Results In: Adoptee Perceptions. Your Lived Experience. NAAM 2018.

Who and What is Adoption Surveys?  About

Summary

A special survey was created for adult adoptees that was open only for the month of November (2018) which is National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM). The purpose of the survey was to give a voice to adult adoptees and their perspectives on common societal adoption themes and practices.

The survey was entitled, “Adoptee Perceptions. Your Lived Experience. NAAM 2018.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog between the dates of November 1, 2018 and November 30, 2018.

In all, there were 662 respondents. There were 18 respondents removed once parameter filters were saved; leaving a total of 644 respondents. The survey had only 2 parameters: 1) The respondent must be at least 18 years old or older. There were 2 respondents who were underage and removed once filters were applied. 2) The respondent must have been adopted in one of these adoption types: domestic infant, intercountry, kinship, adopted from the foster care system, transracial adoption, or late discovery adoptee. There were 16 respondents removed who were not adopted according to these types once filters were applied. There were no respondents removed manually for revealing identifying information. As always, the surveys are anonymous.

There were a total of 79 questions. There were 2 free-form questions. One asked for an adoption-related book that respondents would suggest other adoptees read. There were 435 responses and they will be included in this summary. There was also the free-form question that is included on all surveys asking for any final thoughts. There were 439 responses and in order to dignify them all, they will be included in 2 follow-up posts.

Of the 79 questions, 39 offered an “other” option. There were 1,096 “other” comments and they will be shared as they relate. There were 2 questions skipped by 1% (6) of the respondents; questions 22 and 44. There were no questions skipped by more than 1% (6) of the respondents.

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)

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Parameters and Housekeeping

continentAs stated above, there were 2 questions that set the parameters for the survey. There were also terms set for Late Discovery Adoptees who may have had trouble answering questions that touched on timeframes prior to them learning that they were adopted. An additional response of “LDA” was offered for these questions. In all, there were 41 respondents who identified themselves as Late Discovery Adoptees.

The majority of respondents were adopted as infants domestically (70%, 452). The remainder were adopted as follows: intercountry (15%, 102), transracial (15%, 100), former foster youth (15%, 99), late discovery adoptee (6%, 41), and kinship adoption (2%, 18).  There were respondents who were also adopted more than once and/or rehomed after being previously adopted (3%, 22).

The majority of respondents were female (88%, 570). Most respondents presently live in North America (86%, 554) followed by Europe (7%, 50), Australia (3%, 25), South America (1%, 9), and Asia (0.3%, 2). The majority of respondents were adopted in the 1960s (32%, 206). This decade was followed by the 1970s (28%, 186), 1980’s (15%, 100), 1959 and before (12%, 83), 1990s (8%, 54), and the 2000s (1%, 11).

 

Then and Now

Many questions focused on common themes in modern adoption culture. There are often societal references that allude to adoptees being “grateful”, “chosen”, “lucky”, and the like. The survey posed a number of questions asking how the respondent felt about these themes as a minor and how they feel about them as adults. As mentioned before, these questions may have been difficult for Late Discovery Adoptees to answer and therefore they were given an option of “LDA”. The Adoption Surveys Team encourages readers view the results link (posted in conclusion) due to the high volume of detailed comments made by the respondents. There were a variety of answers for these questions. We would like to thank the respondents for their candor.

adult giftThe first common theme was being called a “gift” in reference to the respondent’s adoption. There were 48% (311) of respondents who said that they were called a “gift” as a minor. There were 73 respondents who said they were comfortable with this term as a minor. As adults, 9% (58) of respondents said that they are comfortable with the term “gift” in reference to their adoption. Additional responses included, “My own parents did not say this, but when others do it, it makes me angry” and another said, “Yeah, I guess so. I mean when you buy somebody a gift you put a lot of thought into it. Just like my birth mother probably put a lot of thought in before deciding to chose [sic] adoption for me. So I guess I’m a gift to my adoptive family. And also she gave a gift to me, she gave me life.”

The second common theme was being told you were “chosen” in reference to the respondent’s adoption. There were 72% (465) of respondents who said that they were told that they were “chosen” as a minor. There were 165 respondents who said that they were comfortable with this term as a minor. As adults, 12% (83) of respondents said that they are comfortable with the term “chosen” in reference to their adoption. Additional responses included, “Yes, it helped me cope with the bullying as a child” and another said, “I understand this is how my adoptive family sees it. I do not see it this way.”

