I feel adoptees have the most powerful voice in the adoption constellation and we hold the keys to understanding and healing not only for ourselves, but the world around us. The key is that non-adoptees have the willingness to listen and learn. I would like to compile an article about why adoptees make the choice to search with an emphasis on it not wavering how much we loved or didn’t love our adoptive families.
Over and over I hear adoptive family members or non-adoptees discourage adoptees from searching because we should “Just be happy with the family we got” and “We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into” by searching. I would love input from my fellow adoptees to include in this article.
Here are the questions over 20 adoptees chimed in on.
1.) What made you decide to search and did this decision have anything to do with how much you loved or didn’t love your adoptive families?
2.) No matter what you found, do you regret searching?
3.) What advice can you share to your fellow adoptees that are searching or considering searching?
4.) What can you share with the non-adoptees and adoptive family members who might be discouraging adoptees from search?
Here are their voices
Adoptee Voice 1
- Search is not about replacing your family, but about finding out who/where you came from and how you got to be who you are. While I always wanted to know more about my birth family, when I was pregnant with my first child the “want to know” became a “need to know”. While my birth family was not everything I hoped to find, I am so glad that I search. Not only was I able to have a 35 year relationship with my birth mother, but having all the facts of my adoption actually improved my relationship with my adoptive family. I was finally able to integrate my two family legacies.
Adoptee Voice 2
- From the time I was little I knew I wanted to search when I got old enough. I waited until I was 28 to begin searching because I was busy w/ college, getting married, & having a family. It took over 20 years to find my bio. Family, & by that time my mother & both sisters had passed away. I have a half-brother still living & have had some contact w/ him, but he’s incarcerated in a federal prison, which complicates matters. I did get to meet my stepfather & my only living aunt, as well as talk to one of my uncles on the phone. We were planning to meet a few months later, but he died unexpectedly. I don’t regret searching. I only regret that I wasn’t able to find them until it was too late to meet my mother & sisters. My adoptive family was very supportive of me, but for adoptees whose adoptive families discourage them, I’d tell them that it isn’t about them. It’s about needing to know who you are, who you look like, where you get your quirks, etc. The best advice I can give those who are considering searching is to find a search angel. Don’t waste money on a private investigator when a search angel can do the same thing for free, & usually a lot faster.
Adoptee Voice 3
- My need to search was about me as I needed to know who I was and where I came from. My parents knew this, and they totally supported my decision. 2. I have no regrets that I searched, because I found myself. 3. My biggest pieces of advice would be to have low expectations and a good support system. You’ll be disappointed if you expect too much, and it falls through, and you might run the other person off like I did with my brother. I wanted the relationship with him to undo the past, and there’s no way that was going to happen. I’d also say to do your own work before you even think of searching as reunion is filled with so many unknowns, and it’s good to have a therapist to process all that stuff with. Reunion is a roller-coaster, and you never know what’s going to happen, so it’s vital to have people that support you. 4. I’d respectfully say until you’ve walked in my shoes, you have no right to judge what I’m doing. This isn’t about replacing adoptive parents but about finding your identity. If people don’t understand that, then that’s their problem. Don’t let them stop you.
Adoptee Voice 4
- I first felt the desire to search when I was in my early 20s, just a few years after I found out I was adopted. The decision to search was about finding my own history and filling in the holes in my life story and had nothing to do with my feelings for my wonderful adoptive family or their love for me. It always strikes me as strange that anyone would question why an adoptee searches when genealogy is such a popular hobby in this country. Isn’t a search for your birth parents really just the ultimate genealogy research? (Further complicated by closed records, of course!) 2. I will never regret searching. I ended up being found instead of finding and my birth mom and I are five months into a storybook reunion. But even if the outcome had been different, searching was something I needed to do for myself, to know my truth and my story. And now that I have it, I find it’s as priceless as I always imagined it would be. 3. To everyone searching, I would say, post your information everywhere, and, more importantly: never, never give up! You might be just one step away from finding what you’re looking for. 4. Non-adoptees or adoptive families who discourage an adoptee from searching are speaking from their own place of insecurity and fear. While adoptees who search need to be aware that things don’t always work out the way they might hope, they also need to remember that non-adoptees don’t have the same experience of life as they do and cannot understand. As Gertrude Stein said, “Let me listen to me and not to them.”
