People Are Opening Up About Their Honest Experiences With Adoption

·16 min read

Note: This post contains mentions of addiction and abuse.

Every story of adoption is unique, and either adopting children or being adopted is an experience that can build a loving family unit.

A couple sits and laughs with their baby in her nursery
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It can also be an emotional journey, or one involving varying levels of trauma depending on the specific adoption circumstances. I recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their personal adoption stories. Here are some of the insightful responses written by community members:

1."I was adopted at birth, and after two weeks, my birth mother claimed she was under duress when she signed the adoption papers. The court sided with my adoptive parents (thankfully!). I’ve grown up always knowing I was adopted and never had that, 'They didn’t love me! They didn’t want me!' after-school special feeling. I was loved and wanted by the family that adopted me, and it was more than enough!"

Parents smile with their young child in their kitchen

"Fast-forward to 19 and meeting my birth father for the first time, and I found out I was the product of a one-night stand, which meant nothing to me, but interesting to know. Seeing him was weird because it was the first time I’d seen someone who had the same features as me. He didn’t want to pursue any sort of relationship — no biggie — but it’s weird knowing he’s been in the same city as me my whole life, and I have a half-sister somewhere too ... I’m 36 now with a great relationship with my adoptive parents and a wonderful family of my own, so being adopted isn’t something that I would say defines me — just an interesting factoid about myself. —alexd4f1731164

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2."I was adopted in 1983 in Chicago via a 'baby broker.' My biological mother wasn't treated very well when she was pregnant with me, and both she and my parents were ripped off major money at my birth. I was in foster care for two weeks but not given identification from what I can tell for the first 11 months of my life. According to documents I have found, a group of adoptions (including mine) helped lend to the federal Anti-Fraudulent Adoption Practices Act of 1984."

A person signs a document

"I love my parents, but they were willing to pay a hell of a lot of money for a white baby at the time. The agency they went through was messy, and their marriage was messy. They had two children of their own after me, and my father wound up marrying the woman who ended up being my narcissistic abuser for 30 years. I am the scapegoat. I have met my biological family, and that story is incredibly interesting IMO. I went my whole life as undiagnosed Autistic/ADHD and feel I could have gotten to that dx faster had I had access to medical history." —Emily

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3."I’m a trans racial adoptee (TRA), meaning I’m of one race and my parents are a different one. I’m Chinese, and my parents are white. I was adopted as a baby. I never knew my birth parents and don’t plan to find them. I’ve always known I’m adopted. My parents were open about that all the time. I think the most challenging thing I’ve faced as a TRA is that it’s noticeable that I don’t look like my parents, and that’s made me really self-conscious."

"I never wanted new school kids to know that the red-haired, white-skinned, blue-eyed lady is my mom. If they knew, they’d ask questions that were really invasive and rude. ('Why don’t you look the same? They're not your real parents — are you adopted?' etc.). It really bothered me that random kids at school or public places felt they had the right to ask things like this. It’s been better since (I feel more OK saying I’m adopted), but the memory and feelings I have are still there. I love my family though and wouldn’t change anything about them." —Mel275

4."My sister and I were both adopted from birth. We grew up knowing we were, but it wasn’t strange to us since it was all we knew. It was always like a 'fun fact' to pull out at parties. The questions typically go, 'Did you know?' 'Do you know your biological parents?' and, 'Do you want to meet your biological parents?' It was always fun answering because people were so genuinely curious, and they were easy questions to answer."

A couple smiles with their two daughters

"Yes, I knew, no, I don’t know my biological parents, and I’m not terribly emotionally invested in finding my biological parents. If it happened in an easy, non-stressful way, I would do it, but I wouldn’t go out and try to find them (unless there was a medical reason). I think, contrary to popular belief, the magical 'family' connection to biological relatives happens less often than people realize." — Meatloafismysafeword

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5."My adoptive mother actually fought in court WITH my birth mother against social services to be able to adopt us. My birth mother was all for it, but social services had a bee in their bonnet about it. Honestly, social services messed me up a lot as a child — my brother was just a baby so doesn't remember it, but unfortunately I have long-lasting issues because of how social services treated me. Mum won, and as a result I still got to see my birth mother, and I'm very close to her these days."

