For Adult Adopted Persons

Every adopted person has his or her own unique feelings about being adopted.  For some, feelings about adoption may arise periodically, yet generally remain “back burner” issues in their lives.  For others, feelings about adoption can be more complex.

Wherever you are, you can be sure you are not alone. "Normal" adoption feelings are all over the map.

One of the most important things about being adopted is to realize that you are not the only person who feels the way you do, and many, many other adopted persons likely feel very similarly. But very often, it may seem that the people to whom you are closest have difficulty understanding your feelings about adoption. 

Talking to other people who understand adoption -- either because they themselves were adopted, or are a birth parent, or they work with lots of adopted people -- can be very helpful in processing and "normalizing" feelings.

For example, it helps to understand that the word "search" means two different things.

The first is the process all adopted people go through of figuring out what being adopted means to them. That's a more complicated task than it might look. In fact, most adopted people work on it in bits and pieces all their lives. It is universal whether you were adopted in this country or abroad.

"Search" also means trying to meet your birth parents face-to-face. It helps to talk to someone to explore how it would feel to see someone who looks like you and to be able to ask lots of questions, but also what would happen after that meeting.

  • What would you want your relationship to look like?
  • What kinds of reactions might your birth parents have?
  • What might be happening in their lives right now that would be important to anticipate?
  • If you were born in another country, do you want to visit the country to learn about the culture -- to hear the language, to visit sites of particular interest, to eat the food -- or to look for the people who gave birth to you? How would they feel about your trying to find them?
  • What things might you learn that could be hard to accept?
  • Is it even possible to find birth parents in a foreign country?

These are important questions to ask of someone who is knowledgeable about adoption.

Often people ask how old you need to be to search.

In the District of Columbia, where most of our Domestic cases were finalized, you have to be 18 to petition the court to open the file. Many people agree that it is good to wait until you're a little older to think about searching for birth parents because there are so many other things you are doing when you are a teenager or in your early twenties.

This is an important undertaking, one that will impact lots of other people. It is worth your time to be sure you go about it in the right way.

If you are over 18, were placed by our agency, you may wish to explore receiving non-identifying information from your adoption file, or initiating a search.

Barker’s Post-Adoption Department has a variety of services specifically geared to adopted adults. Regardless of whether or not your adoption was through Barker, adoptees over 18 are all welcome to attend our Adopted Persons Group, which is facilitated by a professional counselor who is also an adopted person. Barker provides individual counseling by social workers who have extensive experience working with all members of the adoption circle.

In addition, each Spring we hold an annual one day conference which always has specific sessions geared to adult adoptees.

You may also want to review our list of recommended books for adopted persons here.

Being adopted is part of who you are, just like many other things about you.

At certain times you may think a lot about it. At other times it will simply be part of the background against which you live your life. If we can be of assistance, don't hesitate to contact us.