Adoptee Voice 5
- 1). As a twice-adopted person, by two separate families, I grew up with ideas of searching for my biological mother. She was the woman I often dreamed about; the woman without a face. My decision to embark on my search occurred as a 20-year-old young man. I did not have the experience of growing up in good families as an adoptee. In both, the abuse of me took precedence, although, in the second family, it was intermingled with positive responses. So, by ultimately looking for my adoptive mother, it served as an attempt to create the loving family for which I never had as a child.2). While I ultimately found both biological parents, exactly 20 years apart, there were problems. Yet, I absolutely do not regret searching for doing so filled in the blanks for which I had wondered about for decades. In the end, my biological mother abandoned me for a second time, as an adult, and I would only meet my biological father as he was dying of stage 4 cancer.3). Advice? Be prepared for the unexpected. It doesn’t always work out and yet, it may just work out. It can be the best time in your life, and the worst. It all depends upon the reception by the other side.4). A potential search is not about about wanting to abandon the family of your adoption. It is only about finding those missing puzzle pieces that can create the entire picture of a life still unfulfilled. Most people know their families, their parents, siblings and grandparents. Knowing of your origins is, in my opinion, one of the basic needs of being human. The adoptive family may feel threatened and yet, they should understand this is not about wanting to replace them by returning to the family of origin, but more, a gift they can offer by lending support, and clues, to their son or daughter’s early history. It is selflessness on the part of the adoptive family.
Adoptee Voice 6
- I was found because I was too terrified of rejection to search myself. Thankfully my birth mom searched for me. From there, with her help, we found my birth father. I truly believe that it’s imperative to make the journey for the sake of self and descendants. The only advice I can give is to keep your eyes wide open, don’t expect good or bad outcomes as every situation is unique, and be brave. When you have a better grasp of who you are by way of your genetic links then you will understand fully why it’s so important.
Adoptee Voice 7
- I’ll start with the last question first because that situation annoys me. It’s not anyone’s place to get in someone else’s business about why they are doing something. We don’t owe anyone an explanation. We don’t have to defend ourselves to the clueless or earn their blessing. Most people who question our search already have their minds made up anyway. I would just say I’m sorry you don’t understand. You could always bring up the general interest in genealogy as evidence of how many people are interested in their roots, but it’s not necessary. Also, there’s my own example – my sister told me my mother finally had peace for the first time in her life now that she knew what happened to me and that I was ok. So searching can actually be a kindness to our families, not just self-serving. And I would say to my fellow adoptees who are searching not to get discouraged or give up. I didn’t find my family until I was in my mid-50s.
Adoptee Voice 8
- I was just getting out of an abusive relationship and I needed a distraction so I wouldn’t go back to him. Plus I was always curious about where I came from.
3. Don’t give up. But check your expectations at the door.
4. In end, whatever you decide to do, it’s your story.
Adoptee Voice 9
- My dad died and I just thought that life is short and better to search sooner than later. Also I didn’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings in any way. Zero to do with how much I loved my family!
I don’t regret it even when some biological family rejected me.
Just do it-it’s better to know the truth.
It has nothing to do with you. You can’t fully understand the feelings of an adoptee unless you are one.
Adoptee Voice 10
- I decided to search because I wanted answers, pure and simple. I didn’t need anything, didn’t expect anything beyond gaining knowledge. I gained so much more but I actually went into it prepared for the worst. My adoptive family had nothing to do with it except for the fact that my experience with them – and particularly with my a-mother – was so bad that it put me off searching for years. I just did not want a repeat experience. I had a real negative association with the word “mother.” I do not regret searching. My search had a wonderful outcome but, even if that had not been the case, I had been so plagued with questions for so long it was just nice to have that settled and over and done with. Not that finding didn’t bring up a new set of questions but at least I learned the basic facts of my personal history.
