It Can Be Complicated

A young woman shares this story – hi. I don’t really have a point to this, maybe someone else has gone thru something similar. My sister is fostering my baby right now. I named him *William* *dad’s last name.* My sister doesn’t like his dad. (I’m guessing that’s the reason idk???) but she calls him, and everyone knows him by William *M* (our last name). It really irks me. I find it totally disrespectful. His dad’s name is what is on his birth certificate. I just find this disrespectful. !!! Do other foster parents do this??? I don’t think so.

Without knowing more about this specific situation, one foster parent explains the circumstances from their general point of view – I know this isn’t your situation but whenever we received children into our care – [1] They couldn’t talk clearly due to age and [2] They came with very little information because they were removed in the middle of a crisis, obviously. So there were times, we knew the child’s legal name but not the name the family called them by… Or didn’t know what nicknames the family used… Maybe for months at a time, depending on the case. So I guess #notall but also just #itscomplicated. And after adoption, the issue becomes a whole other story because sometimes everyone just wants to do what feels like fitting in. It seems to me the key is keeping an open mind and an open communication line, as much as possible. The adults hold so much power in the household… I’ve heard “a name is a gift” and isn’t meant to be a burden… Keep it for as long as it is useful, treasured, wanted, etc. But don’t owe it any debts. Idk if any of that rings true…

This answer reflects how most adoptees feel about the issue of their name having been changed . . . I care what’s on a birth certificate. I care that people think nothing of changing a child’s identity. I care that someone is creating a false identity for a child who isn’t competent to agree.

Another one writes – Some fosters (#notall) particularly F2Adopt (foster to adopt) HAP’S (hopeful adoptive parents) ….. will call themselves mom/dad with other people’s babies. And they will call the babies by the name they plan to rename them, if they ‘get lucky.’ This undermine the original mom’s self confidence and make reunification attempts difficult but sadly is common. Making mom feel as though she isn’t ‘enough’ and that her baby is thriving and better off with the fosters…

(BTW This is totally untrue! Fight for the return of your child, request they refer to your baby by name. And affirm that the only mom he has is you!)

And it is common as this example confirms – my nephew’s adoptive parents called him a different name before their adoption was finalized, they were foster to adopt as well. We also asked that they at least keep his middle name because it was our dad’s name. He had just passed away. Nope they changed his entire name. I know they will have to answer for it later with him but I just feel so bad for him not being able to keep any of his original identity.

Only adoptees, and sometimes infants in a foster care situation, are forced to live a false identity.

Fitting In vs Belonging

The image could be the mantra for many adoptees. A lifetime of trying to fit in, be accepted and feel worthy is exhausting and traumatic. We don’t always even know the toll it takes on us emotionally, but it manifests in so many different ways in our lives.

Now that I actually know I am 25% Danish (my adoptee dad’s original father was a Danish immigrant) this story captured my heart. An adoptee writes about her struggle fitting in.

I’m an Asian European. My mother is Danish and my father is an American. I’ve grown up in both places but have moved home to Denmark and am staying here because I feel this is my true home.

Both my Danish and my American family are white, all my friends here in Denmark are white and I’ve almost lost contact to all of my Asian friends in the US because they mistakenly think that I want to be white, my husband is white (I chose him because of who he is and not what he is), and my two sons are often mistaken for being white. So whether I like it or not – and I actually don’t – I’ve developed a white identity.

When I look in the mirror I’m actually surprised to see an Asian woman and I honestly don’t know how to feel about the woman I see. I actually expect to see a white woman with rosy skin, blond hair and blue eyes. Not because that’s what I want to look like at all but because here in Denmark most women have blond hair and blue eyes.

My Asian friends in the US were South Asians, so I never really had any…what should we say ? Mongoloid Asians as mirrors to compare myself to and therefore, I have no idea whether I’m ugly, average, or beautiful. It’s a very strange feeling.

I have to admit that my family’s feeling about Asians and non-whites haven’t helped me to become a proud Asian either. They’ve always made it clear that it was probably a mistake to adopt me. I was never allowed to call my parents mom and dad but was told to call them by their first names. The family has said things like “you’re not really like them (other Asians), so you don’t have to mix with them”. They went hysterical whenever I was with non-white friends or boyfriends and they nearly threw me out in the cold, when I tried to discover the Asian in me.

I was actually disappointed when I fell in love with my husband. I thought, now they’re going to have their way. Oh, aren’t they just going to be thrilled that I’m marrying a white man and to make it all worse for me (better for them) he has blond hair and blue eyes like most Danes.

