The survey was entitled “Adult Adoptee Perceptions in Closed Adoption.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog over a 2-week timeframe: September 26-October 10, 2017. In all, there were 1526 respondents. Of those, 227 were removed when parameter filters were saved because they did not meet the parameters set for the survey. One respondent was manually removed for revealing private names and locations. In its final form, there were 1298 respondents.
The parameters were that 1) The respondent must be 18 or older. 2) The respondent must have been placed for adoption within 1 year from birth. 3) The respondent was not biologically related to the adoptive family. 4) It was a “Domestic” adoption meaning the respondent was placed and adopted within the same country. 5) The adoptive family was only given non-identifying information about the biological parent(s) and there was no contact between adoptive and biological families until the respondent was of a majority age.
In the past, free-form responses have been shared at the end of each summary. An exception will be made for this particular summary. There were 792 free-form responses at the end of the survey. Adoption Surveys prides itself in being a platform for those with lived adoption experiences. A separate blog will be posted in order to fully dignify and share these responses.
A link to the survey will be posted at the end of this summary; as well as a link to our current open survey. We encourage you to follow us here at the blog as well as our Adoption Surveys Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Please share our current open surveys in order for those affected by adoption to have a collective voice.
Margin of error calculator (provided by Survey Monkey)
Questions 1-5 were required in order to set the parameters, as stated above. The remaining 81 questions were optional. There were 3 questions that were skipped by at least 1%(13) of the respondents: questions 69, 82, and 83. There was no question skipped by more than 17 respondents.
There were 20 questions that offered an “other” comment box. There were a total of 1851 “other” comments. They were all taken into account and will be referenced as they relate.
- 44% (582) of respondents were adopted between 1961-1970 accounting for the largest segment of population
- 3% (42) of respondents were adopted in 1950 or prior, accounting for the smallest segment of population
- 46% (607) of respondents lived in foster care prior to adoption
- Of the 607 respondents who lived in foster care, 519 answered they were in foster care anywhere from 0-6 months.
- 74%, (966) of respondents were received into their adoptive homes within 0-3 months
- 6% (82) of respondents were in a transracial adoption
- 88% (1,145) of respondents were adopted in the United States
- New Zealand was not given as an option for native country, but accounted for the majority of the 1% (20) who commented in the “other” section
It was asked of the respondents what entity managed their adoption. Adoption agencies accounted for the majority answer with 36% (469). Private attorney was next with 15% (199). Charitable organizations came in third with 12% (162), but the majority of those who answered in the “other” comment section (129 respondents) referenced “Catholic Charities”. It is possible that if these responses were added to the “Charity Organization” option, it could equal or exceed those of private attorney. An option that was not given, but frequently mentioned in the comment section was “medical staff/doctor”. One respondent commented, “My adoptive moms father. He was a doctor and delivered me.”
The adoptive family structure consisted of a married mother and father who remained married throughout the respondent’s childhood in 80% (1,044) of incidents. Divorce during childhood was experienced in the lives of 14% (188) of respondents. Two respondents answered they were raised in a home with a gay/lesbian couple who remained together throughout the respondent’s childhood. 4% (60) of respondents answered in the “other” section. Death of an adoptive parent during childhood was not a given option, but was the most given answer in the “other” section. In one incident, a respondent lost both adoptive parents in childhood to death, “mother and father passed away.”
In regards to siblings, 20% (268) of respondents were raised as an only child. If there were siblings in the home, the option that received the majority response (45%, 593) was that their sibling(s) were adopted as well. The remainder of respondents reported mixtures that consisted of the adoptive family’s biological children, step-siblings, and/or foster care siblings.
In regards to being told about adoption, the majority (70%, 911) of respondents were told by their adoptive parents at the age of 5 or before. 4% (59) of respondents were not told by their adoptive parents. In 8% (115) of incidents, adoption was revealed by a source outside of the respondent’s adoptive parents. Eight (.62%) respondents were told they were adopted by their adoptive parents at or after the age of 19.
- 63% (830) of respondents spoke “freely” of adoption in their homes
- 3% (41) of respondents did not know that they were adopted as minors
- 21% (280) of respondents said the topic of adoption was “forbidden” in their adoptive home
- 53% (697) of respondents were comfortable talking about their adoption as a minor
In regards to discussing the biological families of the respondents, 17% (228) reported that their adoptive families spoke well of them, 9% (117) did not speak well of them, 53% (694) did not speak of biological families at all, and 19% (256) spoke of biological families but not in good or bad ways.
