Adoptee Voices Adoption Lifelong Impact

Adoptee Voices 2023

I had a ‘good’ adoption but I hate adoption. I hate the sense of not belonging of always being outside/other. I resent the way non adoptees usually view adoption. I wish that I’d had support from someone with insight to work through my issues instead of finding the primal wound in my forties and realising that no not everybody feels or thinks that way about things. It totally screws with your head and relationships, definitely your relationships!

For National Adoption Week in England and Wales this year, we asked UK adoptees what they would like to say about adoption, and which word or words they would use to describe adoption. During the week we shared some of the words on our social media pages, but there were many more that we could not use. As a whole they say much about adoptee experiences and reflect on what adoption means to us individually, and to society. All are anonymous but if you are an adoptee who contributed, and would like yours removed for any reason, please let us know and we will update the page accordingly.

The image is a word cloud of the words that adoptees used to describe adoption. A huge thanks from all of us to all of you who contributed. We hope that adoptee voices were heard during that week.

What would you like to say about adoption? This is an open question so that you can talk about how adoption has affected you, how you would describe it, what you would like to happen or change, or anything you would like to share.

✽ Adoption has brought so much loss, grief and pain into my life. I am having to work so hard, alone, to start to heal from its devastating effects.
✽ Adoption is lifelong trauma. In my experience, birth parents and birth families have little interest in, or comprehension about adoptees trauma. Rather, society colludes in safe silence to ensure all parts of the relinquishing machinary doesn’t have to face the adoptees pain.
✽ Only now after both my adoptive parents and birth parents have died that I truly feel free. Adoption for me was difficult, sad, abusive at times and glad it’s over. I was never heard as a child, I lived in fear always wanting to please her. For what, to be told just before she died that she always hated me. The toxicity of those words penetrated my heart. While hiking up ben nevis in august it was exceptionally cathartic, the tears flowed and it was as though I’d released 55 years of pain. The freedom I finally feel is exciting, wonderful and joyous. Hello world, I’ve arrived.
✽ My personal journey has been complicated and traumatic. Fortunately I have a very supportive adoptive mum, but that’s it, none of the rest of the family ever accepted me. When she passes away, the only family I’ll have are my children.Better counselling is needed for adoptees, for all stages of their journey.
✽ I don’t think anyone who is not adopted can understand what adoption does to you. It’s a life sentence of rejection, even with therapy, because you know, deep down, that you’ve been made into a commodity by the state, by your birth grandparents, by your adoptive parents. You don’t count; no one cares. You are impotent in the face of a system that doesn’t care what it did to you.
✽ My birth mother was forced to give me up at 6 weeks old. It ruined my life. I was abused and told to leave at 16. Eventually cracked after marriage breakup. Sectioned four times ,in and out of mental hospital for two years. Finally put in a residential trauma centre for a year which saved my life. Given the labels EUBPD, PTSD, depression and anxiety. Struggle every day.
✽ I was born in the 60s. I’m mixed heritage and was adopted by an older white couple who had 3 teenage children. Being adopted made me feel different to others and being a non-white in a very white family made me feel even more different. They loved me but had no understanding of my heritage and chose to see me as white. I vividly remember my dad brushing my Afro hair out with my mum’s hairbrush before school. It was so painful and made me cry every morning. It may sound silly but it still impacts me and I can’t bear anyone touching my hair. I don’t blame them as they didn’t know any better.
I hope now we are a more inclusive society things are managed better and children are able to feel they fit in.
✽ It can be a very positive step but the closed adoption system was not in the interest of the young people
✽ Adoption involves trading a child’s identity for the promise of a nurturing family without the child’s consent, and without any verification that the adoptive family has fulfilled its obligations. Adoption exists to serve the interests of women unable to give birth to their own child, but is portrayed as altruism to disguise its true purpose, which is the commodification of children. For the adopted child, and the child’s descendants, it is a life sentence. The secrecy, lies, deceit and loss of family and identity inherent in adoption can cause severe psychological harm to the child, sometimes leading to death by suicide (commonly in early adulthood). However, suicide is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of misery caused by adoption. For some adoptees, it can destroy the possibility of a normal, happy life (for example, through the development of complex PTSD in early childhood), despite the best intentions of the adoptive family. Unfortunately I am one of these adoptees. My life has been ruined by adoption and I can honestly say that it would have been kinder to kill me. Adoption is inherently evil, especially when more humane alternatives, such as long-term foster care are available. However, these don’t fulfill the psychological needs of women wanting a child of their own, who don’t fundamentally care about the impact on the child. Adoption will end when women stop seeing children as commodities for their own gratification.