A judge taps a gavel during a court hearing

"She's a friend, confidante, and family member, and she's helped me a lot with my mental illness, because I inherited it from her (schizophrenia). People often ask what it's like, but I've not known any different my whole life. It's like if I asked a kid who stayed with their birth mother what it's like. It's just a part of my life, and I have a very big family because of it! People assume I come from a tragic past, and there are elements I don't want to discuss here, but my brother and I were wanted — my birth mother just couldn't care for us, so she did the bravest thing a mother can do and gave us up." –angiew42d9a9178

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6."I was adopted at birth and grew up knowing I was adopted. At the tail end of 2020, my husband and I were discussing having a child the following year, but I was nervous going into it not knowing what possible health issues could arise. With the help of Facebook sleuths, I found my birth mother and her children. My parents at the same time had hired a P.I. who found the same woman but for a price, obviously. Turns out I had twin younger brothers and a younger sister (different dads)."

A mother holds her young baby

"They were super excited to get to know me and wanted to talk all day every day, but I obviously was busy with work and my subsequent pregnancy, not to mention they were total strangers. Her daughter told me if I couldn't pick up where we'd left off and become one big happy family, I could just leave them alone. So I did. Honestly, they're more my birth relatives than birth family, so it's no loss for me." — kungfupanda

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7."I was adopted at 4 months old from South Korea and raised by a white family in Minnesota. Adoption can be beautiful, but adoption for me has also been a very complex, complicated, nuanced, and traumatic experience as a TRA (transracial adoptee). I grew up the only Asian/BIPOC person in my family, as well as the only adopted person. I also did not grow up with a lot of diversity in my community, which was 97% white. I was the diversity for all the white people in my life."

A young girl carries a backpack and her notebook to school with her mother by her side

"I experienced, and still do, racism, microaggressions, bias, and prejudice from some of my white adoptive family members and many of my peers and people in my community. I grew up not understanding any of it because my Korean ethnicity was erased upon arrival to America. My white adoptive parents did not do much to keep my culture, traditions, foods, or languages alive. I was raised to essentially be a 'white' American. I have quite a bit of trauma from being relinquished and adopted ... Can I say adoption is beautiful? Sure, but it’s layered with complexities and trauma as well." —KKAD

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8."I was adopted at birth. Found out by accident around the age of 5. Adoption was complex for me. Before I discovered I was adopted, I recognized our family dynamic was different. I could tell how we were treated differently than other kids in our family."

"While I think the right intentions were there, I don't think the adoption industry really screens adoptive parents enough, provides enough education on trauma, etc. It's advertised as a Band-Aid to infertility, and it's not. Growing up as the kid with the job of healing that wound for them was a HUGE weight on my shoulders. When I couldn't heal that for them, they started resenting us. The abuse and alcoholism started. I lived my entire childhood walking on eggshells not knowing what to expect, trying so hard to be perfect out of fear they'd disown me. My trauma had to be suppressed because it hurt their feelings. It made me ungrateful to feel pain from losing my first family. I wasn't allowed to grieve, seek my identity, etc., my records falsified and my rights to them stripped." —lorilydell87

9."I was a surrogate for a gay couple who had been trying to adopt for 10 years. One of the parents had been adopted themself, so they were very motivated to grow their family that way. They were open to an older kid, different race, etc. But they waited for a decade and never got matched. Most adoption agencies are faith-based and discriminate against gay people. I want people who say 'adoption is an option' to know this." —sarahs402d05f80

Two men kiss their baby
Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Getty Images

10."I was adopted from India to a white family. My mum died in childbirth, and my dad was an alcoholic and very poor so, knowing he couldn’t look after me, he handed me over to an orphanage. Born in a dirt street with no birth records, I was literally assigned a birth date for the adoption papers. Apparently, I was definitely born somewhere between August–December ‘93."

"I arrived in Australia around 4 years old. Obviously, I look completely different from my family, but I’ve never felt out of place. I still keep in touch with the orphanage who informed me my father had died, and they were unable to locate any other relatives, so for me I’ve only had my adopted family. Now that I’m thinking about starting a family of my own, I’m desperate to have a biological link to someone. People say just adopt, but for me being an adopted person with no biological links, I don’t want to and find a lot of people don’t understand that. I love my family, but knowing I could bring my own bloodline into the world is so important for me." —Bailey Q

11."My husband and I have four children; our older three are biological, and we adopted our youngest son from China in 2017. Our son came home when he was almost 2; he has Down syndrome and a repaired heart defect. He is the loveliest, sweetest, naughtiest tornado. He just finished kindergarten, and we are so excited to see him grow."

