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Adult Adoptee Perceptions in Kinship Adoption
The survey was entitled, “Adult Adoptee Perceptions in Kinship Adoption.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog between the dates of December 27, 2017 and September 17, 2018. In all there were 23 respondents. Of those, 4 were removed once parameter filters were saved; leaving a total of 19 respondents.
The parameters were that:
- The respondent had to be at least 18 years old or older.
- The respondent had to be adopted by a biological relative of either their mother or father.
- The adoptive parent(s) acquired full legal custody of the respondent.
There were a total of 95 questions and a free-form response. The free-form responses will be posted at the conclusion of this summary. Of the 95 questions, 48 offered an “other” option. There were 112 “other” comments and they will be shared as they relate. There were 5 questions skipped by at least 1 respondent. There were no questions skipped by more than 1 respondent.
A link to the survey results will be posted at the conclusion of this summary. We encourage you to follow us here at the blog as well as our Facebook page, Twitter account, and on Instagram. Please consider sharing this summary if you believe it to be informative and necessary.
Margin of error calculator (provided by Survey Monkey)
Parameters and Housekeeping
As stated above, there were 3 questions that set the parameters for the survey. Terms were also set for the survey in order to differentiate between genetic and adoptive parents. “Biological parents” was the term used to refer to the respondent’s genetic mother/father. “Custodial relative(s)” was the term used to refer to the genetic relative who adopted/acquired full legal custody of the respondent.
In addition, there were a number of questions that asked the respondents about their lives and relationship with adoption. The majority of respondents were adopted at or under the age of 5 years old. There were 47% (9) of respondents who were adopted at birth to 1 year old and another 36% (7) who were adopted between the ages of 2 and 5 years old.
Most adoptions took place between 1990-1999 (31%, 6); closely followed by 1970-1979 (21%, 4), 1960-1969 (15%, 3), and 1959 or earlier (15%, 3). Most respondents were born between 1980-1989 (36%, 7); closely followed by 1970-1979 (21%, 4), and 1959 or earlier (21%, 4).
Respondents were asked about their highest completed level of education. In descending order responses included; high school/GED (42%, 8), Bachelor’s Degree (26%, 5), Master’s Degree (15%, 3), Associate’s Degree (10%, 2), and Doctorate (5%, 1).
A question that is asked on every survey published by Adoption Surveys is if the respondent believes that adoptees should have the right to access their Original Birth Certificate. The respondents in this survey answered unanimously “Yes” (100%, 19).
Respondents were asked many questions about their biological parents prior to their adoption and their later involvement in the respondent’s life. The majority of respondents (78%, 15) answered that their biological mother either voluntarily relinquished her parental rights and/or she passed away leaving the respondent in the care of others. The majority of respondents (57%, 11) also answered that their biological father either voluntarily relinquished his parental rights and/or passed away leaving the respondent in the care of others. There were 3 (16%) respondents who said they were removed from one or both biological parents by court order.
Respondents were asked if they were given a reason by one or both of their biological parents as to why they were adopted. Many respondents (31%, 6) were not given a reason. For those who were given a reason, being unwed (15%, 3) and financial instability (10%, 2) were the most common responses.
Additional responses included, “That she wanted me to have two parents and siblings and a “better life.” Another respondent commented, “I found out after both my dad & my aunt adopter had died that my dad was in jail at the time. My mother had left me in the care of my dad’s parents & did not relinquish me for adoption…in fact she tried to stop the process. My dad was also against it but couldn’t stop it.”
And lastly, “My father told me about a leg injury. My mother told me she’d left me in the care of my grandparents and didn’t know my grandmother rehomed me to my aunt after my grandfather died, until after my aunt had petitioned to adopt me, in another country.”
After the respondent was adopted, 31% (6) of respondents said that their biological mother stayed in contact with them. There were responses that included, “She tried to but my family didn’t let her” and “somewhat until my adopted mother asked her not to.” Other respondents said, “She wanted to, but my aunt wouldn’t allow it. I have the letter she wrote to my aunt asking to stop the adoption & send me back, or at least share custody or have visits, but my aunt must have turned her down because I never had contact with her until I was 25.” And another, “I called her Aunt. She was in and out. Never a mom only an aunt figure in my life.”