✽ It can be a wonderful experience if adopted to the right people, unfortunately if you are not then growing up can be hell on earth! If adoptive parents are not monitored for their mental health after the adoption, throughout the years, then you might as well of left that child in an orphanage or in care. A lot can happen behind closed doors and unfortunately many dark things happen to adoptive children that no one talks about.
✽ Adoption, where a child loses his name and his past, should be abolished.
✽ It’s a trauma.
✽ I’m one of those adopted in the 1960s for no other reason than birth mother was unmarried and 17. My adopted parents were lovely and kind and did their best as openly as possible. My birth mother has only just found the strength to meet me. This is great and also incredibly sad as such a waste of years. She still needs to tell her other children. The shame is all consuming for her. It is the shame that is the most damaging aspect for all concerned. I
✽ Being adopted means that you see the world differently, but everyone around you denies that it could possibly have that effect. You’re constantly told how lucky you were to have been ‘chosen’ but even more consistently told that it couldn’t have any effect on you. If you’re ‘good’ it’s because of your adopted family’s influence, if you’re ‘bad’ it’s because of ‘where you came from’, this message reiterated by family and school. Threats of ‘I’ll send you back were you came from’ are haunting enough for any child to hear but as an adoptee they take on a whole new meaning (which, of course, is denied to be harmless by the adults around you).
✽ 69 years of searching for acceptance, love and somewhere to belong led to devastating consequences which have affected my entire life. One of which was becoming pregnant in 1971 at the age of 16 and being placed in an unmarried mother’s home after being banished from my hometown in order to ‘keep my secret’. Sixty miles away, alone and forced by my adoptive mum to put up my baby for adoption. I was an imperfect fit for her from the beginning so much deeper research needs to be carried out before a baby is placed with a family – for life.
✽ My adopted parents and family are wonderful, my brother and I were adopted from different families and we know we’ve been incredibly lucky. The challenges I’ve had with adoption have come from the trauma of my separation from my birth mother – I believe there were two reasons for this, religion and the cruelty of the health service towards mothers giving their children up for adoption.I was born in the 70s and my birth family are Southern Irish and deeply roman catholic. My birth mother thought the shame and shock of finding out she was pregnant would literally kill her father. In the hospital, she bottle fed me for 11 days before I was taken away from her (I was born just before Christmas and have always wondered if this is why), I didn’t find this out until I was in my early 30s.I think being allowed to bond with me and then having me taken away from her broke her. I’ve always struggled with romantic relationships and I do feel that some of that has to do with my adoption. I dread to think how much more damage this could have done if I hadn’t been adopted by such a loving, suppotitve family.I think most of the things that I would want to change have probably already been changed, I can’t imagine this happening now in the UK. My birth mother didn’t feel like she could cope with having any contact with or meet me, but she did share (via a social worker) that the members of her family that knew about me thought I should never be discussed, a sin to be swept under the carpet. I often think who I would be if she’d kept me and I’d grown up around adults who considered a child a ‘sin’.So, I consider myself lucky to have been placed with a family who have loved me unconditionally my whole life. I’m glad that more information is now available for adoptees, but I’m also very, very glad that I didn’t have any contact with my birth family growing up, that I was protected from their bigotry and grew up surrounded by love instead of stigma.
✽ For a long time I thought I was okay with being adopted, it was only as I aged and started to try and figure out why I kept self-sabotaging and am addicted to alcohol that I started to dig a little deeper into where my feelings came from. Although superficially my adopted parents seemed to be loving and caring parents – they were both highly dysfunctional, wounded people who, in all honesty, shouldn’t have been allowed to subject an unformed and injured baby to their levels of pain and emotional immaturity. Add into this mix a second adopted child who was diagnosed with a terminal genetic disorder and I really did become the adult child as I was left to fend emotionally and developmentally for myself.I believe that potential adopters were/are viewed with a positive societal bias and as such many adoptive parents’ own issues are swept under the carpet because they are “rescuing” a child in need.I am not sure that there are any perfect solutions to the issue of children needing homes and first mothers being unable to (for whatever reason) care for their own child. Open adoptions only work if all the parties are mature enough to deal with the emotional hurdles and fall out in the future. Guardianship poses its own problems in that the child is effectively left “stateless” and closed adoptions are just visiting trauma upon trauma.One of the things I would like to see is the rights of the Adoptee recognised – our right to our own identity (as given at birth), our right to access to our records, our right to as much health information as possible (I always felt stupid when asked for a medical history – because I didn’t have one), our rights to easily search for other family members.One of the saddest things about my late brother’s adoption is that there was no way to tell his birth parents that they carried a lethal genetic time bomb and could potentially visit that on their future children – I have always wondered how having that knowledge would have impacted their lives.