A baby holds their parent's finger

"We are currently waiting to bring home another son; we started the process in late 2019, and then everything shut down. He's now 8 years old with multiple health issues, and it's so, so hard because we don't know when he will be able to come home. We're never giving up on him, but we recently decided to start an adoption with another Asian country while we wait. Every child deserves a family; we are so thankful to be able to provide a loving home for our boys after they were unable to stay with their birth families." —arliss4

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12."My biological mum and I moved from Ireland to England when I was 2. Not long after, she met my dad. He married Mum and adopted me within a couple years. Thirteen years later, they divorced. I'm no contact with my biological mum. My dad has always been there for me. Made it clear blood does NOT equal family. And that family is a privilege, not a right." —nevl

A father and his son sit on a park bench
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13."I was adopted at 3 days old by an overt male narcissist and a covert female narcissist who were both enmeshed with each other. They had one son 9.5 months after I was adopted. Over the years, I endured various forms of abuse (psychological, physical, mental, emotional, financial, medical/emotional neglect) as their family scapegoat. They provided for my basic needs. I went no contact, and they are trying to punish me for breaking up their family unit."

"They are trying to sue for visitation with my oldest child. The entire system of adoption is narcissistic, and there are so many stories like mine. Adoption is a very lucrative business. The highest bidder gets a baby to take as their own. The families never receive any form of counseling to help them understand and figure out their own grief/trauma. The agencies should have to use some of the funds from the parents to enroll in trauma therapy/grief counseling and classes." — laurenflanagan84

14."I was adopted when I was 14 after being in foster care for a few years. I was adopted by my foster placement. I did not have contact with my biological parents until I was 18. Once I was 18 and found them, we started talking on the phone, and I have a wonderful relationship with my biological family."

A woman walks on a hiking trail with her mother

"There are times when balancing the two families is difficult. I sometimes have to clarify which 'mom' I’m referring to, and I know I’ll need to explain the situation to my kids once they are older." —jenniphermariec

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15."I was given up for adoption at birth by a teen mother. I was adopted by a SINGLE 28-year-old man who already had two sons and was going through a divorce. Why he wanted me so badly, only to abuse me the way that he did, was so confusing to me. But now, at 42 years old, I realize that was the reason."

"Adopted children are not checked on, anymore, EVER. I endured a lifetime of abuse by my adopter and then also his wife when he remarried when I was 5 years old, because of this broken adoption system in America. The fact that someone wants to adopt a child does not automatically make them a good or even fit parent. I was physically abused so brutally that I am now having to have brain scans and things done because, at 42 years old, I have the memory of a dementia patient, but being punched repeatedly in the head as a child will do that to you. I was medically neglected so that I almost died at 15. I spent my life being gaslit and expected to be grateful because someone adopted me 😒." —ardisglover26

16."I could write a book about the ways adoption has affected my life, the closed adoptee with the stolen identity, who can never legally get it back."

"It touches every part of your life — it starts the day you are born/taken and it never leaves you — you take it to the grave with you. Reunion with your natural family solves nothing. My closed adoption from the '60s was wrong, injurious, and harmful, mentally, psychologically, and other ways. I could say it ruined my life. It took from me legally everything that I needed and will not let me legally have any of it back. It is, as Stephanie Flood so aptly put it, 'living in a psychological prison.' Not only did it affect me and my life and mental health for my entire life, it also robbed my natural mother and father of their natural child. It also f****d up my adopters' lives, and they ended up trying to cope with three messed-up adopted children who were not their own. None of us were given any tools, counseling, or help." —jackieardern693

17."At age 22 I was adopted by my aunt and uncle. I was raised by my biological parents until age 18. Most people find that odd when I share that with them. They also adopted my adult brother too. I lived with my adopted family while in college. It was a loving and respectful home."

A woman sorts through a box of her belongings while talking to two adult relatives

"The only problem I think we really had is they kept forgetting I was already raised. The oldest child they had at the time was 14; the youngest was 9. So their frame of reference was a teenager, so they would 'accidentally' try to parent me as if I were not an adult. They would have rules for their home that made sense for children but not for their adult children. We would often have to discuss those things because I felt my adopted mom wanted to treat us like kids. She loved having eggs in her nest, and the fact that we were already at that age where most are out of the nest worried her." —desireestokes

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18."Blood does not equal family. Family is a privilege, not a right. 0–18 I was abused and passed between relatives who would just give me back to my abusers when they asked. On my 18th birthday, I snuck out my window and never came back."

"My roommate in college brought me home with her after graduation and her family took me in. That has been my real mom ever since. She never 'legally' adopted me, but I know I am hers. I’m now raising a homeless teen who I don’t have guardianship/adoption of, but they are my real kid through and through. Blood doesn’t make a family, but neither does a piece of paper." —godsrezgirl

Note: Some answers have been lightly edited for length and/or clarity.