Adoptee Voice 11
- The first time I was aware that I wanted to search for my birth mom was when an adoptee friend told me she thought my b mom loved me and didn’t want to give me up. I remember feeling excited at the thought of finding my mommy that loved me. I was terrified to search because I knew it would mean being shut out of my adoptive mom’s life. She would stop talking to me if I did anything she didn’t like and that was absolute hell. When my adoptive mom handed over my non identifying information when I was in my early 30’s (I have NO idea why she chose to give this to me) I think I felt that was her permission to search. The journey to finding my b mom was a long one. I had lots of help from people who volunteered to find records on my behalf and that made the process so much easier and bore fruit much sooner!! I could write a book filled with the joys and pain of meeting my b mom. Without support from my husband I don’t think I could have done it, but I am NOT sorry I searched. My advice to fellow adoptees is making sure you have supportive people surrounding you when you search. Please DO NOT wait until your adoptive parents pass away to start this journey….you deserve to find YOU and that doesn’t just happen by being adopted into a new family. Finding out where I came from gave me such a sense of belonging. Did it heal all my wounds? No, only some. But I didn’t spend emotional energy wondering anymore.
For the adoptive families I would say find support for your own fears about this. I believe our fears keep us in a place of denying what is needed for healing. If you truly love your adopted child be the ADULT they need you to be. Remember no matter how much you wish they were your own, they are not. They belong to you AND another family. Consider this an opportunity to bring healing to your child’s life at the expense of it being painful and scary to you. I do not believe we can have an authentic relationship without looking at truth. Take their hand, and remind them you are not going anywhere!
Adoptee Voice 12
- ) What made you decide to search and did this decision have anything to do with how much you loved or didn’t love your adoptive families? I chose to find my natural family because it is my right to seek answers and know my heritage. I want the opportunity to bond with siblings, grandparents, cousins, and other family. I find it infinitely frustrating that adoptees are pressured into disregarding their own feelings about their first family because of the feelings of adoptive family and non-adoptees. Why do our feelings matter less? The love we feel for our adoptive family has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.2.) No matter what you found, do you regret searching? Not at all. I kept searching for 20 years until I found every single living relative.3.) What advice can you share to your fellow adoptees that are searching or considering searching? Don’t let anyone tell you that your feelings are less than. Keep an open mind, without expectations. Remember that your natural mother also suffered trauma because of the adoption, so she may have just as much of a hard time with reunion as you.4.) What can you share with the non-adoptees and adoptive family members who might be discouraging adoptees from search? Consider this: to an adoptee, our adoption feels like our entire family died in one day, and we are expected to be grateful for the situation we were forced into. We have the human right to mourn the loss of our first family just as if they had died. We are neither blank slates nor eternal children. We are forced to deal with the stress of living three entangled lives – the person we were born to be but never were the person whose life we assume but never fit into, and the person we create for ourselves as adult adoptees. It’s a very stressful and difficult to navigate life, regardless of how wonderful our adoptive families may be. We need your support! Denying our feelings will only push us away from you.