The third common theme was being told that your adoption was “God’s Plan” or a similar religious expression. There were 39% (252) of respondents who said that they were told their adoption was of a religious nature/plan as a minor. There were 121 respondents who believed their adoption was of a religious nature/plan as a minor. As adults, 17% (113) of respondents believe that their adoption was of a religious nature/plan. There were a number of additional responses that included, “Not specifically “God’s Plan”, as I don’t believe in god, but I do think that I ended up where I needed to be and that working on adoptee rights and advocating for adoption reform has given me some purpose and direction in life.” Another said, “It was humanity which led to my adoption, war which created the circumstances and people thinking they were doing good by blindly adopting from a different country.” And another, “I don’t believe that God allowed my teen mom to become pregnant just so I could be adopted, but I do believe he provided adoption as a way for me to be cared for.”

The fourth common theme was being told to be “grateful” in reference to the respondent’s adoption. There were 60% (385) of respondents who said that they were told to be “grateful” in reference to their adoption as a minor. There were 52 respondents who were comfortable with being told to be “grateful.” As adults, 8% (52) of respondents are comfortable with the term “grateful” in reference to their adoption. Additional responses included, “My adopted parents never said this but other people said I should be grateful. It’s awful.” One respondent said, “I know my birth family, I am grateful.” Another said, “I hold gratitude and loss simultaneously. I do not like being told how to think/feel.”

The fifth common theme was being told that you were “lucky” to have been adopted. There were 66% (425) respondents who said they were told they were “lucky” as a minor. There were 73 respondents who said that they were comfortable with this term in reference to their adoption. As adults, 8% (56) of respondents said that they are comfortable with the term “lucky” in reference to their adoption. Additional responses included, “I know I am lucky but that doesn’t shy away from my feelings of abandonment. I can feel lucky but I don’t need anyone else telling me to feel that way.” Another said, “I do feel lucky, because mine turned out well. But luck for me might have been unlucky for another. Random luck seems to fit if the adoption goes well.”

The sixth common theme was being told that “loves makes a family” in reference to adoption. There were 43% (278) who were told this as minors. As adults, 38% (250) of respondents believe that “love makes a family.” There were many additional responses to this question including, “Yes but biological ties can’t be ignored or their importance discounted.” Another said, “This one is tricky. Because I do believe it’s a powerful thing that crosses many lines.” More responses included, “I believe that love is a key component of family, maybe especially in the absence of biological parents. But I also believe that biological ties are important and up to the adoptee to determine how to foster relationships with their lost biological relatives.” Another responded, “Love does make a family but family love should not come with so many conditions. I was told how grateful I should be and how lucky I was that I had a lovely home and parents who chose me. Constant reminders of the conditions of love.” More responses included, “Not sure what that really means. Depends on what the meaning is behind it. Does it mean, love makes a family in lieu of being biologically a family? Does it mean you can choose your family so your friends are your family? To many ways to interpret those four words.” And lastly, “I believe this is simplifying the adoptee experience in tern it invalidates, in turn i [sic] feel offended and angry by this statement.” Again, the Adoption Surveys encourages readers to view the results link (posted in conclusion) because there were many powerful responses.

Respondents were then asked if they believed that biology matters in a family. There were 71% (457) of respondents who answered affirmatively. There were many additional responses to this question as well that included, “I believe that biology matters to many people but that it is not absolutely necessary for a person to feel whole or like part of a family. It’s completely subjective depending on the adoptee’s perspective and situation.” Another said, “While it does not “make” or break a family–it does matter.” One respondent said, “It does for many reasons, and it doesn’t for many reasons. Adoption subverts and bastardizes meaningful discourse on this topic.” And lastly, “Yes and no. It matters but it’s not the most important factor in what makes a family.”

The seventh common theme was in regards to the respondent being asked about their “real parents.” As a minor, there were 79% (512) of respondents who said that they were asked about their “real parents.” There were 328 respondents who said that they were bothered by this term. As adults, 52% (337) of respondents said that it bothers them if someone uses the term “real parents” in reference to adoption. Again, there were many additional responses. One respondent said, “It only bothers me when adopters insist they alone are the REAL parents. As a reunited adoptee, I have many parents and they are ALL real. Moreover, I alone will decide what I call everyone and to whom I feel most connected.” And another, “Yes, I just prefer biological over real. I don’t like using real for either set of parents.” Another stated, “It bothers me in so much that the language is outdated and shows some ignorance on the subject. Not bothersome because of the ignorance but because I have to decide how much time I am willing to take in that moment to educate that person on terminology and adoption – if I do choose to do so.” And lastly, “I still use it out of habit without realizing until the words come out of my mouth.”