Respondents were asked the same about their biological father staying in contact with them after adoption. There were 4 (21%) respondents who said that their father did stay in contact and another 3 (15%) who said that their biological father was not aware of the respondent’s existence. One respondent commented, “I was in touch with him once but he made no effort to contact me.” Contact with biological parents was something most respondents did not experience with 21% (4) saying that there was no contact and another 36% (7) saying that contact was rare. There were 4 (21%) respondents who answered that a biological parent lived in their adoptive home after the finalization of their adoption.
In regards to siblings, 4 (21%) of respondents had no other siblings. There were 3 (15%) respondents who were adopted along with their siblings and another 5 (26%) of respondents who had siblings raised by their biological parent. One respondent said, “My younger brother and I were adopted together. My older half sister was adopted before us into a different relative’s home.” And another stated, “To my knowledge, I have at least 4 half siblings, none full. My mother’s first husband kept the 2 from their marriage. My father’s other child(ren) were kept by their mother(s) to my knowledge. One may have been adopted as an infant but I’m not sure if he actually was my mother’s child or not.” There were 4 (21%) respondents who said they struggled with jealousy towards their siblings who were kept by their biological parent(s). One respondent said, “It’s complicated. I have struggled because my aunt adopter felt she was entitled to me, but had no access to any of my siblings and made no attempt to help me establish contact with any of them.”
- 84% (16) of respondents were adopted into the same country as their biological parents were living/had lived
- 21% (4) of respondents were raised to believe that a biological parent had a different genetic relationship to them
- 5% (1) respondent was subject to a court ruling that disallowed contact between them and their biological parent(s)
- No respondent had court-appointed visitation with a biological parent
- 47% (9) of respondents said that as a minor, they thought about their biological mother often
- 36% (7) of respondents said that as a minor, they thought about their biological father often
- 57% (11) of respondents said that they have had feelings of anger towards their biological parents for their adoption
- 52% (10) of respondents have felt the need to mourn the loss of being raised by their biological parents
- 57% (11) of respondents said that not being raised by their biological parents was a traumatic loss for them
- 63% (12) of respondents said that they feel that their feelings have been dismissed by others
With regards to contact with biological parents today, there are 2 (10%) respondents who maintain contact and another 5 (26%) who said they maintain contact but it is strained. There are 5 (26%) respondents who said their biological parents have passed away. Some responses included, “Dad died in 2009 but I’m in regular email contact with my mom. She visited my family once, a few years ago, but lives on another continent so we don’t get to see each other.” And another said, “My bio dad and I are friendly and exchange a few words on important holidays. My bio mom and I don’t speak by my choice.”
Respondents were asked many questions about their adoptive parents and home. For the rest of the survey, these individuals were referred to as “Custodial Relatives.”
Respondents were asked what reason(s) were given to them by their custodial relatives as to why their biological parent(s) relinquished parental rights. There were a number of responses and here are the most common answers listed by frequency: (36%, 7) mental health, (31%, 6) financial instability, (26%, 5) unwed parents, (26%, 5) no reason given, and (21%, 4) neglect/abuse. Some respondents elaborated on their answers which included, “That my birth mother wanted me to have a better life than the one she could give me.” Others said, “I was the youngest of eleven children and only one adopted out, birth mother couldn’t cope looking after another child” and “Mother would have been expelled from school if they’d found out she’d had a baby (aged 15).”
As a follow-up, respondents were asked what reason(s) they were given as to why their custodial relative chose to adopt them. The most common responses by frequency were: (47%, 9) to keep the family intact, (31%, 6) desire for a child, (10%, 2) no reason given, (10%, 2) for the child’s protection, and (10%, 2) religious explanation. Respondents elaborated on their responses which included, “We needed a place to live and they didn’t want us to go into the foster care system.” Another respondent said, “Aunt adopter said she wanted to keep me in the family. I found out later she was infertile, badly wanted children, her husband didn’t want any, and she was already 43 when she got married. The family did not stay intact. She broke it up; the adoption caused a lifelong rift between her & my dad.” And another stated, “Because violent adoptive father said he would stop beating adoptive mother once they had children.”
