Adoptees Crossing Lines

Why we're not Grateful Adoptees: A Critical Look at the Adoptee Experience

December 23, 2022 Dr. Noelle, Tosha, Lia Season 1 Episode 4
Adoptees Crossing Lines
Why we're not Grateful Adoptees: A Critical Look at the Adoptee Experience
Show Notes Transcript

Ungrateful Adoptees 

No, I’m not grateful you adopted me. 

Why would I be grateful for family separation? Why would I be grateful for being lied to about where I came from? Why would I be grateful for solving their infertility issues? It’s adoptive parents that should be grateful to have us, not the other way around. This episode is all about rejecting the tone-dead narrative of gratefulness in adoption. We poke at all the layers of gratefulness and ungratefulness that we have to deal with behind the scenes as adoptees. 

What we discussed 

(00:00) We’re not grateful for being adopted: here’s why

(04:18) Adoption is a business OR We are anti-family separation

(06:00) Adoption sites/groups AREN’T our friend OR Adoption twitter is not a safe space 

(08:54) Abused by adoptive family OR Abusive adoptive families

(12:40) The “better life” myth in adoption OR “I would have been better off with my biological family” 

(14:59) Why child protective services is broken

(17:24) Gratefulness and reunification 

(19:19) Not grateful for being lied to as an adoptee 

(24:49) Robbing us of our birth right 


Peer Support Space (Support Group - Adult Survivors of the Child Welfare System)

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Special thanks to Samuel Oyedele for editing our podcast, support his work on Instagram or email him at