✽ I can only speak from my own experience which is to say that I had a very good experience. My adopted parents loved me unconditionally. My birth mother did not want a child. She did not want to marry my father. She wanted a career – all the things that she could not have as a single mother in the early 1960s. There are many unanswered questions regarding my adoption and the parties involved are dead.
✽ I’m fed up with it being such a hidden/secret topic. I want recognition of the trauma and proper help and support to adopted people
✽ I had a ‘good’ adoption but I hate adoption. I hate the sense of not belonging of always being outside/other. I resent the way non adoptees usually view adoption. I wish that I’d had support from someone with insight to work through my issues instead of finding the primal wound in my forties and realising that no not everybody feels or thinks that way about things. It totally screws with your head and relationships, definitely your relationships!
✽ Society needs to understand that adoption, no matter how great your adoptive parents (and they may or may not be great) involves a traumatic early loss that has lifelong consequences on the psychological health of the adoptee. Society needs to understand that this is not just about children: there are lots of middle aged and older people who are struggling with the impacts of having grown up in closed adoption, they are grappling with identity issues and mental health, right now.
✽ Without proper support, this process affects both the birth family and the adoptee hugely. Adoptive families don’t always get what they hoped for, and they also need help. Hopefully in 2023, illegitimacy isn’t the scandalous, shame-filled issue it once was.
✽ The difficulty lies in how hard it is for others to understand, how strong their pre conceived ideas are, how far from understanding society is an grasping the grief and complexities, and how bad media is at portraying these from an adoptee perspective.
✽ Give adoptees and their mothers a voice. Help the mothers so their child/children stay with them. Stop former social workers, who have been involved in the removal of babies from their mothers from providing therapy to adoptees and their mothers – this is an insult.
✽ To be adopted is to be the hole in the middle of a donut. The core fact of your adoption is ~you~. No you; no adoption. But as the adoptee, you are very much left out of the story. Everything is about everyone – and anyone – else but you. Your birth parents, your adoptive parents, the people involved in the adoption process, the courts, your birth or adoptive brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, everyone. Everyone gets a piece of your story except you.
You also take your cues from everyone else. You learn, over time, what you can and can’t ask about, or talk about. Well obviously you can ask and talk about whatever you want so, rather, you learn the extent of what others will answer and what they will talk about with you.
You are always one step behind. Information and knowledge about you, your origins and your background is bestowed upon you by others.
You live a life in response.
You are expected, always, to be grateful ‘for everything you have been given’.
When in fact it was you, and your adoption, that was the gift to everyone else.
✽ I wish adoption didn’t exist. I think it’s horrible that it’s legal to buy a child and strip them of their identity. There’s so many other options for guardianship if there’s truly no way to keep the child with the family. You don’t need to legally lie about identity to protect a child.
✽ The general public think it’s easy, but the damage adopted can cause is immeasurable.
✽ My adoption?
My bio mother was sexually abused by a family member from the time she was a child. That’s how I came to be.
✽ I’d like to see it phased out. It held me back in life when I should have been enjoying things. Not knowing anything about myself was really difficult to deal with. It’s a very oppressive & damaging system
✽ Whilst I understand the intention… primarily it’s to meet the adopters needs… perhaps that needs to be a rebalanced perspective..
✽ I had a happy adoption but I totally understand why other adoptees might feel differently.. it’s so individual and terribly complicated. I am over sixty but have so many unanswered questions about it all. Does it work? Maybe for some but most of your life after about 10 years of age is full of questions , why me, what happened, who do I look like, why was I given away? But the idea of contact with bio parents as is the norm these days truly appalls me. Also recently diagnosed with PD, where is my medical history? Guardianship best way forward, no erasure of who you are or where you came from. We are not a quick fix to infertility problems, we grow up and ask difficult wounding questions, we need answers and the focus must not be on adopters or bio parents but the baby / child / adult adoptees who has no voice. We are NOT commodities .
✽ It seems to impact everything in my life. The relationship with my spouse and my children. The biggest is my health. Both physically and emotionally. That is my biggest wish is that when we say we are adopted, we don’t get the second degree as if we are lying about not knowing anything. Instead of denying healthcare because it’s too rare or expensive, test for it if it looks like it. We are the beginning of medical history for our future generations and they deserve the right to know too.
✽ Adoption is trauma. Who would agree to traumatizing people if the public knew how traumatizing adoption really is?