Adoptee Voice 13
- I needed to know who I was and where I came from plus I was biracial I did actually find out my race from DNA testing before I searched or whilst I was searching but had not found. I am glad for the prep work or healing I did before searching because I did uncover a lot of trauma and drama. I was also lied to by my adoptive family, social services and members of my natural family so I was misled a lot while searching but I had a great search angel that helped me. The info I received was almost like working through grief bit by bit and also the letters I wrote to natural mom were very hard to write but each time I posted one it got a bit easier, she never actually got any of them. I was sad to find so many traumas in my natural mom’s life stemming from the fact she herself was abandoned at nine years old and went from one abusive relationship to another after my dad left her to marry someone of his own race. My dad took my bro and she kept my sister…. she lost my sister and my half bro 7 years later trying to escape the abusive jerk that she left me for…she got with another abusive jerk after that who told her she could not keep my sister either but they reunited when my sister was 16… My mum tells me that I am lucky and should be grateful she didn’t keep me and I didn’t endure what my sister did , but none of them asked how my life was growing up with and abusive manipulative lying my adoptive family… My reunion is not going that great there is too much pain all around. My mum doesn’t answer my calls or phone when she says she will which triggers me into a three day meltdown mode. My sister is overflowing with love but for all the wrong reasons and I just keep walking my healing path because truly that’s what it’s all about reunion or no reunion we have to heal from the loss and reunion just shoves that loss right in your face so now you are face to face with all the years lost whether it’s with mum or siblings or whatever adoption is based on deception and loss and healing is possible but it takes years of work…reunions do not fix the pain of the loss …
Adoptee Voice 14
- ) What made you decide to search and did this decision have anything to do with how much you loved or didn’t love your adoptive families? What made me decide? hmm sad occasion of someone showed me the realization that it’s time to do what I needed todo for years that I was ready for it
2.) No matter what you found, do you regret searching? Not at all. It’s important to do
3.) What advice can you share to your fellow adoptees that are searching or considering searching? Don’t expect miracles and acceptance from that moment on it’s not up to you alone
4.) What can you share with the non-adoptees and adoptive family members who might be discouraging adoptees from search? I can only say this: it’s not about you and with all the respect you need to support or walk away
Adoptee Voice 15
- 1) Curiosity. Who am I? And no, my family was amazing which made it even harder to talk about wanting to search because I felt like I was betraying them or something. 2) I do not regret searching. 3) I was actually found on fb by my birth mother. I had all the information that I thought could be helpful, full birthday and my full name (Irish + Romanian) 4) Helping someone get through something is easier than helping someone get through the unknown. In my opinion you can’t get closure until you know everything.
Adoptee Voice 16
- I searched because when my oldest had a hidden medical condition. They tested me and I had it also! So I wondered what else might be hiding. #3) Don’t expect a Hollywood happy filled reunion. You were given up for a reason. You may or may not find that “missing piece of the puzzle”. Keep expectations very low and search for the right reasons
Adoptee Voice 17
- My search began a month before my wedding day. I found out my birth name at the bank. My papers were in a vault along with my Savings Bond. I asked who is Linda Marie? Mom would not give me a straight answer. 2. I did not regret searching for the truth even though I ended up asking mom again for my truth 2 years later and mom’s reluctance to give me information. 3. If your mom has information continue to badger her and keep on asking.
Adoptee Voice 18
- ) I decided to search because it’s a natural human instinct to want to know who we are and where we come from. It’s impossible to know where your headed if you don’t know where you come from. It was tearing me apart inside to not know. My wanting to search was natural for a not natural situation. My pain of the unknown was SO GREAT I was addicted to alcohol most of my life because I couldn’t handle adoptee grief, loss & trauma and not knowing my answers. With the world celebrating adoption they make no room for our pain so I NEEDED TO KNOW MY ANSWERS. Trust me if I didn’t have the deep desire to know I would have much rather chose that route but that’s not how it works for many of us. My decision had nothing to do with my adoptive family and them loving me or not loving me. Love has NOTHING to do with us wanting to search and everything to do with needing the TRUTH. Without the truth we can’t move forward with acceptance and healing. Give it to God? Let me ask… If I don’t search and have the answers and beginnings of how I came about how do I know what to give to God? Am I going to hand him a question mark? Don’t think so….2.) I faced double rejection from both birth parents. It gets no more painful than that yet I still would rather know than live in the unknown because that was pure inhuman torture in my mind living wondering who my mother was and who my people were. Don’t regret it for a minute.3.) Think about your desire to search and pray about it and ask yourself if your pain outweighs the peace in your life regarding not knowing. If you’re at total peace not knowing great for you. But if you are bothered by it or it torments you then search and really try not to think of everyone else’s feelings. You deserve your answers and you deserve your truth! Everyone else can put on their big boy and girl panties and deal with it. I know it’s hard because when we make the decision to search we are going up against the grain and most people who aren’t adopted can’t comprehend our NEED and how deep it is and why we need answers. It’s important to stop trying to get them to understand. Trust me, the very few non adoptees who WANT TO LEARN will listen. They are worth talking to. Those who try to shut you down are ones you should leave alone. Most non adoptees will never understand us so I choose to stick with those who do understand me, my fellow adoptees. There is an army of us out here so you are never alone. Do what is best for you and don’t wait. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.4.) Please understand this isn’t about you and it had nothing to do with you. You could have been the best most amazing parents in the world but we still need our answers and truth. You can either support us and help us or we will do it around you. It’s much nicer when we have adoptive parents who aren’t manipulative who make it all about them every time we open our mouths. For once please know this isn’t about you. I can’t say it enough. And for you to say “Can’t you be happy with the family you got?” I would like to respond by saying until you are stripped of your basic human rights of wanting to know who you are and where you come from you really should keep your comments to yourself. If you can’t support me please leave me be. And when I find less than what I dreamed please don’t be quick to rub it in my face that I should have listened to you. The trauma of being an adoptee and living in the unknown is horrific in itself so please don’t make it worse on us with your unsupportive comments.