- 57% (11) of respondents said there was physical and/or verbal abuse in their adoptive home
- 66% (12) of respondents said that they did not feel like they “fit in”/belonged with their custodial relative(s)
- 78% (15) of respondents said that as a minor they seriously considered or did run away from their adoptive home
- 21% (4) of respondents had custodial relative(s) who celebrated their adoption day (1 respondent said they enjoyed the celebration)
- 36% (7) of respondents said they do/would enjoy the retelling of their adoption story
The majority of respondents were adopted by an aunt/uncle (57%, 11) or their grandparents (31%, 6). There were 15 (78%) of respondents who said they referred to their custodial relative as “Mom” or “Dad.” The remaining 4 respondents referred to their custodial relative either by first name or the title of their genetic relation (Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, etc.)
Respondents were asked if they had a strong bond with their custodial relative, whereas 36% (7) said that they did. There were 9 (47%) respondents who said that their custodial relatives did not speak well of their biological parents. Another 4 (21%) said that their biological parents were not spoken of at all and 3 (15%) respondents who said they were not spoken of in a good or bad way.
There were 8 (42%) respondents who were raised in their adoptive home with other children that were biologically related to them, but not their sibling. It was asked of respondents if their custodial relative(s) encouraged them to have contact with one or both of their biological parents. There were 5 (26%) respondents who replied affirmatively, while another 6 (31%) replied negatively. Responses included, “My aunt adopter set up my reunions with both of my parents, but she was against us having an actual relationship, as in, me being their daughter. She hated seeing the bond between my dad & me when I was 12, and she told me she kept me away from my mother on purpose in case the same thing happened.” Another said, “I had always wanted to know who my birth parents were and meet them up until they physically tried to kidnap me on many occasions.”
“Genetic Mirrors” have been a subject touched on in other adoptee surveys. It is defined as “faces/behaviors that resemble your own.” Respondents were asked if they grew up with “Genetic Mirrors” in their adoptive home where 36% (7) of respondents answered in the affirmative. It was then asked if the respondents believed that “Genetic Mirrors” are important for children to have while growing up and 63% (12) of respondents answered in the affirmative.
- 26% (5) of respondents were additionally relinquished for adoption by their custodial relative(s)
- 52% (10) of respondents were adopted at birth
- 15% (3) of respondents knew their custodial relative(s) prior to their adoption
- 42% (8) of respondents were not allowed contact by their custodial relative(s) with their biological parent(s)
- 68% (13) of respondents said that they did not receive appropriate emotional support from their custodial relative(s) in regards to their adoption
- 57% (11) of respondents said that they had strikingly different interests from their custodial relative(s)
- 47% (9) of respondents said they were supported and/or encouraged with their interests by their custodial relative(s)
- 52% (10) of respondents were encouraged by their custodial relative(s) to be grateful for having been adopted
- 21% (4) of respondents said that their custodial relative(s) used their adoption story to promote adoption for others
There are 9 (47%) respondents who are in contact with their custodial relative(s) today. There are 6 (31%) respondents who are not in contact due to the death of their custodial relative(s). There are 5 (26%) respondents who said that their custodial relative(s) have been supportive of the respondent having a relationship with their biological parent(s). There were a number of other responses that included no relationship with biological parents (10%, 2), the indifference of custodial relative(s) (10%, 2), and custodial relatives not knowing that the respondent has a relationship with their biological parent(s) (5%, 1).
Prior to adoption, there were 8 (42%) respondents who lived with one or both of their biological parents. There were 4 (22%) respondents who said that they were temporarily placed in foster care. At the time of adoption finalization, 2 (10%) respondents said that they were able to understand the process of what was transpiring. A private attorney (36%, 7) was most likely the facilitator of the adoption for the custodial relative.