Respondents reported strikingly different interests from their adoptive families in 68% (882) of incidents. Their adoptive families encouraged their interests according to 52% (683) of respondents.
- 4% (56) of respondents reported they were treated better than their siblings
- 19% (254) of respondents reported they were treated worse than their siblings
- 56% (731) of respondents reported they were treated equally in comparison to their siblings
- 63% (823) of respondents reported they do not feel like they belong/”fit in” with their adoptive families
- 44% (574) of respondents answered there was either physical and/or verbal abuse in their adoptive family’s home
- As a minor, 47% (613) of respondents answered that they felt more comfortable in the homes of their friends
- As a minor, 59% (775) of respondents did or considered running away from their adoptive family’s home
- 60% (783) of respondents reported they were encouraged to be “grateful” for being adopted
In regards to reasons (given by the respondent’s adoptive family) as to why the respondent was placed for adoption, there were a multitude of answers. The respondent was allowed to check all that applied and comment additional reasons in the “other” section. There was a three-way tie at 48% (629/630) with biological mother being unwed, young, and a general “better” life. The reasons with the least responses included abortion alternative (2% 38) and safety concern (1% 24). There were 144 (11%) free-from comments that included a diverse list; biological parents wanted to continue education, biological parents had too many other children, extra-marital affairs, race, rape, post-partum depression, biological parent was disabled, and biological parent was unfit among others.
Many respondents discovered the reason(s) they were given weren’t accurate. One respondent commented, “I was told my parents were finishing a degree in university. It is not true.” Another said, “I was told my mother died during child birth, which I found out later was a lie.”
Other reasons given included, “My mother was a slut. That is what I was told.” Another stated, “Father was a priest.” For others, either the subject was not discussed (12% 165) or the reason was unknown (13% 170).
There were as many diverse reasons given to respondents as to why their adoptive family’s adopted them. Respondents were also given the opportunity to check all options that applied as well as add comments if needed. Infertility received the most responses with 71% (930). The option with the second most responses was that the respondent was not given a reason at all with 13% (170). There were 149 (11%) free-form responses that included a multitude of reasons; adoptive family had a genetic disease they did not want to pass on, the respondent was simply “wanted/chosen”, vasectomy, they were adopted by the foster family, adoptive mother had a fear of pregnancy, and adoptive family had suffered stillborns/death of biological children. The responses also included more detailed stories of infertility and gender specifics (options provided).
Some of the more outstanding reasons included the following:
- “I was purchased, like an animal, to support adoptive father in old age.”
- “To keep my dad out of Vietman[sic]”
- “Save their own pathetic marriage”
- “God’s plan for them, but not as a “calling.” (A divine “calling” often has a hint of “burden” attached).”
- “Older sister wanted a baby brother”
- “My adoptive mother was a drunk . The church thought it might keep her sober”
- “My father believed my mother would be happier and stop drinking”
- “Their friends were adopting too.”
- “My dad was quadriplegic”
- “My adoptive mother (at a later age) said I was a “pay off” for my adoptive father’s affair … a way for him to show his re-commitment to her.”
In regards to respondents being in contact with their adoptive families today, 52% (681) said that they are in contact and 28% (373) said their adoptive parents have passed away. 12% (160) are not in contact with their adoptive parents and there were 84 (6%) free-form responses that spoke of “strained” relationships or contact with one parent and not the other. A number of comments referenced contact with biological family, so it isn’t clear if it was an error in presentation or misreading on the part of the respondent.
Outside of Family Life
Respondents were asked if they physically resembled their adoptive families and 65% (849) said they did not. When respondents were in public, they stated that their physical appearance in comparison to their adoptive families would be mentioned often (18% 237) or on occasion (41% 533). In the “other” comment section (2% 35), respondents stated that if their appearance wasn’t commented on directly, they did receive stares and/or behind the back comments, “No one commented out loud but I was always aware of the stares and double-takes. I’m very pale, blonde, blue eyes; my adoptive family is very dark.”
Some adoptive parents would introduce the respondent as the “adopted” child, “My mother would point out to others that I was adopted.” Another respondent said, “My adopted dad would say doesn’t she look just like me at times when introducing me…he would do it kiddingly..he was proud of me.”
Aside from public comments about physical appearance, the respondents were asked if the public would comment about their adoption directly. “No” received the most responses with 42% (555), and 11% (150) of respondents stated that no one knew that they were adopted.
Respondents were asked a number of questions about mental health. Counseling and emotional support with adoption issues involved a large portion of the survey. As a minor, 3% (49) of respondents said they did receive adoption-specific counseling. As adults, 30% (399) of respondents have received adoption-specific counseling. As a minor, 71% (928) of respondents did not think they received appropriate emotional support with being adopted.
