In adoption, the birth family, the adoptive family, and the adoptee each have a different perspective. Every single perspective is important since they all make the adoption triad thrive and prosper. This article is an interview with my mother (who adopted five children with me being her only biological child) and my sister, who was adopted at the age of ten by my family. I explore their perspective as well as my own.
An Adoptive Mother’s Perspective
Q: Why did you decide to adopt?
A: Initially, after finding out I had fertility problems, I wanted to adopt because I wanted to have a certain amount of children. My husband and I did seek medical help and I was able to conceive our daughter Emily. With more medical help, I was able to conceive again but miscarried. After the third pregnancy, I thought I was done with fertility treatments and I wouldn’t need to think about adoption anymore since I would have my two kids and be done. Unfortunately, my second child passed away from Leukemia at the age of three, which left me with my 9-year-old daughter. After a year of mourning and processing, we decided to look further into the adoption process that we had already started while I was going through my fertility treatments. First, we went through the Idaho foster care system.
Q: What was the process for going through the Idaho foster care system?
A: We needed to complete Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) training classes, get background checks, and have our home inspected. Doing a home study wasn’t required to just participate in foster care at the time, but we did it because we wanted to adopt.
Q: Because you were looking to adopt, did you foster certain ages and sexes?
A: Since Emily was 10 when we started the process, we were looking for individual kids or sibling groups who were younger than 10. It didn’t matter if they were boys or girls. We wanted a variety!
Q: How many kids came through your home?
A: Over 20, but some of those kids were part of respite foster care.
Q: What was the foster care system like in Idaho?
A: It was frustrating, but I’m sure every state’s foster care system is in some way. We were supposed to have guardian ad litem for every kid that came to our home, and that never happened. I was big on advocating for what the children needed, and sometimes that made the social workers angry. It felt like a money game, and sometimes the end goal was to push reunification even if it detrimentally would hurt the child. It was also hard to get the services that the children absolutely needed, such as therapies that weren’t covered by Medicaid. We ended up quitting for a while, then we were told about a baby that needed a home in the area we were in, so we decided to take him in. After that, we wanted to continue to adopt but not through the foster care system. We were officially done with foster care after we adopted our second child.
Q: What was the adoption process like in Idaho?
A: We ended up adopting the very first boy we fostered. His biological parents’ rights were already terminated and he had been in foster care for a while. We got him when he was 11 months old and he was also from a different county. The adoption team was already in place, so the adoption went pretty quickly and smoothly.
The last boy we fostered was also adopted into our home, but that experience was not great. He was from our county and was in our home for almost two years before he was adopted. The adoption team from our county was difficult to work with. His biological parents had already lost complete custody of his siblings and they were fighting hard to not have their parental rights terminated.
Q: Did you continue to adopt?
A: Yes, we decided to go through an adoption agency instead of going through the foster care system. Our social worker recommended going through either Oregon or Texas, as they have the best communication and interstate compacts. That just entails a smoother transition for kids from one state’s foster care system to another state’s foster care system. Our adoption agency would take over transitioning the kids to Idaho.
Q: Where did you adopt from?
A: We put in our application for both Oregon and Texas for specific kids we saw on their websites. We felt confident because of our medical experience with our son who died from Leukemia that we would qualify for kids with special needs. We ended up finding a sibling group of three in Texas and that adoption went very smoothly and quickly. They were only in our home as foster kids for six months before they were officially adopted into our home.
Q: What was the transition like after the adoptions were over?
A: Some things were harder than others. Regardless of the bad behaviors that came out after the adoptions were over, I still look at my adopted kids the same as my biological kids. This is part of realizing that adopting kids is not about what the adoptive parents want but what the children want, especially if they were foster kids. They’ll come with challenges that are hereditary and can have abandonment issues when they realize they’re adopted, even if you get them when they’re babies.
Q: How did you go about talking to your adopted kids about their past?
A: We’ve always been open about it, especially since we had older kids that were adopted. For the kids we got as babies, it’s always been an open conversation that they’ve been included in when it became age-appropriate. The kids always knew that they were loved, chosen, and wanted by us, no matter what their past was like.
Q: Is there any word of advice you would give to families who are considering adoption?
A: Most people begin their adoption journey for selfish reasons because they want to gain something for themselves. If your attitude and perspective don’t change to be about helping children, you may end up very disappointed. Adoption can be a very rewarding and wonderful experience, but your attitude and perspective need to be selfless. You won’t be in the honeymoon phase forever so don’t be fooled by it. These kids do come with baggage, and you need to be prepared to deal with it. Unfortunately, love doesn’t fix everything. Make sure you surround yourself with support and people who have been through the same experience to help you understand your children’s perspective.
Interview with an Adoptee
Q: What is your story?
A: I was living with my biological mother before going into foster care the first time when I was about five years old. It was me, my older brother, my younger sister, and my younger brother together. While I was in care, my mother had to complete a case plan within about six months, and we ended up going back home to her. Unfortunately, it didn’t take a long time for her to go back to her old ways, and we were on the run before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was able to find us. After we were running away and trying to hide, my younger brother had an accident where he fell down the stairs and broke his arm. My biological mother had no choice but to call the ambulance and have him go to the hospital. He went into foster care before my younger sister and I did. My older brother disappeared and did his own thing with his friends. It took a while before my sister and I were found and we went into foster care together. We went through a couple of foster homes until we were reunited with my younger brother. We stayed at our last foster home for a couple of years until my parents adopted us. During that time, my biological father and aunt tried to fight for custody, but they didn’t realize the extent of my sister’s medical issues.