- 10% (2) of respondents said that their adoption was kept a secret from them
- 31% (6) of respondents said that their first/given name was changed after adoption
- No respondents are in favor of a child’s first/given name being changed after adoption
- 26% (5) of respondents believe that adoption was “God’s Plan” for their life
- 52% (10) of respondents said that they excelled in academia and/or sports
As a minor, 3 (15%) respondents received counseling in relation to their adoption. One respondent said, “Counseling, yes, but when the psychologist suggested adoption as a reason for my emotional/behavioral problems, my aunt adopter pulled me out of therapy. I was 7. I was in & out of counseling for the rest of my school years, including 2 high school counselors & a psychologist, but adoption didn’t come up much even though I told them I didn’t live with my parents.”
As an adult, 9 (47%) respondents said they have received counseling in relation to their adoption. There are 8 (42%) respondents who said that counseling has been beneficial to them. As a minor, 5 (26%) respondents said they were comfortable talking about their adoption. As an adult, 16 (84%) respondents said they are comfortable talking about their adoption. As a minor, 12 (63%) respondents said that they thought about adoption often. As an adult, 14 (73%) respondents said that they think about adoption often.
It was asked of respondents to describe their overall feeling about their adoption when they were a minor. In order of frequency, the responses were sadness (26%, 5), indifference (21%, 4), confusion (21%, 4), and anger (15%, 3), lucky (10%, 2), and happiness (5%, 1). The same question was asked, but for the respondent’s feelings as an adult. In order of frequency, the responses were anger (36%, 7), sadness (15%, 3), indifference (15%, 3), happiness (10%, 2), grateful (10%, 2), and lucky (10%, 2).
- 21% (4) of respondents said that adoption anniversary days are triggering for them
- 36% (7) of respondents said that they have reason to believe that their adoption was unethical
- 73% (14) of respondents have struggled with feelings about who they are versus who they might have been
It was asked if respondents have considered placing their own child for adoption where 77% (14) of respondents said they have not and another 4 (22%) respondents said that they have placed their own child for adoption. It was asked if respondents have considered adopting a child where 11 (57%) respondents said that they have considered it, but no respondents have adopted a child.
Every survey at Adoption Surveys asks a number of questions about the mental health of the respondents. Some questions are standard for every survey while others are specifically for the topic at hand.
- 78% (15) of respondents have struggled with abandonment issues
- 73% (14) of respondents have struggled with identity issues
- 31% (6) of respondents have struggled with substance abuse
- 84% (16) of respondents have struggled with depression
As a minor, there were no respondents who said that they were diagnosed with an attachment disorder. There were 5 respondents who did not know whether or not they were diagnosed with an attachment disorder.
- 63% (12) of respondents have been diagnosed with a mental illness and/or mental disorder
- 47% (9) of respondents have considered attempting suicide in relation to adoption
- 21% (4) of respondents have struggled with hoarding food and/or other items
- 47% (9) of respondents have struggled with an eating disorder
- 42% (8) of respondents have suffered with a sleep disorder
Respondents were asked a few questions specifically about their experience in Kinship Adoption. They were asked if they believed that Kinship Adoption had provided a “better life” for them. There were 6 (31%) respondents who answered in the affirmative, 8 (42%) respondents who answered negatively, and another 5 (26%) respondents who said that it was impossible to say. Respondents were asked if they believed Kinship Adoption to be a better alternative to biologically-unrelated adoption. In order of frequency, respondents answered that it depends on the situation (47%, 9), yes (21%, 4), no (21%, 4), indifferent (5%, 1), and undecided (5%, 1).
Respondents were asked if they believed that there are better arrangements for children outside of Kinship Adoption. The majority (61%, 11) of respondents responded that both preserving a biological family (parent/child unit) and guardianship would be better arrangements. In order of frequency, the remainder of responses included Kinship Adoption was best for children (22%, 4), domestic open adoption with unrelated adoptive parents (22%, 4), foster care (22%, 4), and an orphanage or group home (16%, 3).