- 81% (1,052) of respondents said they have struggled with abandonment issues in relation to adoption
- 37% (484) of respondents said they have considered or attempted suicide in relation to adoption
- 56% (729) of respondents have been placed on anti-depressants at some point in their lives
- 29% (384) of respondents have struggled with drug and/or alcohol abuse
- 9% (124) of respondents have received treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse
- 52% (681) of respondents said at some point in their lives, they have led a promiscuous lifestyle
- 36% (475) of respondents have had an eating disorder
- 42% (544) of respondents have experienced frequent nightmares and/or terrors
- 4% (57) of respondents were placed in juvenile detention centers as minors
- 1% (17) of respondents have been sentenced to at least one prison term
Respondents were asked if they have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and/or mental illness. 37% (480) of respondents stated that they have and an additional 4% (53) responded in the “other” section and gave specific diagnoses including: Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, and ADD. Separate questions were asked specifically about an ADD or (C)PTSD diagnosis. 14% (190) of respondents have been diagnosed with ADD and 20% (263) of respondents have been diagnosed with C-PTSD or PTSD.
- 53% (698) of respondents said they have excelled in either sports and/or academia
- 29% (379) of respondents have attained a Bachelor’s Degree
- 19% (379) of respondents have attained a Master’s Degree
- 3% (44) of respondents have received their Doctorate
Respondents were asked if they have attempted to search for their biological families, in which 93% (1,210) said that they have searched. This question did not account for respondents that may have been found by their biological family prior to search.
- 38% (499) of respondents began to search for biological family between the ages of 19-30
- 5% (75) of respondents said they have not searched
- 39% (515) of respondents said their search was initiated by a feeling that there was a “missing piece” in their life
Aside from many options provided for why a search was initiated, there were 105 (8%) free-form responses. There were a multitude of reasons given including States opening access to Original Birth Certificates, adoptive parent encouragement, impending deaths, DNA availability, mental breakdowns, adoptive parent disownment, 9/11, and need for a passport.
One respondent stated, “After reading birth parents stories from that time era.. It was eye opening. It never occurred to me how different things were back then and that my bio parents may not have even had a choice about giving me up for adoption. That made me want to find out more about my history.” Another commented, “Adding adopted children to our family.” One respondent commented, “Found out that I could get non-identifying info from an adoption agency when our first grandchild was given for adoption. At that time of her ‘release’, I had stuffed my feelings of my own way down deep, so thought it was fine to give her up. It didn’t take long …like just a few weeks after her birth to finally allow myself since my being ‘given up’ to big time surface.”
Other commenters elaborated on their “missing piece” feelings, “Missing piece always felt even though was raised in a loving home. Medical issues occurred where course of treatment required medical history” and lastly, “It was part of my core that I needed to find my mother.”
- 35% (462) of respondents answered that their adoptive families have or would have encouraged their search for biological family
- 24% (312) of respondents answered that their adoptive families have or would have discouraged their search for biological family
- 40% (531) of respondents said they have searched in secrecy in order to not offend their adoptive family
- 46% (603) of respondents said they have searched openly
Search for biological family elicited a number of free-form responses (16% 220). In regards to adoptive family responses to the respondent’s search, many carried similar themes such as waiting for the death of their adoptive parents, respondents were threatened with removal from the adoptive family’s will, mixed family reactions, disownment, and adoptive family saying they would support a search until it transpired.
“I did not tell them but they were told by a non-family member. They did not speak to me for two-years after they found out,” said one respondent. Another said, “I would have been beaten by my adoptive father, had he been alive.” Other comments included, “They didn’t understand the need”, “My mother was very supportive of me searching, my father was not in favor of it”, and “They were scared for me to be rejected again and use drugs to escape the pain.”
Other comments included:
- “When I was pregnant with my first child I asked my mother if she knew anything about my biological parents and she responded with a slap in my face and told me I was selfish and ungrateful.”
- “I believe they would have been deeply hurt. I have met my biological mother and I have not told my adopted father. My adopted mother passed away over 25 years ago.”
- “Strong willed adoptee raised by passive AM [adoptive mother]. Didn’t argue with searching because I made clear I’d leave at 18 without contact if searching wasn’t supported.”
- “My mom’s amazing with it. I actively avoid my dad who wants to be worshipped…”
- “They removed me from their will, and said they wished they had never gotten me.”
