Our own Ieisha Burrows from Abiding Love Adoption Agency shares her observations about what it was like to be an adoptee from foster care and what she would like prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents to know about adoptee identity and how important it was for her as an adoptee to understand her family of origin and how that grounded her into adulthood.
Adoptees will always be curious about where they came from. Just like we usually like to study our family’s ancestry, they do too. Listening to adoptees share about adoptee identity helps us all do a better job of caring for the whole triad.
Adoptee Identity Is More Than Just Knowing Their Heritage
Ok, you have successfully adopted and now have the child you’ve been praying for. What’s next? Living happily ever after, right? Maybe, but life doesn’t work like that.
Let’s talk about adoptee identity. This child, your child, will want to know where they came from. Oftentimes, adoptive parents want to wait until the child is “of age” to reveal they’ve been adopted. Parents think their child can handle this life affirming, earth-shattering news better when they are older, but children can handle a lot. It’s us the adults that makes things difficult.
As an adoptee through foster care, I knew very early that I was adopted. It wasn’t a secret in my household or my community. I was the kid introducing myself as, “Hi, I’m Ieisha and I’m adopted.” A common question a child is asked is, “How many siblings do you have?” My answer was always, “A lot. Too many to count,” because I count my biological siblings and my adoptive parents’ children. My adoptive mom had 7 biological children before I came along!
Even though I had all this open dialogue regarding adoption, I still questioned my identity. I wanted to know who I was. I had this innate desire to know and relate to my biological family. I wanted to know if I looked like my mom or dad. I wanted to know why my parents didn’t want me. Why were my siblings and I taken from our mother and why did no one in our family step up to keep us in our family?
I had all these questions at a very young age, while knowing I was adopted. My parents did a great job answering my questions and helping me navigate my feelings, along with making sure I had a relationship with my biological siblings. Imagine if my parents decided to wait until I was 18 or older to finally tell me I was adopted. I would question everything I know to be, I would have trust issues, and I would resent my parents.
We Are All Part Of One Big Family
As adoptive parents, you don’t have to feel threatened by the biological parents. Nothing you do will change who your children’s biological parents are. Your child has enough room to love both sets of parents. In my own story, I look at it like this: God used my birth mom to get me here and He used my adoptive parents to raise me and give me the foundation of Christ.
I can truly say at a young age it was very easy to understand the Gospel because of my adoption story. We’ve all been adopted into God’s family. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” NLT
Encouraging Adoptees To Step Into Their Identity
Adoptees should be encouraged to find their own identity for themselves and the good of their adoptive family relationships. Sometimes figuring out how to do that is difficult and resources seem scarce on the subject. Abiding Love Charities offers Adoptive Parenting coaching when it comes to these sorts of things. Contact us today for information on how to get started.