Additional responses included, “Kinship guardianship would be best if family preservation is not an option. But not adoption, of any kind, under any circumstances. Adoption is a lie and gives the adopters license to lie or keep secrets, which is never in any child’s best interest. Keep the birth certificate intact.” Another respondent said, “I want to say ‘preserving a biological family’ (I’m a regretful birthmother), but Kinship Adoption truly was the best option for me when I was a minor. It may have saved my life. I’m grateful (willingly) for my adoption situation, and I would never presume to prescribe what the ‘best arrangement’ is for any child who isn’t me or my own.” And lastly, “Anything but adoption. Permanent guardianship arrangement if needed, but NOT adoption EVER.”
There were 6 (33%) respondents who said that they would recommend Kinship Adoption to others. ‘
Thank you to all respondents. Your voice is greatly appreciated. It is important to the Adoption Surveys team that respondent voices are elevated and shared. If you found this survey to be adequate and necessary, please consider sharing it on social media. Also, please follow the Adoption Surveys social media pages for upcoming surveys and weekly polls. For further reading, the full survey questions and answers can be found here: Adult Adoptee Perceptions in Kinship Adoption
As with every summary published by Adoption Surveys, there is always a final question asking if the respondent has anything they would like to share about their experience with the topic at hand. The following are free-form responses left by respondents:
It has answered a lot of questions for me as an adult. Not everything was known what was going on in biological family house. But at leastbable to answer some important questions for me
While I’m grateful that I grew up knowing (some of) my biological relatives, I ended up being placed with abusive relatives who took me in only out of a sense of responsibility — there was no love or real care, and it was a terrible situation. I was adopted against my express wishes and truly would have preferred to be in state care than in the place I ended up.
I’ve always felt like my birth mother made the situation more difficult/strained for everyone involved by giving me up to her Aunt & Uncle, so that she could still be adjacent to my life. She’s gotten to enjoy the freedom of living her life without a child that was the result of a marriage gone south, while still getting a front row view to my life. Meanwhile, no one in my family can manage to have a sincere, in-depth, or emotional conversation with me about her real reasons for giving me up. I’ve had to speculate my entire life. Also, while I knew I was adopted, I only ever knew that my birth mother was someone “in the family” until I was 11. My grandfather passed away and we were going to his funeral, where my birth mother would also be. My adoptive parents decided that I needed to be made aware that “the blonde lady I had always known as my cousin” was in fact, my birth mother. I then had to spend a week around her and the rest of the family, where no one knew if I had been told her not and asked testing questions to gauge my level of knowledge about my own adoption.
I was abused by my custodial parents and no one I told helped. I was told to be ‘grateful’. When I cut off contact with custodial parents, the rest of that family cut off contact with me. The child I relinquished was recent, 6 weeks ago. He is 15, and was unable to come home due to his abuse on his siblings. My biological aunt got involved and took him. She was hostile towards the situation and me during the situation. I do believe by of this my child became more hostile and angry toward me to the point I had to relinquish to keep myself and his siblings safe.
Kinship adoption was very difficult for my bio-mother as it made it difficult for her to have a relationship with my adoptive mother (her aunt but like as big sister) who loved her very much. So it was a double loss for her. And also a loss for my adopted mother. My adopted mother felt it in my best interests to not differentiate me in my family of 4 children, and I believe this was the right decision. My bio-mother also accepted this. This is not something I focussed on when younger but understand this better now. So lots of sacrifice by people who loved me and am very grateful to have the life I have.