✽ I’m so angry and sad about the fact of my adoption, now that I’ve realised the wrongness of separating babies from their biological family and expecting them to grow up with strangers and be just fine. I have a lot of compassion for birth mother and adoptive mother but they were sold a lie, we were all sold a lie. I feel wronged and wrong in myself.
✽ There needs to be much greater sociocultural recognition that it is not simply a ‘thing of beauty’ to be glibly celebrated (or laughed at). It is rooted in loss and harms: adult adoptees are derided or dismissed which is profoundly discriminatory and makes us voiceless, less than, and othered. The notion of permanence needs to be reevaluated too as it is neither a cure all ‘cure’ for child abuse, nor does it guarantee a happy ending to an adoption ‘journey’.
✽ Severing a human being from it’s family, it’s roots, it’s culture and grafting it to another family for the purpose of making them feel better about their own infertility is archaic and should be made illegal. if they insist on continuing on with the practice, then all potential people wanting to adopt should be made to listen to adult adopters, who are out of the fog, and listen to what the effect is on a human being, to attempt to bring them up as if they were there own.
✽ What gets me I think more than anything is the retrospective lack of support. Anyone 1970’s or earlier is just left to get on with the mess all the lies created. None of the support afforded today, to this outdated and cruel practice, is offered to those of us from the ‘blank slate’ era despite the need.
✽ Ruined my whole life. Adopted into abusive situation. Afraid throughout childhood. Never gained skills necessary to thrive. Found family who live abroad. Would like the law changed in relation to those separated by country or continent due to their mothers escaping the shame. Adoptees involved in the forced adoptions should have special citizenship and travel rights.
✽ It can make your emotions all over the place, to realise and understand there’s hope of love out there for you even know you might not of had it the first time around/ it makes you feel better off then to think what life might of been like if you didn’t have this change.
✽ I love all four of my parents deeply. They operated under a cruel and inequitable system that exists and is thriving today because of White Christian Nationalism.I was not a child, I was a commodity. Adoption is legal human trafficking.I have come to call my relations kin, rather than family, since it is the narrow definition of family that colonizes and perpetuates systematic inequities. Because we value cisgender nuclear family over community family (kinship), adoption has become the pro forma way to deal with pregnancy outside the constructs of the nuclear family in a way that rewards people who have the money to buy children rather than bringing up the larger issue of supporting women who would like to keep their babies but cannot afford to, or broadening the concept of family to kinship community to leverage community kinship–where we are responsible for and are supported by our kin–cousin brother, mother auntie. The idea of family as community/kinship was destroyed when it was colonized.My mother gave me up because she was single, pregnant and had two children to feed-with no job. She married a man with money who was terribly abusive. He would not let her keep me because he was not my father. The act of giving me up and marrying him fed my older siblings, saved my life (because he would have killed me), but he beat her so badly he almost killed her.If a woman wants to give up her baby, I support her agency and autonomy to do so. But there are many options we do not put on the table because it’s more lucrative and a prettier narrative to think of rich white cisgender couples as saviors to children who should be grateful that they did not grow up with mothers who did not want them.Because we do not provide support to mothers and families that do not fit the definition of the “good white upper class cisgender family,” my mother had to give me up.Every. Single. Choice. My. Mother. Made. Was. A. Sophie’s. Choice.Fuck adoption.
✽ Strange strangers cohabiting, but pretending it’s normal
✽ There needs to be eased Revocation Rights at the top of reforms so we can leave Adoptee Status and gain back “natural identity status” . It will pierce Adoption’s current viability too
✽ Adoption is theft of ones identity. Adopters get what they want and easily blame the utter trauma of being taken away from your home and everyone you love – parents, grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, friends, on ‘his past life’. All adoptions should allow regular face to face contact with the real parents – that would have immediately debunked all the falsehoods I was told my whole life about my birth parents being useless, violent drug addicts. I was pretty much told, repeatedly, that I was genetic scum and therefore should be grateful for being rescued by the middle class. I am not, and no, dear adoptive ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, you do not deserve a medal.
✽ It’s hard to know as it’s all I know. But I feel like I am not whole.
✽ In one half of my brain I say all the things I have been taught too – I am grateful for a good beginning to life, I love and respect my now deceased adopting parents, but the other half of my brain bitterly resents the secrecy surrounding the adoption process, the rationalisations and falsehoods that surround Ok-ing adoption, the implication that my birth mother could not be given the support she needed from society to bring me up herself, and most that despite being a smart girl, with a smart job, family etc and a curious brain I never managed to finally locate and know my birth mother or father due to the bureaucratic obstacles put in the way (adopted mid 1950s). Counseling helped with the loss and identity issues but didn’t help me find my Mum or Dad. Adoption is a quiet characteristic which sits in my heart every moment of the day with unanswered questions.
