Adoption & Foster Care

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Adoption & Foster Care

Today most people find out about their birth parents when they are young and grow up with the story of how their family was formed. Whether adopted at birth or living with biological parents for a time, children that end up being raised by another family naturally have questions about their birth parents. You will likely experience many different feelings as you grow: curiosity, anger, fear, sadness, confusion, ashamed, worried, and a feeling that you don’t belong. It’s okay to have conflicting emotions about your birth and adoptive or foster parents. While these mixed emotions can be similar for adopted and foster children, each may have specific questions.

It can be helpful to find a trusted person – a family member, friend, counselor, or spiritual leader – to talk to about it all. You might also want to talk to other people who were adopted or in foster care. You can even join a local or online support group.

Adopted children

Some people have an instant desire to find out more about their biological parents, where others may not. You may feel worried that if you find your biological parents, your adoptive parents will feel hurt or offended.

If your adoption was revealed to you later in life, you could feel angry towards your adoptive parents. You may wonder “Why didn’t they tell me earlier?” If so, find a time when you are feeling calm to ask your adoptive parents. By talking through the circumstances, and letting your adoptive parents know how you are feeling, it might help resolve your concerns. In most circumstances, your adoptive parents probably felt they were protecting you and acting in your best interests.

If you are adopted, it is possible that you might not know who your birth parents are because you were adopted at a very young age. As you get older, an important part of figuring out who you are is where you came from and the history of your family. You might decide you want to find your birth parents. This does not dishonor your adoptive family; they are and will always be a very important part of your life.

Before you begin, it is important to understand the laws that surround adoption. There are different types of adoptions in the United States today. An open adoption is where the birth parents are involved in selecting who the adoptive parents will be for their child. The birth parents and the adoptive family typically speak prior to, and even after, the child is born. In some cases, they agree to exchange pictures and letters over the years. In a closed adoption, the adoptive family and birth mother remain confidential, with absolutely no contact. The birth mother allows a state-run agency or a private agency to select the adoptive family. Being in a closed adoption increases the chances that your adoptive parents may not know any identifying information about your birth mother or father.

Deciding to search for your birth parents is a big decision. Think through your expectations, and how you will deal with them if they’re not met. Consider the reactions of both your adoptive parents and your birth parents. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. How will you feel? What will you say to your birth family? Check out the Barker Foundation website for more things to consider.

It is normal to feel worried about how your adoptive parents will react to your search. Talk to your adoptive parents to sort out any concerns. Your adoptive parents may be a good support for you if you decide to search for your birth parents, but there is also a chance that your adoptive parents will not be supportive. If this is the case, it is still ultimately your decision, and you should let them know that your decision has nothing to do with how you feel about them. Chances are they just need a little time to adjust.

Whatever you decide, it is important you make the decision that is best for you and have support to manage all possible outcomes. Meeting your birth parents may not change the way you feel about being adopted. It takes time to work through those feelings.

Foster children

Children who grow up in foster care depend on a state system of care that places them with families who meet certain criteria, like being healthy and financially stable, and who have room for a foster child in a safe and clean home. As a foster child, you may have come from a situation where you were abused or neglected, or where your caregivers had substance abuse problems. This childhood trauma can affect you for years.

The most important step is to get you into a safe and stable environment. That may be with extended family – a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin. Or it could be with a family you don’t know.

Wherever you end up, you may go to a different school, and will have different routines and personalities to get to know. Your siblings will hopefully be placed in the same home.

It’s natural to feel like you don’t belong anywhere or that you’ll never find where you fit in. You are probably also worried or angry about your parents and their situation.

These feelings are all natural. It is a good idea to reach out to someone to talk about strategies for dealing with the emotions, as well as your case worker when you have problems you can’t address with your foster parents.

Acknowledgement: Portions of this fact sheet were originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.

Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth