7 Things Adopted People Wish You Knew
Since its inception in 2000, National Adoption Day has been raising awareness around finding permanent homes for the more than 117,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.
Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, we celebrate the families who've given homes to kids in need and hope the dreams of thousands more come true as their adoptions get finalized.
Just last year, 5,000 children in foster care found their forever homes on National Adoption Day — and the annual one-day event has placed nearly 70,000 children in permanent homes since it began 18 years ago.
To celebrate National Adoption Day this year, we've found 7 interesting facts adopted people wish everyone knew.
1. Not everyone wants to find their birth parents.
In the movies, if you're adopted, it seems like your sole mission in life must be to locate and build a relationship with your biological parents. The clichéd trope has even made its way to contemporary shows like This Is Us. But the reality is that a lot of adopted people never face this struggle.
According to some, it's unnerving when those around them constantly press the matter. "Friends and people who know we were adopted always ask us how come we don't want to find our birth mother and have never wanted to," shares one redditor who sees her adoption as "a blessing which gave us a better life."
Another adds, "if you were adopted from birth, it pretty much feels like your adoptive parents are your only parents. That's how I will always view them, because that's what they are to me."
So if you have a friend who's never gone to the lengths of connecting with their bio family, it's probably because they're happier that way.
2. The term "real family" is hurtful and offensive.
It doesn't take a lot of self-reflection to understand why talking to someone who was adopted about their "real family" can be inconsiderate and often hurtful.
As one person explains, "I hate the phrase 'real family' when it comes to adoption. I hate that adopted children are, intentionally or not, made to feel as if their lives aren't 'real.' Growing up, I was told that I'm not my brother's 'real sister.' I've had relatives say I'm not part of their family because I'm not my dad's 'real child.'"
For most adopted people, the reality is actually the exactly opposite. "My biological dad is part of my DNA but he's not my 'real' family," the same person continues.
It makes perfect sense. Be more considerate with your word choice, people.
3. Families don't always look like each other.
It's 2018 and not all families look alike, but that doesn't mean you have to make them uncomfortable about it! Diversity is something to be celebrated, not shamed.
According to one person who was adopted at just 8 months of age and has lived her whole life in the U.S., "everyone thinks I'm just a separate kid" when she walks around with her parents. "Occasionally, people ask me if I'm lost."
It's heartbreaking that children are ostracized just because they don't look like their parents, and we should reconsider how we approach and address families that break the constructed molds we have in our heads.
4. We need to get better at talking about adoption.
Berating people who are adopted for not contacting their birth parents or not looking like their families is never welcome, but that doesn't mean we have to shy away from speaking about adoption altogether.
As some adopted people share, the fact that many of us walk on eggshells when approaching the topic can get pretty uncomfortable. "I get the impression that people want to know but tiptoe around it like they do so many other conversations, like racial identity or religion," shares one redditor. "These conversations are so often fraught with tension because of ignorance and highly defensive attitudes."
Understanding that some people's family identities are fundamentally different from ours is the first step in opening the conversation. As the person continues, "It's not bad, and it doesn't have to be a big deal, but it's still reality and I think that people should talk about it more. The more people understand the experience of others, the better our world gets."
5. Being adopted is not an identity.
When someone on reddit asked adopted people what they think the rest of society doesn't understand about adoption, many responded that they don't view being adopted as a defining characteristic.
"I literally put being adopted as just as fact of life that is as important to me as a favorite color," writes one person. "I was shocked at how [people] responded with sorry's and got really awkward and empathetic when in reality it [isn't] important to me."
Another explains, "making a child is easy, raising one is the hard part. So I guess what I want people to know is, chill because it's not a big deal."
6. Most people know they're adopted.
Thanks to the entertainment industry and its many movies centered around adoption, a lot of us grow up thinking that we might be adopted, but our parents just never chose to tell us. In fact, we joke about this with younger siblings and other family members all the time — if an outlier doesn't share in the rest of the family's favorite food, for example, we're quick to utter a version of "you must be adopted."
But the reality is that "most families, if not all, will tell you. Keeping it a secret isn't really a thing that happens," according to one adopted redditor. Others share that they've known they were adopted their whole lives, or at least as early as they can remember.
Essentially, there are two types of adoption: closed, where the records are sealed and neither party knows much about the other; and open, where one or both parties knows about the other.
Even in the closed scenario, most parents will tell their children the truth pretty early on. Learning you were adopted in adolescence or later might happen sometimes, but it's definitely not the norm.
7. Adopted people love the book 'Why Was I Adopted?'
Before children are old enough to understand the concept of adoption, many parents turn to books to help them better explain.
And according to many who were adopted, a favorite is Carole Livingston's 1960 Why Was I Adopted? "It's a really good book," says one redditor. Another adds, "I'm 40 now and that book is still on my shelf."
Other more modern books you might consider reading to your adopted children are I've Loved You Since Forever, And That's Why She's My Mama and The Family Book.
Happy National Adoption Day! If you were adopted and want to share a fact that most non-adopted people don't seem to understand, write it in the comments. We hope more and more children find their forever homes this year.