There were 42% (270) of respondents who said that they were allowed to talk openly about their adoption with their adoptive family when they were minors. Responses included, “My parents would be easygoing about answering questions but they never offered anything more, never explored what I was feeling or considered that I might have needs beyond a child’s questions. The facts dry up quickly there is only a handful, the feelings are plentiful and confusing for a child with no one to help them contextualise [sic] it and with the subconsciously message to be grateful.” Another said, “My adoption wasn’t  a secret but I never got the impression/feeling like I could ask questions so I didn’t.” Many responses mirrored this, “Yes but I didn’t in fear of hurting them. It was awkward whenever it was brought up.”

Now as adults, 43% (277) of respondents said that they are allowed to talk openly about their adoption with their adoptive family. It was not taken into account that some respondents have lost both adoptive parents to death and that may have been all of the adoptive family that they had. There are also respondents who have been estranged from their adoptive families for quite some time. Some responses included, “To a certain point. Religion separates our viewpoints of adoption so it’s difficult to talk about openly.” Another said, “I feel I continue to collide with them around not talking about it. I find it very hard to discuss even at age 46 even though I have many questions.” Many responses went along this line, “I’m almost 45, so “allowed” feels like a strange term…It’s just a very uncomfortable subject to bring up to my adoptive parents.”

There were 47% (307) of respondents who said that they did talk openly about their adoption with their friends when they were minors. Responses included, “I would openly tell people I was adopted but I never openly talked about the confusion and loss it created for me.” Another said, “A small amount, but I was teased about being adopted and different so I soon closed up about it.” And lastly, “talked about it in a way that I thought I was supposed to. To say I’m grateful and lucky.”

Now as adults, there were 75% (485) of respondents who said that they talk openly about their adoption with their friends. Responses included, “To a point, then they get tired of hearing about it.” Another said, “People have listened, most don’t get it though. My best friends and spouse try to emphasize [sic] and understand. Beyond that no.” Many responses mirrored this one, “Only with some friends. Even then, I don’t think they fully comprehend what the ‘issues’ are surrounding my adoption. It feels a very lonely place when no one sees it as an issue or that I would have been affected by it.”

  • 7% (49) of respondents were told that adoption is an act of redemption
  • 1% (6) of respondents believe that adoption is an act of redemption
  • 24% (156) of respondents said they “fit in” with their adoptive family as a minor
  • 28% (185) of respondents said they “fit in” at school and/or their community as a minor

spoken forIt was asked of respondents if they had been read adoption-related books when they were minors. There were 23% (153) of respondents who said that they had. There were 94 respondents who said that these books were beneficial to them. Respondents were then asked if there were adoption-related books that they would like to suggest for either minor or adult adoptees. At the end of this section, a list of the most repeated responses can be found.

It was asked of respondents how they felt about others speaking on their behalf regarding their adoption experience. There were 12% (80) of respondents who said that they are comfortable with others speaking on their behalf. Responses included, “Enraged. I could have checked uncomfortable but that doesn’t cover it.” Another said, “I am comfortable with another adopted child speaking on my behalf only because only [sic] we understand each other.” And lastly, “Everyone has a different experience – just like no two snowflakes are alike…no two adoption stories are exactly alike – we need to each have our own voices to tell our own stories…without fear of how others – even other adoptees – will react.”

Books to Read

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

Adoption Healing…a path to recovery by Joe Soll LCSW

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

You Don’t Look Adopted by Anne Heffron

Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up by Nancy Newton Verrier

Dear Wonderful You, Letters to Adopted & Fostered Youth by Diane Rene Christian

Lost & Found: The Adoption Experience by Betty Jean Lifton

Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness by Betty Jean Lifton

The Chosen Baby by Valentina P. Wasson

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge

Keurium by J S Lee

Decoding Our Origins by Abby Forero-Hilty, Paul Aboulafia, and more

Have You Ever?

The respondents were asked whether or not they had experienced other common adoption narratives.

  • 60% (385) of respondents said that they have been told to be “grateful that they weren’t aborted”
  • 50% (321) of respondents have been told that they were an “unwanted” child
  • 41% (264) of respondents have been asked how much they “cost”
  • 37% (238) of respondents have been told that they had a “bad experience” in reference to their adoption
  • 48% (310) of respondents feel the need to preface with a statement that they love their adoptive family when speaking of their adoption
  • 47% (304) of respondents fear the reactions of others when speaking about their adoption

Mental Health

Every survey Adoption Surveys creates 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.

Questions were specifically asked about the respondent and their experience with adoption. They were asked if they had received adoption-specific counseling as a minor. There were 8% (54) of respondents who said that they had. Respondents were then asked if they had received adoption-specific counseling as an adult and 47% (302) answered in the affirmative. There were 222 respondents who said that counseling had been beneficial for them.