It has made me doubt everything and trust nobody. I lived with my aunt & uncle for 10 years and asked all kinds of questions before they told me they were my aunt & uncle. Under guardianship they would have had to tell me the truth, they’d have had no ownership papers, but thanks to adoption, they could change my name, brainwash me, and refuse to tell me anything. I had no continuity in my life story and always felt as if some major pieces were missing. I saw no baby pictures of myself until i was 12, and no pictures of my mother. It’s like I dropped out of the sky at 21 months onto my aunt & uncle with no history at all, and I didn’t deserve the truth from them. If they had only been content to be my aunt & uncle, raise me as their niece, let me keep my own last name, and have contact and visits with my parents as their daughter, it might have been tolerable. But I’d rather not have lived with them at all. I was constantly running away from them and trying to escape them. I tried to get myself removed from their custody and placed in foster care because of the way they treated me; I never attached or bonded with either of them. I am torn because if they hadn’t raised me I wouldn’t have met my spiritual mom when I was 13, or my husband at 25. But I deeply resent my aunt & uncle intruding on my life the way they did, when I could have had a life with my mother.
My adoptive siblings who are my adoptive parents bio children disowned me because I am adopted and according to them not their sister.
Kinship Adoption may have saved my life. I was abused and neglected by my biological parents for the first three years of my life, then my brother and I were dropped off at an uncle’s house and my biological parents never returned. My uncle was close to contacting children’s services in the state we lived in, but his parents (my bio dad’s parents) stopped him and began legal proceedings to gain custody and move us to their home, across state lines. During the course of the adoption, which took a couple of years, my bio dad signed his rights over relatively quickly, but my bio mom fought to retain her rights despite not complying with any court order related to our care (no using drugs, having a home we could all fit in, working regular hours, etc.). She has stated for years that she wanted to keep us because she didn’t want our grandparents to have us. My grandparents told us the truth about our bio parents while we were growing up. The truth wasn’t usually pleasant, but as far as I can tell, they never exaggerated or told lies…the truth was just really bad. My bio dad basically stopped communicating with us for several years. Not out of spite, just because he was caught up in his own drug-addled life. But my bio mom continued to contact us at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons for several years. Every time I spoke to her on the phone, I would spend weeks after in a haze: I’d be clumsy and get hurt, I’d be emotional and cry a lot, and I’d have nightmares and wet the bed. When I was 17 and my younger brother was 16, we left our grandparents to move back in with our bio mom. My brother didn’t handle our adoption situation the same way I did and was unhappy. I decided that staying with him was more important than our parentage at that point, so I left with him. As my grandparents woefully expected, our bio mom was entertained with us and with playing mommy for a few months, then she abandoned us again, leaving us both to grow up and be adults on our own. Since then, I’ve lived in four different states, I had to leave high school to get a job, I got my GED, I haven’t been able to complete a college degree, I had a failed marriage, I’m seriously in debt, and I relinquished my firstborn child to an adoption that quickly closed. And my brother has had at least one mandated trip to drug rehab, multiple stays in prison, numerous periods of homelessness and joblessness, a failed marriage resulting in two children that were taken by the state because of his and his wife’s drug use, and another failed relationship resulting in a child that he’s never met. For my brother, Kinship Adoption was always a struggle. Any adoption would have been a struggle for him. For me, Kinship Adoption was a lifesaver and reunion was ruinous.
My kinship adoption meant that I was the only one in my family and even in the wider circle of friends who wasn’t in on the secret of who my real mother was. It’s hard realising you’ve been lied to by everyone around you for decades.
It is important for researchers to consider that the person taking this survey may be the biological child of an adoptee. In which case referring to kinship adoption as being adopted by “biological” relatives is inaccurate.
I am grateful to god and for people’s kindness for me to have a Kinship adoption. It gave me a new and united family that showed me great values in life.
It destroyed me. They tried to make me live a lie and I couldn’t go along with it. I could not see them as “parents” and they refused to see me as their niece. With guardianship I could have stayed in contact with both of my parents and loved them for who they were. I always sensed the adopters felt betrayed because I wanted my parents, but I felt betrayed by them for taking me away from my parents. I hated my grandmother for rehoming me to them. I wish I’d known how unethical it was when my aunt was still alive because I might have taken legal action. I hated them changing my last name and wished they’d let me keep it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for them the way I was, as their niece, and was angry at them for always trying to change me.