Adoptee Voice 19
- Keep looking and do not give up.
Adoptee Voice 20
- My decision to search was my own, and had no bearing on the opinions of others. I knew I was adopted before understanding what adoption was, and my desire to know/search was formed at the same time. The only considerations regarding my AP’s was around informing them about my actions, both in searching and reunion. Again, the decision was completely my own, even forgoing the concern of my then fiancé. This was MINE, something I wanted my entire life, and nothing was going to dissuade me. I waited until I met the age of independence to start, because I had to. There was no specific trigger that set me on the path toward finding; it was ALWAYS something I knew I had to do. I have regrets associated with my search/reunion, but none about searching. Again, the need to know was like breathing. I simply had to do it; there was no consideration or hesitation. As soon as I legally could search, I did. My birth mother received me well enough. In hindsight, she, like so many birth mom’s, was damaged from the experience. Had I been more informed, or more mature, more whatever, I may have been better prepared. Over the course of 20 years, I found & lost her 3 times. I don’t regret this, it is what it is. My only regret was waiting 10 years to find/contact my birth father, because my birth mother requested she make first contact with him. I felt I was being loyal, but in truth I was acting in fear. Fear that I would rock the boat, and damage relations with b-mom. A relation that never existed, and never formed. Even if it had, I was wrong to let someone hold me captive. Advice to those beginning a search… invest in your own search efforts. Searching may seem difficult, but the journey will build strength and knowledge. Both will be needed in reunion. I’m not suggesting the final goal of reunion is bad, but like any relationship, it requires work. Perhaps more work than another relation, as there is commonly much emotional and psychological baggage associated with adoption. The birth mother and the adoptee are damaged. And depending on their own journey, each may be in a different place of readiness for such a relation. And quite often, the adoptee must become the parent. By this I mean they must come to reunion prepared, offering both understanding and the voice of reason. It’s so very complicated; I’m not sure how to address it for the purpose of this project. In short, the adoptee should be an active part of the search. The adoptee should educate themselves on their legal rights to information, and reunion related issues. Understanding why they or the birth parent are acting as they are will help them navigate next steps. Final points related to searching; be honest in communications with birth parents, be honest with yourself, start a journal to help organize search efforts and log events/emotions after reunion, be kind to those who don’t have to help you and gently push those who do. Lastly, take action, do not wait, people die. Time is NOT on the side of us adoptees, so don’t let discomfort or indecision keep you from taking next steps. One of the hardest things is to find a grave at the end of your search.To the discouraging voices, they can all suck it. They don’t know, will never know, and so can’t advise. Some may be heartfelt, and with your best interests in mind, but only YOU can decide. And only another adoptee can truly understand. We had no voice in what happened to us. We don’t owe anyone anything as it relates to being adopted. Do what you need to. If that is to search, than do so unequivocally. Naysayers and alarmists be damned.