  • 14% (92) of respondents believe they received appropriate emotional support in reference to their adoption as a minor
  • 17% (109) of respondents believe that their feelings were validated in reference to their adoption as a minor
  • 27% (178) of respondents believe that their feelings are validated in reference to their adoption as adults
  • 2% (18) of respondents had an adoption support group as a minor
  • 41% (266) of respondents have an adoption support group as adults
  • 83% (535) of respondents said they have suffered grief in reference to adoption

adult strugglesRespondents were asked if they had experienced adoption-related struggles as both a minor and an adult. As a minor, there were 77% (492) of respondents who answered affirmatively. As adults, there were 87% (559) of respondents who answered affirmatively. Responses included, “I recently went through the process of finding my birth family and struggled with the fear of being rejected, realizing that while I have had the best experience being adopted and love my family, rejection is deep within my being since my life began with loss.” Another said, “Yes I have, but it’s taken years of struggles from being young to now, to realise [sic] the correlation with adoption. It took many relationship breakdowns to see that it was due to my adoption issues.”

Respondents were asked if they believed that their adoptive parents were prepared to address adoption-related struggles if they did arise or would have arisen. There were 14% (96) of respondents who answered affirmatively. One respondent said, “They weren’t specifically prepared for adoption related issues but worked hard to be as supportive as they could be, given their limited knowledge.” Another said, “Absolutely not. My adoptive mum has maintained that she never wanted to treat me or my younger brother any differently to her other two bio children. By doing so, neglected any concerns we had over adoptee issues.” And lastly, “Being biological parents, I think they did better than most, but they had no idea or assistance with addressing my core issues with adoption.”

  • 88% (566) of respondents have struggled with abandonment issues
  • 87% (564) of respondents have struggled with identity issues
  • 42% (270) of respondents have struggled with hoarding
  • 48% (311) of respondents have struggled with an eating disorder
  • 63% (410) of respondents have struggled with a sleep disorder
  • 37% (240) of respondents have struggled with substance abuse
  • 48% (313) of respondents have been diagnosed with a mental health disease/disorder
  • 77% (499) of respondents would consider themselves a “people pleaser”

Respondents were asked if they have ever experienced “coming out of the fog.” This is a common term used to describe the feelings one experiences when processing or confronting pain or loss in adoption. There were 67% (436) of respondents who answered affirmatively to this question. Comments included, “I was never in the fog.” Another respondent said, “I’m working towards it. I only just started processing this stuff a few months ago.” One respondent said, “It was thrust upon me when my family found me at my age of 18 in 1974. I had no time to think. Reality hit me right away. Everyone else was in the fog!” And lastly, “Yeah, but I realized on my own that infact my loss in adoption was also what would make me succeed and my story mattered and I needed to use the story to not have anti-adoption folk tell me my adoption was wrong bad or missed something. I also learned that loss happens and you need to have it and deal with it. But it can’t be your life you need to improve for the next generation. My adoption loss has been and always will be over shadowed by my heart diagnosis.”

Respondents were asked if they believe that adoption is an emotionally complex experience. There were  96% (617) of respondents who answered affirmatively. Responses included, “I believe it is a massive emotionally damaging experience.” Others said, “Depends on the individual and the circumstances” and “For some but not me.”

Adoption in Practice

Respondents were asked a few questions about being active in legislation and adoptee rights. There were 22% (141) of respondents who have been active in adoption legislation. There were 51 respondents who said that legislators have been receptive to their opinions. Responses included, “Everyone says they’d like to help (blah blah blah) but don’t have any influence/power in the issue.” Another said, “Somewhat but since I was born, adopted, raised, currently live in NY which is a closed-sealed state, it feels like adoptee voices wont truly be heard and changes made.” And lastly, “I’m not sure “receptive” is the right word, more like politely feigning interest.”

There were 43% (276) of respondents who believe that adoption should have stricter regulations and 19% (126) who believe adoption should have looser regulations. One respondent said, “I’m for open records and intensive education/training for potential adoptive parents.” Another said, “I think any legislation needs to be guided by best practices that are governed by attachment and psychological and sociology theory.” A few more comments included, “I’m for open adoptions where openness is binding and I am against [sic] termination of all parental rights.” One respondent said, “I think the entire process should be looked at in detail and updated to reflect the modern world/society.” Another said, “I can’t stress how much more strict it ought to be, and how so much more should be done to keep a child with their natural family. Too many adoptions needn’t occur, if only the parents received the appropriate support.” Many comments mirrored this one, “Question is too ambiguous. I believe adopting should be harder, but regulations for adoptees such as original birth certificates should be looser.”

