I am an adult adoptee (adopted as an infant) and also work in the field of adoption. I work with adoptive parents, birth families, and adopted kiddos. Why I often point out the importance of the adoptee’s voice to birth families and adoptive families I have not ever really taken the time to think about it on a personal level. As I sit here thinking “why is the adoptee’s voice the most important voice?” I think the answer impacts me the most is that in the end, adoption really is about the adoptee. This is not to discredit the importance of birth families or adoptive families but really, the adoptee is at the center of the adoption.
In my work, I work with all types of adoptions and adoptive families. Much of the work I do revolves around infant placements. When I am talking about ongoing relationships with birth parents and adoptive parents one of the biggest things I try to point out is that they can make decisions but eventually it is going to be up to the adoptee and they are going to have to respect that, even if it is not what they had necessarily agreed to or what. I also do a large amount of work around post-adoption education and support. Many of the kiddos and families I work within this setting have adopted internationally or through the foster care system. This is a whole different scenario where birth families may not have been known or children were removed involuntarily for safety reasons. However, even in these cases, the adoptee’s voice needs to be heard.
When I think about my voice as an adoptee, I think it boils down to one thing. This is my story. It is not my parent’s story; it is not my birth parent’s story. I was the one who was adopted. We are the ones who were adopted. I cannot speak for every adoptee out there. We are all different, have our own thoughts and perspectives, but I think the one thing that we can all agree on is that adoption is our personal story. I think that is the most important thing for people to realize and why my voice matters the most. It is my story to tell. It is my decision if I want to have a relationship with my birth family. It is my decision if I want to search for my birth family. It is my feelings that are involved. No one has the “right” to tell me how to feel or not feel.
I think oftentimes the adoptee’s voice is somewhat forgotten. Think about it. Decisions are made for us. Our families were “decided for us.” Some were selected by the birth family, some by the state or local department of social services, and others by a country’s government. In some ways the decision was already made about what type of relationship we were going to have with our birth families. I understand that these types of decisions are out of our control; however, as adoptees get older their voice needs to be heard. If they want to search for their birth family then adoptive parents need to be supportive. State and Government entities need to make it easier for this to happen. Because ultimately, the only one left hurt is the adoptee.
To my fellow adoptee: let your voice be heard. Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard. Remember whatever your thoughts or feelings are around your adoption they are your thoughts and feelings. There is no wrong way to think and feel. Adoption is filled with both joys and losses. Each of us adoptees feels differently about that. We feel differently about what we have lost and differently about what we have gained. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you are supposed to feel. I have often heard over the years; “well, if I was you I would…” well guess what, that person is not me. No one can say what they would do if they were in my shoes. Only I can determine that. I love my adoption story. I happily share it with anyone who wants to hear it and hope others learn/can be helped from it. But that is my decision to make and my story to share.