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Adoption

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Being adopted may feel quite straightforward when you are young, but when you are a teen, you will probably have lots of questions that you want answered, and you could have some very strong feelings to cope with.

Adoption is usually a very open situation these days, and sometimes you may know your birth parents from when you were very young. However, some adopted children may not have had any contact with their birth parents, and they may want to find out many things about them.

Why does adoption take place?

Adoption is when a family takes a child from different birth parents into their lives to bring up as their own.

  • People adopt a child because they want a family.
    • They may adopt a child because they are unable to conceive a child (get pregnant and have a baby).
    • They may feel they are in a position to make a difference in a child's life.
  • Birth parents may decide to put their child up for adoption for many reasons, usually because they want their child to have the best quality of life and do not feel they can provide it.

Feelings around adoption

There is no rule book on how you are likely to feel about being adopted, but there are some things that many people seem to share when finding out they were adopted, or when they have grown up knowing they were adopted.

  • Some feelings of abandonment
    • The knowledge that your birth parents gave you up for adoption can bring up feelings of rejection, such as "Why didn't they want me?" or, "Wasn't I good enough?"
  • Low self-esteem
    • During adolescence many young people go through an identity crisis. If you find out you were adopted during this time, it can make this period even harder to deal with.
  • Feelings of betrayal
    • If you didn't always know that you were adopted, this is a normal reaction to such unexpected news. You can feel betrayed by your adoptive family as well as by your birth parents.
  • Feeling like you don't belong
    • There are times when most young teens will have thoughts like, "Are these my real parents?" - especially when they are going through puberty and may be having difficulties relating to their parents anyway. Having parents who are not your birth parents can complicate this enormously.
    • If there is no resemblance between you and your adoptive family, you may feel like you don't fit in.
  • Some people find they have problems in their relationships.
    • They may think people are going to abandon them again, so they find it harder to trust or get close to others.

Living with having been adopted  

Dealing with adoption issues can be really difficult for some people, while others find it less troubling. There can be times when it is harder to deal with than usual, for example if you are having some conflict with your parents, or there are other family problems, such as your family splitting up.

What can you do?

  • Talk to family or friends about your feelings, or another person who might really understand, such as someone else who has also been adopted. It is likely that there are support groups for adopted people near where you live. In South Australia the Adoption Services may be able to help. 
    https://www.childprotection.sa.gov.au/adoption .
  • Talk to a counsellor or mental health specialist if your feelings are affecting your life. A counsellor who is experienced in dealing with adoption would be particularly helpful.
  • Talk to yourself by writing it down. Getting the things in your head onto paper can be a great relief. To see your thoughts in front of you can often give you a new perspective on what is happening.

Be realistic and remember that not all of the difficulties that you have are due to being adopted. Most teens have some difficult times in their relationship with their parents or other family members. Have a look at the topic 'Relationships with parents – working it out'.

Inter-country adoption

Some people choose to adopt children from other countries.

  • In Australia, there are more inter-country adoptions than local placement adoptions.
  • When people were born in another country, they may not look like their adoptive parents. Feelings of not belonging can be stronger.
  • Differences may be confusing and hard to deal with when you are growing up.
  • Some people may ask insensitive questions just because they are curious and do not understand that the questions may be hurtful. Others may have racist attitudes or make hurtful comments because they are afraid of people who are different to themselves.

Although differences may be confusing, they can also be a cause for celebration. Your parents may help you to explore and embrace some of your original country's culture or you may do this by yourself.

The 'stolen generation'

In the past in Australia, many Indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and communities. The 'stolen generation' is the name given to the Indigenous children who were removed from their families under Child Welfare Legislation. The issues around this are too large to be covered in this topic.

To read more see:

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 
http://aiatsis.gov.au/ 

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet 
http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/  

Bringing them Home; Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/Social_Justice/bth_report/index.html

Searching for birth parents

If you do not know your birth parents you will probably have lots of questions about them. You may wonder what they look like, what they were good at and why they put their child up for adoption.

Sometimes people find searching for their birth parents is a good way to put these questions to rest and move on with their lives. Finding out that your birth parents were similar to you in some respects can fill in some of the blanks and bring about a sense of understanding.

Before you start to track down your birth parents, it is a good idea to do quite a lot of thinking first.

  • Why are you really searching for your birth parents?
    • Is it about finding them or finding more out about yourself? You can use the search as a way of self-exploration and discovery.
  • Have you got a support network in place?
    • Searching for and then meeting with birth parents can be a very tough process that should not be undertaken without some support.
    • Will your family and friends help you along the way, and should you contact some organisations that could provide additional support and advice?
  • What are your expectations?
    • Meeting your birth parents will not suddenly fix problems that you have been dealing with for years. It will still take time and healing for these issues to be worked through.
    • Be aware that your birth parents may not wish to be part of your future.
  • How much contact will you have with your birth parents?
    • Just as it takes time to get to know a new friend, it takes time to get to know your birth parents.
    • If you plan to only meet up with them for special occasions or holidays, the 'getting to know you' process can take a long time.
    • If you don't feel connected to them straight away, you may have more feelings of rejection and loss.
  • Consider how your adoptive parents feel about the search.
    • Your adoptive parents can also go through strong emotions. They too can experience feelings of rejection and loss.
    • They may be worried that you will go out of their lives, that you will not look on them as parents any more or that you could get hurt or disappointed.
    • Talking to them is the best way to find out and stop any misunderstandings.
  • Be aware that there may be many setbacks and disappointments along the way.
    • It is possible that your birth parents did not make the information available for you to find them. Further issues of abandonment and disappointment can follow.
    • Your birth parents may not fit the idea you had of them, or they may not be alive anymore.

Preparing yourself can reduce any negative impacts, but the results may still be very hard to cope with.

It is normal to experience feelings of confusion and loss because you were adopted, but not all of your problems will be due to your adoption. All families have hard times. Just think about how many families that you know who have split up. It is important to try to work out your relationships with the people that you know and who are close to you, and avoid hoping that finding your birth parents will solve other problems.

Resources

South Australia

References

Adoption in South Australia
https://www.childprotection.sa.gov.au/adoption   

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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