In adoption, standard practice has been to alter and/or seal the original birth certificate of the adoptee and replace it with an amended birth certificate showing the adoptive parents as those who gave birth to the adoptee. In the past, most governments would “seal” the original birth certificate indefinitely. In recent years, governments have begun to open access to these records.
- 31% (408) of respondents have accessed their Original Birth Certificate (OBC)
- 42% (552) of respondents responded that they wish to access their OBC, but the government will not provide it
- 99% (1,286) of respondents said they believe adoptees should have the right to access their Original Birth Certificate
Adoption on a Personal Level
- 52% (678) of respondents fantasized often about their biological family as minors
- 33% (436) of respondents fantasized occasionally about their biological family as minors
- 74% (968) of respondents thought about adoption often as a minor
- 86% (1,127) of respondents think about adoption often as adults
- 80% (1,046) of respondents have looked for their physical features in crowds
- 71% (923) of respondents desired Genetic Mirrors as minors
- 82% (1,054) of respondents believe that Genetic Mirroring is important for children to have
- 120 of respondents consider themselves “Late Discovery Adoptees”, of those 81 did not suspect that they were adopted
- “Betrayal” received the most (27) cited feeling when a respondent learned of their adoption status later in life
- 27% (355) of respondents said they were “bullied” for being adopted
- 19% (257) of respondents said they were used as an example by their adoptive family to promote adoption
- 32% (425) of respondents answered that adoption anniversaries are “triggering” for them
- 52% (678) of respondents answered that they do not enjoy the retelling of their adoption story
- 48% (630) of respondents have been angry towards their biological family for placing them for adoption
- 69% (896) of respondents have felt the need to mourn the loss of their biological family
- 78% (1,015) of respondents have struggled with feelings over who they are versus who they might have been if raised by their biological family
- 35% (465) of respondents said that adoption was explained by their adoptive family as “God’s Plan” for their life
- 28% (364) of respondents believe that adoption was “God’s Plan” for their life
Adoption in the Big Picture
The remaining questions revolved around how the respondents viewed Closed Adoption in general, from overall feelings to recommendations in practice.
- 79% (1,031) of respondents answered they would not consider adopting a child in a Closed Adoption
- 87% (1,130) of respondents answered they would not consider (or would not have considered) placing a child for adoption
- 3% (43) of respondents have placed a child for adoption
- 61% (792) of respondents consider themselves pro-choice in regards to abortion
- 20% (267) of respondents would recommend Closed Adoption to others
Respondents were asked if they would consider themselves pro-adoption, anti-adoption, indifferent, or something other. Responses were pro 33% (438), anti 30% (388), indifferent 19% (247), and other 16% (219) respectively. Common “other” responses included a need for adoption reform, adoption education, dissolution of Closed Adoptions, attempts to preserve biological families, and adoption used only as a last resort after attempts to preserve a biological family.
Comments included, “Realist, communicate the potential difficulties of adoption and help members of the triad become better at listening to each other”, “I believe children in foster care should be adopted and biological families should be preserved and supported if possible”, and “I believe in changing many adoption laws and practices and that we should do everything we can to support parents to keep their children and in bio family placement whenever possible.”
Respondents were asked if Closed Adoption offered them a “better” life. “Yes” received 13% (177) of responses, “No” received 39% (512), and “Impossible to Say” received 44% (570). Other comments received 2% (34) with the majority of responses stating that they had a “different” life, but not necessarily a “better” life. Respondents were also asked if Closed Adoption was the best arrangement for children or if there were better arrangements. They were asked to check all options that applied. Open Adoption received the most responses with 61% (789) closely followed by Preserving a Biological Family with 57% (732) of responses. Additional suggestions included taking profit out of adoption, supporting single parents, mandatory medical records, better sex education, and stewardship.
Respondents were asked what their overall feeling about adoption was as minors and as adults.
As minors, the most frequent responses were:
- Confusion 22% (292)
- Sadness 18% (238)
- Indifference 13% (177)
As adults, the most frequent responses were:
- Sadness 24% (315)
- Anger 17% (221)
- Grateful 15% (202)
In conclusion, respondents were asked if there was anything they would like to add about how Closed Adoption had affected their lives. There were 792 responses and in order to dignify the efforts of these respondents, a separate blog will be posted to address them. It will be posted soon.
The survey can be seen in full at Survey Monkey:
Thank you to all respondents. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. If you find this survey of interest, please feel free to share it on social media.
Our current survey is for Natural/Birth Mothers in Closed Adoption. It will run through the end of October, 2017. Please share the link with anyone it may apply to:
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