Choosing to use adult adoptee advice when it suits you…

21 May

Over the years I have watched parents pull out the “adult adoptees said” card when trying to justify their decision. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. The current discussion I have been reading and thought it would make a good post, is on whether or not the parents should search and exactly what the means.  The discussion seems to hinge on the fact that adult adoptees have told them it is up to the adult adoptee to do the search.

Up front, I do want to say the adult adoptee needs to be the one who does the actual journey of the search, but like any topic, there are so many shades of grey and questions that must be considered before you can apply it to your situation.

Part of the confusion I see is what the statement actually includes or means.  That seems to cause a lot of confusion, with some taking it literally in that the adult adoptee needs to start from square one, with not one iota of additional information, other than what the parent was given at the time of adoption (which can really be nothing).  I read the statement quite different in that if the adoptee has grown up in a closed adoption, when they become adults, it has to be their choice and their journey, to take, or not. One would hope that up to the point of becoming an adult, the child has been told and shown that their parents have dealt with any fears, and are willing to back their child in either choice, and be there if they are invited.

As far as any advice given, the parents need to dig down into what that advice means to the adult adoptee giving it. I would encourage them to open the dialogue and delve into understanding the parameters, what it includes, or excludes. Explore the different layers by understanding the intent. Seldom is a single statement of advice a good fit for all situation’s or interpretations because it is lacking in context and content. It would be like someone telling you to turn on Broadway to get where you are going, when you have to get to Broadway from the other side of the country. The advice of any single statement can’t be nicely packaged as either/or, and here is the line in the sand where the parent over steps.

Below are just some different thoughts that are intended to show how many layers there to that single statement of advice that adult adoptees are the ones to search, for parents to consider from my standpoint. These only scratch the surface. Each situation is different.

In either domestic or international adoption if you search with the intent to open the adoption when the child is young, and you have the intention after deep consideration to make the openness ongoing – then that is pretty cut and dried – you are the parent. The adult adoptee choice to search is not relevant to the conversation.

In international adoption if you search with the intent of compiling all the information you possibly can before the trail goes cold, so that if/when the day comes that your child wishes to go on that journey, then all you have done is what many parents do at the time of the adoption if it is domestic – they keep the information to give to their child when they become adults, because it is their child’s information. To refuse to create the paper trail when you know that in twenty years there will not be anyone who has kept records, and you used the justification that adult adoptees said it was not the parents place to search, then you are just using their advice to give you the easy out.

You really need to understand your stake in choosing to follow or not follow the advice. Tough to do, but delve into your motivations and determine if you are making that choice based on your own desires and needs, or genuinely in your child’s best interests over the entire course of their life. You have to understand the need to search some/many will have, and the likelihood of success with what you have now for them to start their journey, and assess if you can do more now.  The long-term risk if there are any genetic diseases that can be mitigated with early knowledge, or the risk if your child needs a bone marrow transplant, and the chances of a match on the registry. The generational impact on their children if they didn’t search, who may choose to take that journey because of their desire or need to search out their roots. The underlying right for your child to know where they came from and how they may feel being denied that right. There are so many more aspects you need to explore, that if you can make that decision quickly and easily, and it falls in-line with how you felt when you first decided to adopt, you can probably assume you are thinking about your needs only, and using the advice as justification.

Far too many parents whose job it is to make all the everyday decisions for children and have no problem making big or little decisions, fail when it comes to adoption decisions. They use whatever excuse to justify not doing something because it is out of their comfort zone. If they ask the child about something adoption related in such a way as to illicit the answer they want, when they wouldn’t ask the same question when it comes to anything else similar (but not adoption related), then they have simply done it to justify their needs and desires.

Hope that made sense…I believe parents should acquire all the information they can for their child so that if/when they are adults and decide to go on that journey of search they have the best fighting chance of success.


Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , ,

9 responses to “Choosing to use adult adoptee advice when it suits you…

  1. momsomniac

    May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Hmmmm, can’t help wondering if, in part, my recent comments prompted this (?)

    With members of any marginalized group, there tend to be shared experiences, but as you know – there is no hive mind. I know we agree that individuals have a right to speak for themselves. And a right to change what they want, think, and feel over time. Of course, the adult adoptee in my life is half the parental equation, so it has been a dance for me, especially when what he says conflicts with what many others say (and while C is too young yet to say for himself).

    What adoptees face is akin to racism and it can be as subject to anger and denial from the offending parties. Obviously, anyone who intentionally lets a trail run cold is not honoring the intent of the concept of “letting the power rest with the adoptee”. That would be making sure it can’t.

    Compounding the problem is the parental tendency to feel possessive. While that is almost never in the child’s best interest, it can be a frightening emotion when the child literally has other parents. I am NOT unique in believing it’s the parent’s job to “suck it up” and do right by their kid, but it can be hard to see what that means through such fear. I imagine it’s even harder when there are no bio-children – even though one’s children being bio is no guarantee either.

    At this point, I can only hope that what we have been told is true, share what we have with C as time progresses, and let him lead knowing full well his path may not be steady.

    Genetics is a 100 pound monkey in our home due to issues our bio kids face. We’ve been contemplating the costs of genetic testing since we have nothing on Mr. Coffee’s family history. Reading this is timely – I need to bring it up as something we should do for C as well.


    • The adopted ones

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Mom – not at all – honestly – I will email you the link to the discussion.


      • momsomniac

        May 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm

        Still, it made me think – and that’s good.


  2. eagoodlife

    May 22, 2012 at 12:46 am

    How very much simpler it would be if all adoptees came complete with a full record of their history, family tree, medical records and a DNA test result! In my experience and in that of many, many others I know about NO information can be trusted to be accurate or true until thoroughly checked due to many factors to do with the ethics of adoption and the attitude to adoptees.


  3. Momma C

    May 22, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I suspect I was part of that discussion too. I felt like “adult adoptees say…” was a convenient excuse for some (but not all) of the ap’s who are in the never search camp. Which is problematic for many reasons not the least of which is that many other adult adoptees will talk about growing up in homes where they would not have felt comfortable searching for (or even talking about) their first family. Seems like a potentially bad cycle- “we won’t search cause they don’t talk about it, I can’t tell them I want to search because they won’t talk my first family…” Meanwhile the trail gets colder and colder. I also thought the comment about not wanting them to have multiple parents was telling- I think that is a big reason people won’t search. But our kids have multiple parents, regardless of whether or not we search.
    With your permission I would like to link this post on the discussion.


  4. veggiemom

    May 23, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Thanks for this. I used to wonder if I was making the right decision to search for my children’s families after reading opinions saying that it should be up to the child. I stopped wondering when I saw the benefit the searches had for both of my daughters in different ways. I love you laid it all here and will be sharing this post with many friends who are torn about searching.


  5. shadowtheadoptee

    May 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Excellent post.



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