Hey, that’s exactly what we want to hear.