Adoptee Voice 21
- My answers to the 4 questions… #1 – I have known I was adopted since around the age of 10. I always had letters written from my birth mother to my Mom. In those letters there was mention of two boys. I always felt a disconnect with my family even though they were always good to me and I was always more curious about the brothers more than anything. My love for my family always made me feel guilty for wanting to find them, but I was also very afraid of rejection. I have a very uncommon birth name, so actually finding my brothers was the easy part thanks to Facebook, getting the courage to contact them, not so easy. I just decided I was about to turn 50 and I needed to do this and I did not tell my family until after it was done. #2- I do not regret it at all. But only because I was not rejected. #3 – We had about 3 days AND nights worth of texting before we met in person. You just have to be careful of letting a complete stranger in your life. #4- you have no way of knowing how they feel if you aren’t adopted yourself. Let them do what their heart is leading them to do. In my case it literally filled my heart with joy and made me a happier person for my family to be around…not that I was that bad before, lol, but when it works out, it’s a feeling I just can’t describe.
This blog post was compiled for all those in the world who just can’t understand why adoptees put ourselves “out there” to search in the first place, what our thoughts are regarding this search and how difficult it is for many of us.
No adoptee “Story” is the same and we each have a unique story and desire to be heard. So many in society want to speak for us, but you will never ever fully understand adoptees unless you seek our voices and ask us how it feels to be adopted.
Thank you to all my fellow adoptees who chimed in and made this article post possible. You matter and your voices matter. Keep sharing your voices! If you are reading this and you would like to answer the questions please reply to this article. Your replies will stay with the history of the page.
If you aren’t adopted and you made it this far THANK YOU for your willingness to learn from the experts in the adoption constellation! We appreciate you taking the time to read this post. You have made an attempt to try to understand how adoptees feel. Keep reading and keep sharing the voices that’s almost always ignored, the Adoptees!
Pamela A. Karanova
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3 thoughts on “Why Do Adoptees Search? An Adoptee Collaboration”
I was adopted nearing the age of two. I would be the only adopted child after five ‘born to’ kids. As long as I can remember I was asking questions about everything, so it was only natural that I would ask about where I came from. It only became imperative as I grew to understand how different I was from the family I was in. I was a Scottish/Lebanese child placed in a French Canadian home. I was super sensitive among some cast iron creatures. I felt that I had to make connections with my own, or I would drown. This notion is pretty straight forward, understandable, and you think would come with full support–but no. The strong and often cruel opposition to my search only made the search that much more meaningful. SOMEONE had to be on my side. Someone had to want me–for me.
It was no easy ride working in secret to find what most take for granted. I searched full throttle in 1990, when I was 31 and had a one year old son. There’s a lot that I had found on my own but this time I enlisted the help of a retired P.I. A very good move, as he did this work mostly to be of service, so his prices were reasonable. It would take us another two years; remember, pre, DNA, computers, cell-phones, social media. This meant some serious digging.
I found my mother, and yes, she wanted to be found. She was a single mum in 1959, SO taboo. She kept me for almost two years, and struggled to hang on. Unfortunately, because she did not have family support, being single and working a low wage job (elderly care home) she was forced before the courts to sign me over to the CAS, then to adoption.
We had a thirteen year long relationship until she passed from lung cancer at the age of 65. Do I have any regrets? Yup, not searching sooner, and with more conviction. I wouldn’t let anyone slow me down, because indeed, that is what my afamily did. That is what society did. They shamed me for wanting what was mine. Our system locks away our own identities and calls this “in our own best interest.” How backward and confusing is this for a child? When that barrier is knocked down, the family uses shaming, “Why are we not good enough for YOU–look at all that we have done for you.”
Then the social workers, “Are you sure that you’re emotionally ready to grasp all that may come your way?” This one is precious because we’ve survived all that was thrown our way so far, the lies, the make-believe, the fairy-tale– the truth should come as a fresh cool breeze. It did. Not easy, but very real and very very necessary. You cannot grow with any certainty or strength without knowing where you are from, and touching it… and hopefully having it(family) touch you back.