Searching for Yourself © Martyn Carruthers 2004

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Being adopted can be wonderful … and being adopted can lead to
lasting emotional problems and unhealthy relationship habits.

Adopting a Child

Did Your Parents Abandon You?

Many babies are conceived by people who do not wish to raise them … and do not want to abort them. Couples who wish to experience or extend parenthood may adopt children. Adopting children can be joyous and exciting – and adoption can have unforeseen consequences.

All my life I feared being abandoned. I was just told that I was adopted as an infant.
I’ve always had a sense of loss and I always feared it happening again.

Adopted people are different to each other … they are not homogenous. What applies to or works for one person may be inappropriate for another! Also, some adults who were adopted as young children have no memories of their birth parents; some children are told that they were adopted, and many people who were adopted as babies assume that their parents are their genetic parents.

I don’t belong to this family! I’m nothing like my mother … nor my father!
I’ve always felt that I belong somewhere else!

(The parents told me that this teenager had been adopted as a baby
but they never spoke about it.) Martyn

Some adopted children have histories of multiple foster placements, abuse, neglect, rejection and abandonment. In some countries, abandoned children are sold as slaves … and even this may be better than death by starvation.

Who am I?

Some adopted children forever search for themselves and their families. While many people may question their identities, building and maintaining a sense of personal identity seems to be much more challenging for people who were adopted.

I was born in Asia and adopted by a Danish couple. My problems came from my
overwhelmingly white school. I could never be one of them. I was an outsider.
Even now, as an adult, I am not sure who I am.

Being adopted as a child can create special problems for both you and your adoptive family. Common problems include unmet expectations and poor adjustment. A key issue is how well the adoptive parents cope with the problems of adopting children.

My mother was adopted as a baby. When I was young, she would threaten
to leave me in a children’s home. That was a background for my whole childhood.

Did you lose something?

Adopted children often have little family or ancestral information. They may experience a distorted sense of personal identity. People who search unsuccessfully for their biological parents, or who feel rejected by their genetic parents often experience a traumatic double loss.

I was told as a child that I was adopted at birth. For most of my life I have felt low energy
… it feels like my life energy is sucked into my adopted parents.
I am diagnosed with chronic fatigue.

People who were adopted as children may express identity loss as pervasive health and emotional problems, attachment disorders, nightmares and learning disabilities. As adults they may have poor social skills and delayed emotional development, perhaps showing signs of passive aggression … or just plain aggression.

My step-father started abusing me when I was 12. My step-mother would get drunk when it happened. A schoolteacher told me that my stepfather would go to prison if I informed the police. I ran away from home at 14 … I made enough money as a prostitute to go to university and I have a M.A. in criminal psychology.
You helped me change my dreams of revenge and punishment.

Systemic Family Therapy

Adopted children may not discuss their early family, yet reflect them in every action as relationship bonds. Adopting a child can be a blessing – or can result in chaos for everybody. A key is that potential adoptive parents enjoy a stable and happy partnership … adopted children will test your theories and good intentions.

I was adopted … my step-parents made it very clear that they adopted me in return for my helping them when they got old … I was their investment and insurance policy … I feel huge guilt for leaving them but I feel that I would have died if I had stayed[/pullquote]

Adoptive parents may not find much assistance. Some parents said that they “had to educate the professionals whose job was to help them (Smith et al, 1999).

The Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) was created in the USA in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization with a mission to strengthen the well-being of adoptive families through education, training and collaborations within the adoption community.

Suggestions for Adults who were Adopted as Children
1. Respect your genetic parents

Some adoptive parents criticize the biological parents. We suggest that you research your genetic parents and contact them (or think of them) with respect, even if – or especially if – one or both genetic parents are missing, alcoholic, dead, in prison, or avoid meeting their children. The more you can respect your biological parents, the more you can respect yourself!

2. Respect your adoptive parents

Adopted children are sensitive to the emotions, moods and conflicts of their adoptive parents. Find ways to express gratitude to your adoptive parents, regardless of their behavior.

3. Focus on your maturity

Don’t try to take sides between real and adopted parents. You do not have to choose any parent or step-parent as being better than another parent. Perceive your adoptive parents as substitutes for your genetic or biological parents. Focus on setting, planning and achieving your own goals.

4. Do not blame anybody

Do your parents or step-parents blame you for their own problems? Do you blame them for yours? Remember that step-parents are substitutes for your biological parents – and that you cannot bring Mom and Dad together again.

5. Minimize change

Adopting you created many challenges and changes for your step-family. As continuity is important – make your environment as familiar as possible, including your favorite things, photographs, etc. Decide to live in a home – not just a building.

6. Meeting your genetic parents

Explore how you can have maximum benefit and happiness if or when you meet a genetic parent. Compliment your genetic parents as much as honestly possible. Expect tears … your own as well.

While many adopted people have difficulties; many have good experiences of adoption, searching for relatives and reunions. We can help you explore and
accept your history … and move ahead with your life

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