It doesn’t help the situation that my husband has said that he always imagined that his wife and children would be fair and have blond hair. I get so hurt when people say “your sons could be mistaken for white, you can’t even tell that they’re half Asian”. Said in a tone expressing ? relief or pride ?

I know it’s a lengthy message but I hope that after having read it the reader understands why I’m not exactly a proud Asian and that it’s easier for me to try to blend into the white community and culture that I live in because this is the only place I feel at home. I am Danish; I’m Danish-Asian.

~ posted on Reddit

One comment touched my heart – it is the last one on that linked page but wow, two adoptees who married, that is like my own parents.

To the Danish adoptee, I am so sorry you were adopted into such a racist, white superiority, piece of crap for a family. OOH IT makes my blood boil when I hear stories like yours. How dare your family to even get a chance to adopt a person who is of color. There is definitely a glitch in the adoption service when it comes to screening the proper families to adopt internationally. When I hear stories like yours it makes me sad, angry and I can’t help thinking that there has to be way to solve these problems. I can only begin to understand how much pain you have gone through and trying your whole life to make sense of what it is that you have gone through. Let me tell you, you aren’t alone in this world. I am married to a Korean adoptee and he didn’t have the best adoptive parents either. I am also a Korean adoptee and being married to an adoptee, it is extremely complicated and trying at times. Our adoption and how we were both raised comes out in our marriage a lot.

Feeling Broken

An adoptee writes – Do any other adoptees struggle with feeling like they will never fully fit in anywhere – not at work, not with a friend group, etc? I even feel like an outsider in many adoptee support groups being a “transracial” adoptee – being black and adopted into a white family seems to be outside of the norm even for adoptee. I’m wondering if I will ever find a group where I really feel “included.” a lot of this comes down to race, at least for me. Being raised in a white suburban family I struggle to fit in with other black people, and obviously I will never fully fit in with non black people. My mom was especially “racially abusive”. Culturally black things, like how to care for my natural hair texture, were never taught to me. I’m 28 years old and still learning how to care for and style my own hair, it’s depressing especially because I can’t really relate to other black women because of this lack in how I was raised.

She finds lots of support from other adoptees who feel that too, even without the racial complications, and many who have the same racial complications show up too.

Yep. Always felt this way! I didn’t find out my full adoption story until a few weeks ago. It all makes sense now. You know how when friends are walking in a group, there’s always that one person that awkwardly lags behind, while the group makes no effort to make room for them? That’s me.

I certainly have no true understanding of being a trans-racial adoptee but simply as an adoptee, I sooo related to your feelings of not fitting in anywhere. It was and still is huge with my brother (he too was adopted and we are like oil and water), with my cousins and friends etc. Actually everyone. The difference is I am a white adoptee, adopted by white parents and probably much older than you. I will be 70 in May. All my life, in all situations, I have and still do to a point feel this way. So I can only imagine how much more challenging it is for you. I am so sorry you feel like I do. Stinks that is for sure.

Hi, I am also a trans-racial adoptee too. Definitely have felt not Asian enough and not American enough plenty of times. I’m currently at an age where idgaf as much as I used to. It also helps to be living in an area where there were more people from the Korean Asian Diaspora around who are also navigating life not ever feeling like they fit in.

Take a look at Hannah Jackson Matthews. She is an adult Black trans-racial adoptee. Hannah Matthews is a writer and educator, who employs her personal experiences and formal education to make the journeys of fellow trans-racial adoptees to self-acceptance and identity reclamation less isolating and injurious. There appear to be plenty of other Black trans-racial adoptees following her social media.

Also suggested is a Facebook group – Transracial Adoption – Community of Learning and Support. Though a word of warning from someone else – “I feel like that group has the most disrespectful and toxic adoptive parents that I have ever witnessed in a mixed group.” There are other groups with “Only” in their name that seem better. Two examples – Support Group For Transracial Adoptees Only OR Transracial Adoptees: POC transracial adoptees.

Trans-racial adoptee, too. I spend a lot of time in the ambiguous in-between, too. Some days it bothers me, other days not as much, but it’s ever present. The only place I’ve ever felt like I truly belonged is in the family I’ve created myself. Big TRA-y hug to you.

I’m not a TRA, so I definitely won’t speak on that as it’s not my lane. But the rest of it? 100% I’ve always had trouble feeling like I fit in. I try too hard, and I feel like I’m constantly being judged.

