What Does it Mean to Be an Adoptee?

Adoptees feel their adopted status on an emotional level. Whether as an infant, an adolescent, a child, or an adult, their adoption sits at the back (or sometimes the forefront) of their consciousness.

Some adoptees describe this feeling as an itch that sometimes intensifies, sometimes lessens, but never entirely vanishes.

birth family

Others describe the feeling as a pebble in their shoe that they can never be free from.

Each adoptee experiences their status differently, however. No adoptee’s story is the same, and neither are their feelings regarding adoption.

What Does it Mean to Be an Adoptee Quicklinks

So, what does it mean to be an adoptee? While each adoptee has his or her own experience,  some emotions are common from one adoptee to the next. 

Being an Adoptee: A Privilege and a Burden

People who grew up with their birth parents are often surprised to learn about the tremendous impact of adoption on the lives of adoptees. Many adoptees feel a sense of alienation from their adoptive families at some point in their adolescence, which may prompt them to look for their birth family.

However, as they grow up and learn more about themselves, many adoptees start to appreciate their adoptive parents and all that they’ve sacrificed to raise a child that is not biologically theirs.

  • Love and Gratitude

Many adopted people feel immense gratitude toward their adoptive parents. They feel lucky they got to be raised in the family they grew up in and that they got to have a loving family they can count on.

For example, a Quora user reports feeling grateful for their parents, saying, “You bathed a body that is not born out of you. You fed me when you had your own mouths to feed. You cared.”

quora quote

  • Curiosity and Identity Issues

Every adoptee will feel curious about their birth parents at some point in their life. They may want to find their birth father or mother, or they may just want to learn more about their birth family and heritage. 

In the case of international or transracial adoption, curiosity may even lead to identity issues. Not being of the same race or nationality as your parents can lead to the adoptee feeling alien in their own family and questioning their sense of self or identity.

  • Grief and Anger

Many adoptees struggle with feelings of anger and grief, particularly during their adolescent years. They may start asking for adoption information or want to find their birth mother and father to learn about their heritage as a way to cope with the grief of identity loss.

The adoptee can feel anger towards their birth parents, especially if they know the parents or know they lived troublesome lives. They may judge the actions of their birth parents and can even refuse contact with their birth family, even in the case of an open adoption in which the birth parents are known to the adoptee.

How to Support an Adoptee Through All Stages of Life

Adoptees that live in a loving and accepting adoptive family report feeling predominantly positive emotions regarding their adoption. Going to family therapy or to an adoption specialist can support your adopted child through identity and anger issues.
transracial adoption
Honesty and openness are paramount to helping your child work through any trauma they may have. Share any adoption information they may want to know about with them. 

Do You Want to Find Your Birth Family?

If you are an adult adoptee who wants to find your biological siblings or locate your birth families, Origins can help you in your quest. Our co-founder, Jenny, has walked the same path, having found her birth parents on her own as an adult adoptee. We are armed with extensive knowledge, and our goal is for you to do exactly what Jenny did years ago—unite with your birth family on your terms.

Genetic Genealogy Resources

What Does it Mean to Be an Adoptee FAQ

The rights of an adoptee vary based on whether they were in an open, semi-open, or closed adoption. These types of adoption have different levels of adoption information available for the adoptee to look into. 

However, according to adoption laws, every adoptee has the right to access their birth certificate and know potentially life-saving medical history. If you feel like those rights have been denied, talk to an adoption professional or lawyer about your options.

An unplanned pregnancy, putting your baby up for adoption, and the associated guilt affect birth mothers while they’re still pregnant. Some evidence suggests that these negative feelings can influence the fetus via neurochemical signaling. Some evidence suggests that these negative feelings can influence the fetus via neurochemical signaling.

Additionally, if an adopted child finds themselves in a dysfunctional adopted family, the stress associated with the family dynamic may have an adverse effect on the child’s psychology and emotional wellbeing.

The uncertainty about the reason behind the adoption may also cause identity issues. Each adoptee will process these issues differently. Some may experience negative psychological effects, while others won’t.

Still, the degree to which adverse influences affect the life trajectories of adoptees varies wildly from one individual to another.

When choosing adoption, be prepared for a long and arduous process, as even private and domestic adoptions can take time. 

The process of adoption includes choosing between domestic vs international adoption, as well as private vs national adoption. 

Once you go through an extensive adoption home study process, all you can do is wait for your baby, which can take months or years.

Adoption costs can vary greatly from one adoption situation to the next. 

National adoption agencies usually cost more than the private adoption route, as you work directly with the biological parent during the private adoption process, while national adoption agencies act as mediators between birth and adoptive parents.

Adoption from foster care is usually the most affordable option. If you’re considering adoption, online information and resources can help you learn more about the pricing of adoption in your area.

The term ‘adoption disruption’ refers to the legally mandated termination of the process of adoption. It can be an adoption disrupted by a change of heart by the birth parents, a miscarriage, or a problem with the adoptive parents.

To learn more about adoption disruption and other adoption terms, check out our adoption definitions glossary.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was put in place in 1978 as a way to combat the high numbers of Native American children who were being removed from their families at the time.

At the time, adoption agencies would place Native American children predominantly into white adoptive families, thus potentially erasing their heritage.

However, ICWA dictates that a Native American child can be placed with a non-native adoptive family only if no family of Native American heritage is willing to adopt them.

An adoption home study is an overview of a potential adoptive family’s life. All waiting families must pass certain home study requirements, such as proof of income, proof of employment, certain medical records, and proof of citizenship.

Begin Your Birth Parent Discovery By Contacting Us Today!

Liaison For Adoptee and Birth Family

As an adoptee, it is not always easy to reach out to your birth parent. It can be quite a shock for those receiving the call. After Origins has identified who the birth parents/family are, we can make the initial contact for you. As a neutral party, we can smooth the way for the first contact by crafting introduction letters, gathering photos to send, providing the research, and answering questions to assure the information is accurate. This provides a comfortable and safe environment for all parties that generally leads to a much smoother transition to getting to know each other.

Origins Travel Tour

There’s no place like home. Now that you know your heritage, why not go home for a visit. Origins offers both personalized ancestral tours for those who want a more custom trip and heritage tours for those who enjoy a planned itinerary.