When we found out that there was a family in Idaho that wanted to adopt us, I was scared at first due to going to different homes and not trusting anyone. My parents came to visit us for the first time a couple of months before we came to Idaho. It took me a while to warm up to them, but my siblings and I eventually got excited about getting adopted. This was my first plane ride, and I thought it was fun. My parents and my new older sister met us at the airport and drove us back home. When we got to the house, we had dinner and met our new younger brothers and grandma.
Q: What is your family like?
A: It was fun having lots of people in the house. I loved eating dinner together as a family since I never had that before. My best memories are celebrating holidays and doing other things together with my family.
Q: Did you ever go through a phase of feeling upset that you were adopted?
A: Not that I was adopted, but the realization that I had a biological family that was abusive and neglectful hurt me. As I got older, I was having more issues with my depression and anxiety due to the trauma I endured. I’m grateful that I was adopted because I was able to heal from my past.
Q: Did you decide that you wanted to talk to your biological family?
A: Yes. I was 17 when I decided I wanted to talk to my biological family. I didn’t want to wait until I was 18, so my mother tracked my family down on social media and paid a fee to get phone numbers and addresses on the internet’s family lookup. I wanted to know where I came from and to hear their side of the story.
Q: How did those conversations go?
A: Not well. Most of my biological family hadn’t changed their ways and were trying to manipulate me and make my parents seem like bad people. They kept insisting that blood is the only thing that matters, but I disagreed with their perspective. I ended up cutting most ties with my family and haven’t had much contact with them except for an aunt and some cousins that I’m friends with on Facebook. They are the only biological family members that I communicate with and trust. Since everyone is still in Texas, I haven’t met anyone physically.
Q: Did you end up changing your name when you were adopted?
A: Yes. I decided to change my middle name and take my parents’ last name to signify my new life.
Q: Do you know the circumstances of your biological parents’ relationship?
A: My parents weren’t together when I was born and again when my sister was born. My younger brother has a different father. I don’t remember much about my father because he was in and out of prison several times. When he tried to get custody of us, we were able to have supervised visits with him.
Q: Are you glad you had a closed adoption?
A: Yes. It made me feel safer until I was comfortable enough to contact them.
Q: Have you noticed certain traits that come from your biological and adoptive parents?
A: Yes, I have noticed traits from both. My biological family has some mental health issues for which I thankfully have been able to get support. I thought it was due to my trauma, but it’s also hereditary. I got my blunt and honest opinions from my mother as she’s not afraid to speak her mind. My sense of humor I got from my father. We have a similar sense of humor so we’re able to joke around and bounce off each other to make the whole family laugh.
Q: How did you adjust to being part of a forever family?
A: It was hard to believe that I was getting adopted since I moved around so much. But after it was official, I finally relaxed and realized that this was really my family.
Q: Is there any advice from your perspective that you would give to a kid who was adopted?
A: Be happy with the family that you’re with because it happened for a reason. Even though the reasons might be awful, your chosen family is your true family. Don’t let your identity lie in your biological family. It may not go as well as you think, so just be prepared for that if you do decide to contact them.
Perspective from a Biological Child
Since I’m the biological child, I technically don’t have to interview myself. However, I thought it would be beneficial to talk about my part in my family’s adoption journey.
I was always the big sister and I went through a stage where it was just difficult and I missed having my parents to myself. I seemed to do better with babies and toddlers than with older kids. I know now that wasn’t a good mindset to have, but it’s also important to remind biological kids that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to talk to parents about how they feel, just like they should with a new biological sibling. That being said, it’s also a good lesson on how to be selfless and how to lift others instead of yourself. Of course, I never looked at my siblings differently because they weren’t blood-related. I love them equally and they have taught me about growth, patience, and unconditional love from their perspective on life.
I didn’t think I was necessarily treated differently but, because my siblings either had emotional or mental illnesses, I felt like a burden if I was going through something. I knew my parents were going through a lot and I didn’t want to add any more stress to them. I kept many things to myself, which hurt me more in the long run. I’m sure my parents would have loved to talk and listen to me, but it was something I struggled with for a while.
Here’s a piece of advice for the biological kids out there with adopted siblings: be selfless, yet open. It’s not about you; it’s about helping kids in their time of need and giving them the best life possible. Yes, you will feel a roller coaster of emotions and you need to be open with your parents about how you feel. However, you need to push aside any prejudices you may have and welcome your new sibling(s) with open arms. It may be difficult, but I promise you that you’ll reap the benefits of understanding their perspective later in life.
I hope these interviews helped shed some light on the perspective of those going through the adoption journey. Everyone’s story is different, but some of these scenarios are very common. Keep everyone involved in your adoption journey in your mind and heart to ensure everyone is being seen and heard and, most importantly, make sure your attitude is right.