Yes, I have my entire life, including with my families – all of them. I’m sorry you have been invalidated as a TRA – you guys definitely get an extra helping of crap to deal with that I (infant domestic) do not.

I’m an adoptee, I am white adopted into a white family, but they always made me feel less than. I know that’s different than what you’ve experienced, but if you ever need to talk or vent, I will listen and empathize. I’m so very sorry you feel like an outsider.

I was lying in bed this morning thinking about feeling like I never fit in and how lonely it is. I always assumed it was from being bullied in Middle and High School.

Yep. The way I relate to people is broken and I try every time to fix it but I am just broken.

Yes I always feel this way. I’ve tried to go to therapy for it but it’s just permanent.

Yes! I was a transracial adoption, so I grew up in an all white community, schools, family etc. I’m of a lighter skin tone and I get colorism comments from my black community about how I can pass, etc and that really hurts to hear when your entire life even though your race and culture were erased from you. I didn’t fit in with the white kids growing up due to the fact I was black, adopted, not Mormon, and having parents who smoked. Even though I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood, I had a mother who lived to punish me by buying her clothes at the mall and mine at Kmart. We moved when I was 17 to a more diversified community. I still didn’t fit in. I struggled so hard being around black people because I wasn’t raised around them. I fit in with what now feels like other “outcasted races” Native Americans and Hispanics. And also because of my complexion, I’m now often confused for Hispanic and when I say I don’t speak Spanish when spoken to in Spanish, I feel as though they think I’m “too good for my race.”

I’ve never been in the popular group at schools, even growing up in the same neighborhood as most of the popular kids, and I’ve never been way popular at jobs either. Went to a multi-cultural church for 6 years, was in charge of helping plan and execute Vacation Bible School and I was only seen as “Becky with the good hair” that can bake and craft. Always being told to be grateful and how blessed you are, yet I think how ?

Who did this arrangement bless ? My adoptive mom got her “heart’s desire” by getting her “peanut butter skinned brown baby girl.” #becauseadoption

Preventing Adoptee Suicides

I was already aware that the statistics are worrisome. I didn’t know there was a month dedicated to focusing on this particular issue. Suicide is a sad and desperate choice no matter who chooses it but it is an individual choice and yet affects everyone who ever knew the person.

Attempted suicide is more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents than among adolescents who live with biological parents. The association persists after adjusting for depression and aggression and is not explained by impulsivity as measured by a self-reported tendency to make decisions quickly.

You may be fortunate enough to be an adoptee who does not struggle with suicidal thoughts. But some adoptees struggle in silence, feel shame or feel disenfranchised and marginalized. I am seeking to share what some adoptees know, and the broader public should know, that suicidal adoptees are not an abnormality.

There is a need to talk about this issue more openly and in the mainstream. This is so important because adoption is sold as a “win-win” scenario. Talking about suicide is hard and uncomfortable. Talking about it in connection with adoption – which often has much joy but is more complex than most people realize – is challenging.

Generally, people would not have any reason to know that some adoptees struggle. The issues are real, and should be discussed more openly. Dismissing adoptee related suicide or mental illness will not help anyone. It will however further disenfranchise vulnerable adoptees.

If you are an adoptee with suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone, other adoptees have felt this way too. Please reach out for help and know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If you know of an adoptee who is at risk, please do not be afraid to likewise reach out and help them to access appropriate support services. Do not be afraid to ask direct questions about suicide. You can’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s head by talking about it. Asking direct questions can help you to determine if they’re in immediate danger and in need of assistance.

So much of the messaging around adoption is invisibly supported by the interests with a financial stake in promoting it. However, the separation that precedes the placement of a baby or young child into adoption causes a trauma that may be subconscious and not consciously recognized by the adoptee or the people who have adopted them.

4.5 percent of adopted individuals have problems with drug abuse, compared with 2.9 percent of the general population. This is striking because it is a far higher a percentage than the 2% of the population who are adopted. Despite what adoptive parents are told and hope for, no matter how loving and nurturing an adoptive parent, no matter how deeply loved an adopted child may be, many adoptees will say, that “Love is not all we need.”

One adoptee describes their own experience this way –

“So what does it feel like to be adopted? A weird amalgamation of rejection and acceptance. Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure… It’s been difficult for me to accept that my parents actually love me, and that they’re not just putting me on a shelf somewhere to gawk at and to call their own. I’m still figuring it out.”