  • 45% (291) of respondents have legal access to their Original Birth Certificate
  • 99% (638) of respondents believe that adoptees should have legal access to their Original Birth Certificate
  • 40% (258) of respondents believe that adoptive parents have the most dominant voice in adoption-related issues
  • 83% (534) of respondents believe that adoptees should have the most dominant voice in adoption-related issues
  • 11% (72) of respondents believe that adoption “saved” their life
  • 13% (88) of respondents believe that adoption “saves” lives

obcRespondents were asked if they believed that birth certificates should be amended after an adoption takes place. There were 8% (54) of respondents who answered affirmatively. Comments included, “It should only be changed if the adoptee requests it, never the parents.” Another said, “I think that there should be two birth certificates, the first with all of the information regarding biological parents, and the second with information regarding the adoptive family. The child should get to pick which certificate they will use for legal purposes when they are ready to decide that.” And another, “I think for legal purposes the adoptive parents should be added, but I believe that the true parents should remain on the certificate as well, so that we don’t get robbed of our ancestory [sic].” Others said, “Amended to add adoptive parents. Not deleting the original info” and “I believe all parties / parents should be listed for family history / ancestry purposes. Marriages, divorces and other records are available. Why not adoption?” And lastly, “Instead of amending a birth certificate, an adoption certificate should be written. It can look just like a birth certificate, but list adoptive parents, child name, location adoption was finalized, etc.”

gotten rightOne of the final questions of the survey asked respondents if they believed that society has gotten adoption right or if there is room for improvement. There were 90% (578) of respondents who answered that there is room for improvement.

Here is a sample of the comments:

  • “There should be an option for, “there is SO much wrong, and SO much room for improvement.”
  • “It’s way off. It needs a major adjustment.”
  • “It’s way off. It needs a major adjustment”
  • “It should be illegal to sell a child and erase their history. Then brand them with their owners name”
  • “Prefer to have no unplanned pregnancies which leads to abandoning babies. Better contraception education and access is needed!”
  • “Society is still dealing with lots of shame around childlessness, and bias about poverty and disadvantage which makes it ripe for the current narrative of saving children. Instead of working on our feelings about these things in tandem with helping bio families stay together.”
  • “I think a new model is needed. Guardianship without removing identity”
  • “There is a critical need for improvement.”
  • “no. It’s completely wrong. It’s not for the child even though that is the lie that is told. It’s for the adoptive parents.”
  • “Adoption should be illegal. Family Prservation [sic] first, kinship care and then guardianship. Absolutely no adoption. Ever.”
  • “It doesn’t need improvement – it needs to be torn to the ground completely overhauled by taking into account the lived experiences of Adoptee’s first, then siblings of Adoptee’s (both adoptive and biological), trauma and adoption competent psychologists, then Natural Mother’s and Father’s and other Natural extended families, Then Adoptive Parents, and NEVER those who run the system currently.”
  • “society has adoption all wrong. The focus must always be what’s best for the adoptee, not the adults who couldn’t make good choices.”
  • “The laws need to be updated an changed. They are too one sided .All are FOR the birth parents an AGAINST the ADOPTEES.”
  • “Family preservation should be the focus rather than tear a family apart.”
  • “There is a lot of room for improvement not just in adoption but in helping families to raise their children in healthy environments.”
  • “Adoption has failed the children in every aspect”
  • “Adoption should be abolished and replaced with guardianship”
  • “Society has made a disaster of adoption.”
  • “I no longer support adoption that is not done with the full consent of the child, and I do think there are limitations to when a child can give consent without real or implied coercion. I support the guardianship model of enabling children to maintain their birth identities and ties while giving the legal rights required to parent given to adoptive parents.”
  • “There is MASSIVE room for improvement. Starting with increasing efforts at family preservation, ending the legal destruction of an adoptee’s heritage and birth certificate and the assumption that adoption is required for a child to have permanent family.”
  • “Adoption as it is today is an abomination against humanity and is nothing more than society-sanctioned human trafficking.”
  • “Adoption needs a complete overhaul. Family preservation needs to be the focus first.”
  • “The adoptee voice needs to bee magnified so prome [sic] can see how complex it truly is. It touches every facet of your life and you may not realise it right away. Many issues come from unresolved and unacknowledged pain.”
  • “Adoption should be abolished”

Conclusion

Thank you to all the 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: Adoptee Perceptions. Your Lived Experience. NAAM 2018.

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. There were 439 comments and they will be included on two follow-up posts in order to dignify each and every response. Please stay tuned for those over the coming days.

Thank You,

The Adoption Surveys Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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