✽ I hate the word, I was “the adopted one” or “the bastard”. There was no Childline when I was a child, no social workers ever checked on me and although the schools knew something wasn’t right, back then there was no systems in place to report concerns. I was “ungrateful” and could never get my birth mother’s approval. I would like an apology from the Government of depriving me of my birth mother and my half siblings. I would like to see much more research into the long lasting effects of adoption and then have strategies and support put in place to help healing occur.
✽ When I talk about adoption, it’s about adoption past. Past practices, and their impact on me, the intersection of other people‘s lives. It’s about the impact and influence of the Catholic Church, shame and guilt and secrets and lies. The shame of being who you were and how you came about. The guilt about being given so much love and privilege, but feeling something missing, feeling ungrateful , guilty for your thoughts and feelings. Spending a great deal of your life time with so many questions answered, feeling so self-centred, obsessed with trying to find meaning to your existence. Growing up in a Catholic community, perpetuating the secrets and lying to yourself and others to belong. The obsession with wanting to belong, to fit in to not be adopted. The poor decisions the coping strategies, the mistakes, the regrets, the hurt.
The Wondering, the tears , the loneliness. The triggers, the reminders, the frustrations, the fixations. The drive to search at all costs. The late nights searching for answers on the other side of the Earth. The heartaches the frustrations. Despite so much disappointment kept alive by love and support from those so close unconditional yet so taken for granted. For me adoption is . Grief relief, bond replacement , a new life manual with pages missing, soul upcycling, the birth of yearning, a life consuming obsession
✽ My adoption gave me isolation, exclusion and a lack of understanding, of myself or by my adoptive parents. I see puppies going into unsuitable homes-people who should never be allowed to have them, this is the analogy through which I see my adoption. The people who adopted myself and my siblings were not interested in our long term well being and did not take action to support this outcome.
✽ I suffered from an anxiety disorder my entire life due to Trauma cause by my closed Adoption.
✽ Adoptees need support and counselling at any point throughout their lives. As different ages bring different issues which as an adopted person you might struggle with.
A lot of questions are never asked because you learn from an early age not to upset or offend your adoptive parents. As a result of that I felt my emotions were not important, this has caused me endless problems throughout my adult life.
I am 54 and I still struggle on a daily basis. As a child I was alienated by my extended adopted family, so it was a very lonely and confusing childhood. As a teenager my behaviour was always highlighted as genetic i.e well she is adopted, what did you expect. I always felt I had to be grateful that I was adopted. I never felt I was good enough and still don’t now.
I traced my biological family when I was 22, that didn’t go well for a number of reasons. I had no support from anyone with this. As a consequence that rejection hurt more. I had to keep it a secret from my adopted parents for fear of hurting them. I could go on and on with the ripple effect of adoption, the list is endless….
✽ I believe that being adopted has made it very difficult to form intimate loving relationships . I often feel like an outsider and feel as though I am not very well connected to my own true feelings .
✽ Every has a right to know who they are. Family history should not be hidden or erased. Adoption can be loving and caring but it should not be irreversible.
✽ I have no self esteem or identity
✽ I have lived in ignorance. I had a right to know. 67 years without knowing.
✽ My life as an adoptee is to expect shock from non adoptees when I ask for justice, accountability, and compassion for the violence of forced adoption and its lifelong impact.
✽ I had to be all things to all people (none of whom I could truly relate to and very few that I could trust) but once I hit my 50s and completely broke, I was at long last able to find myself.
✽ A mistake to be kept secret, and whose story should not be heard.
✽ Ungrateful 😡not grateful to be taken away , to know nothing.expected to be grateful, I hate that word I detest adoption
✽ Finding my biological roots has taken me years and lots of energy and resources. I met far too many people who neither understood nor supported my search, potentially even hindering it. Posttraumatic growth is possible!
✽ Who am I, who should I have been? Lost and alone.
✽ One word…torn between alone and misunderstood. In the end, I think I have to go for ‘alone’. This simply best sums up how I’ve always felt, and still feel after 62 years. Despite adopted family and 3 beautiful and understanding children. Alone.
✽ Trying to find the abandoned Jigsaw pieces that make up ME ! “
✽ Everything that was mine was taken away, I have always felt lost and alone. Being told I was lucky and that I was chosen!
✽ My life jigsaw will always have missing pieces. My mother will never be there for me.
✽ Trapped between what I am and what I might have been
✽ Internal storm, rages strong. Where is home? Where do I belong? Joy has been mine on the path I was sent, whilst grief still so raw for the life I was meant