Often, adoptees don’t want to upset their adoptive parents with concerns about depression or anything that could be seen as ingratitude, including normal, healthy curiosity about their own genetic, biological roots. This is very common among adoptees. No one mirrors you while growing up to assist you in forming a sense of identity and self-worth. Many adoptees describe intense feelings when they give birth to their own child. Finally seeing a human being who is biologically and genetically connected to them for the very first time. Adoptees lack a recognizable source for personality traits, temperament, and abilities. It’s difficult to feel connected without knowing where you inherited your love of playing music, or curly hair, or shyness, or why everyone in your family is athletic but you.

Another adoptee notes –

“There is a certain detachment to adoption. Being ‘chosen’ rather than ‘born to’ does it. Because we did not arrive by natural means, and so much mystery (or outright lies) are our baggage, we often feel not only that we do not fit in, but that we are disposable. That’s the thing about being chosen, you can be unchosen. And some adoptees aren’t going to wait for the dismissal; they are going to finally take control of their life by ending it.”

It is true that some adoptees (my dad was one of this kind) have the resilience and temperament to lead perfectly happy lives. He simply chose to accept that his adoptive family was the only family he needed and was quick to dismiss any curiosity my mom had as an adoptee as ill founded. I believe that he had a deep-seated fear of knowing the truth regarding why he was adopted.

If you love someone who is adopted, be aware of this risk factor. The best thing we can do for our adopted children, friends, siblings, and spouses is listen and validate their sadness as a normal and natural need to know why. I am grateful that my mom had me to share her feelings with. Someone who understood that these feelings in her were valid and reasonable.

Adoption Vows

In there never ending quest to make adopting a child a celebration, here is what one couple is doing –

With adoption day on the horizon, my husband and I plan to recite a modified version of (see image above) to our daughter at her court hearing. Changing “I” to “We” and making a few personalized adjustments for her. Adoption vows . . . loving it. What else did you do to make it a special day ?

The person in my all things adoption group who shared this writes – I want to compose a response that she will hear! Because this is complete bs! What about the kids who end up not fitting in and get ” rehomed” or sent away to group homes… they where made all the same ” promises” and now look where they are. How should I word it where she will hear me or do I even waste the time? She is clearly caught up in the unicorn and rainbow effects.

The first response is – The whole point of vows is that they’re made between consenting adults, who also have a right to break that consent. Adoptees can’t consent. Decisions are made for them. And they can’t easily dissolve the relationship, even as adults.

Another comment – The whole thing is yuck…but especially the “Til death do us part” which could be super triggering for any kiddo but especially those with loss. Not only that but often if an adopted parent dies, the adopted children are no longer seen or treated as family by the remaining family members.

This was confirmed by one adoptee’s experience – The only member of my adoptive family who still treats me like family is my dad. The rest of them turned their backs on me after my mom died.

Another also shares – all I have of my adoptive family is one cousin in California. She was my mom’s very best and favorite cousin. I love her guts but the rest literally told me I was not family and good as killed my mom with my “drama,” whatever that means.

So here was one suggestion –

If you want her to (maybe) hear you it’s important to try to prevent her becoming defensive, so I would keep it semi-validating. Like

Wow !! I can see how much you love her through your excitement! As an adopted person, I want to open up to you a little and be clear I do it to support – not upset. But I’m sure you’ll understand, you seem really open minded. Adoption represents a huge loss. Even if our biological parents are terribly troubled, dead, uninterested, in prison…this is the death of something every human wants – to be be loved by, raised by, and important to their own parents. At the same time, no child wants to hurt the feelings of the adults they now must count on, who they are often silently trying to prove their worth to. I say this to encourage you to remember that in your approach. These marriage vow style things make sense to you, since you are only gaining, not losing, and you get choices. I would suggest having a private, special day where you say to your daughter that you love her, are so happy to have her, but also to validate that it’s ok for her to feel a lot of conflicting emotions. That you accept and love her whole story. Take pictures but don’t share them anywhere and only with her when she’s old enough. Let her be the one to do it, if that is her choice. Adoption is more like a divorce than a marriage. I hope this makes sense. Best of luck.

It was also suggested that the couple modify these vows. Then go and make these vows with each other and their preacher. To make a commitment between themselves that these things are true. Lots of adopted kids hear these kinds of promises and yet, their adoptive relationship is later disrupted. This makes good sense to me.

Finally, this is celebrating the girl’s worst day. One adoptee felt this was unbelievably cruel. She also noted how common it is that marriage vows are broken. Adoption disruptions and dissolutions are estimated to occur at approximately 25% for all adoptions in the US.

Just noting, regarding those vows – Autism is not an illness or a tragedy.