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Lia    00:00:05    Hey everybody. Welcome to Adoptees Crossing Lines, the not so feel Good podcast. If you're looking for something that's grateful adoptees, this isn't the one for you, go ahead and keep scrolling and looking for another podcast. That's not where we're about over here. All right, we're back for episode four. So today we're gonna be talking about why we're not grateful. We talk about that in our intro. This isn't the podcast for you if you're looking for grateful adoptees. So we're gonna get into it.  
Dr. Noelle    00:00:36    So one of the things that the adoption community, uh, which is different than the adoptee community, right? So the adoption community in involve includes, uh, adoptive parents, biological parents and adoptees, all kind of trying to hold space at the same time. The adoption community is very critical of adoptees for not being grateful for not being appreciative for complaining. You see a lot on posts. I manage our TikTok account, and there are so many comments on adoptees tos that say, well, what, what would you have preferred? Why would you have preferred to have been aborted? Would you have preferred to been homeless? And you should be grateful that anybody wanted you? Those kinds of comments. It really is devoid of any sort of sensitivity to what it feels like to be adopted, let alone those adoptees who have not had these really super positive experiences with their adoptive families.  
Dr. Noelle    00:01:43    So there are adoptees out there who have gotten to a place where, you know, they've really had these great experiences. We're not suggesting that every adoption is filled with abuse and and torture, et cetera, but we are suggesting that there are adoptions out there that and exactly that way. There are horrible stories about adoptions where the adoptees were abused. We have adoptees who have been killed. We have adoptees who have been given back, right? So, you know, the nuances of what your adoption was like. And frankly, I think what I wanna say is, why would you expect us to be grateful for being given away?  
Tosha    00:02:32    And that is a very heavy question, and I feel a lot of the gratefulness, you know, that's to really to protect the people who are adopting. Um, they feel, I think people think that some great service was done and it's meant to protect them, but it doesn't do anything for adoptees. They wanna act like once we've been adopted, that's when our history starts. And that is so far from the truth. So I remember when I used to tell people I was adopted, they would think how awesome that was, how great that is, that you were chosen and that someone or a couple took the time and the resources and finances to take care of you. But they forget that where I came from. And the stories can be muddled. Um, and sometimes there aren't resources for the birth mother. So they sometimes they think the only option is to adopt.  
Tosha    00:03:31    And there are a lot of stories that you will hear from adoptees who find out that wasn't the case. They were misguided. Babies are stolen, babies are taking, so many different things happen. They're not educated. And sometimes there was family there, but the family didn't know, or it was so secret. So as far as being grateful, no, that goes to the adopt the adoptee adoptive parents, but that does not go to the adoptees. And I've never felt grateful because I've always had that other side. That was the ungratefulness, the, the negative side, the sad side, the side that the people on the adopted sites do not wanna talk about to protect adoption. If this came out as a big thing, it would definitely taint the adoption industry. And I think this is done to protect the adoption industry.  
Lia    00:04:18    At the end of the day, adoption is a business, like money is exchanged, right? And why would I be grateful for family separation? Why, why would I be grateful for that? I I'm for family preservation. Like why, why do we wanna separate families, right? Like if you have to break apart some other family to build your family, I'm sorry, that's not, that's not how it works. Like, that's not fair to the adopted child. Especially like if you're not willing to investigate or if you're not willing to at least try and let them like have some type of relationship or explore like what that looks like with their bio family. Like if you just want this to be, you know, all yours, and I think in a lot of ways adoption is like a selfish thing. I feel like it's this attempt to fill this void for your inability to have children, your infertility, miscarriages, all of that. And I'm not being insensitive to that at all because those are real things that are painful that people go through. But I think that there, there are other ways that it can be done, right? Like there's guardianship and, and things like that. And you know, maybe that's for another episode. But in terms of being grateful, like I don't know why you would expect anyone to be grateful for the fact that they were separated from their family other than the fact that  
Tosha    00:05:57    It makes you feel good about yourself and Alpha, this is why adoptees had to make their own community just like what, uh, Noellele was saying, the adoption sites and groups are definitely not for us and they will come for us. Like, what is your solution? And I'll always say, it is not our solution. It is not our problem to solve. This is a huge sit situation. There are several reasons where, you know, sometimes I'm like, okay, that might have been the best choice, but was there a family? Was there this? And I don't feel like there's the due diligence to do that, especially for, you know, people that find themselves pregnant at a very, very young age. Teenagers in below. Cuz it happens. I feel like they are not protected. Those are, they are taken from them, they're given stories, they're manipulated. So there's so many sides of ungratefulness.  
Tosha    00:06:49    And I hear from some adopt some parents who had to give their children up that they were uneducated and they carry grief. And a lot of them, I see some of them end up on the adoptee sites because they're wanting some information, they're wanting to share, they're wanting community. But anyone that wants to make this and and preserve the inter the industry definitely comes pretty heavy at us. And like I, I had a pretty rough discourse with someone. And so for the most part, I, I stay off of adoption, uh, Twitter and adoption TikTok, it is not a safe place at all.  
Dr. Noelle    00:07:21    So I asked the question, we, we talked about this on episode two, right around grief and loss. But would you expect someone whose mother died was removed from their lives beyond their control? Would you expect that person to be grateful? That is my question, right? So it is interesting that we expect people who have lost their mothers, um, to be grateful. And how do we reconcile those differences? You know, why is adoption something that we hold up a as a a goal? Why is it a goal? And why do we expect people to be grateful for losing their mothers and fathers and siblings?  
Tosha    00:08:12    I will say that is something that I will never understand and that was so well put. I might have to use that <laugh>, um, next time I'm challenged with something like that because they wanna get past that. Like, what wasn't your life? Great? Didn't they take you from something? Didn't you, didn't they provide this wonderful life? And people don't understand that there's a challenge there where you are a solution to a problem. Like case in point, mine was fertility issues. So I became the solution to that problem that has a lot of burdens to it. So no, I I I, I still, I I can't answer that. I can't ever be grateful for being taken from one to create a life for another. Yeah,  
Lia    00:08:55    It's really hard for me to be grateful because I endured quite a bit of abuse within my adoptive family, particularly sexual abuse. And when I think about that, I just can't fathom as to why I would be grateful, why I should be happy when I was from the outside looking in, rescued from this dire situation only to be brought into another situation where I was abused, right? And I'm still like healing from that, recovering from that now. And like, not only was there abuse, but it was like I wasn't believed. And so it was like an added layer, right? And for me, I always thought about like, is it because I'm different? Like is it because I'm adopted? Is that, is that why like I was your victim? Like is that why this happened? So I carry a lot of like very strong feelings about it because there's no way in hell that you can tell me that I have to be grateful for enduring what I endured and trying to navigate that by myself.  
Lia    00:10:06    Like, you picked me, you paid for me, and you have the audacity <laugh> to not protect me, to not look out for me, but you still want me to sing your praises and keep up this image of who you are to the community as an upstanding citizen when I know what went on behind closed doors. And I don't think that this is, this is the exception, like one of the most unsettling stories for me is, I don't know if y'all remember this, but I don't think they were adopted. I can't remember if they were adopted or if they were in foster care, so don't quote me on that, but it was this, this white lesbian couple who were fostering or adopted these four kids, I wanna say out in Oregon. And they, I don't know what exactly happened, but they ended up getting in their car and driving off a cliff and killing all of them.  
Lia    00:11:11    And that's the stuff that, that doesn't get brought up. And, and Tosha, you, you mentioned that it's like, it's part of a larger system, right? Like child protective services had been there, but like, I think social workers are for one, like they're so overwhelmed, their caseloads are ridiculous. Social workers have some of the highest suicide rates because of like what they deal with and what they see on a daily basis. And I just think like they're not equipped, right? And I think like when you are in foster care, there are social workers who come and check on you periodically to make sure, sure that you're in a safe and loving environment. But when you get adopted, that stops once that money has exchanged hands, the deal is done. And essentially they said, we don't care what happens to you. Like we did our job, we put you somewhere now go on and be grateful. You know? So yeah, there's a lot of things at play when it comes to adoption and the narrative and this idea of, of gratefulness  
Dr. Noelle    00:12:25    Go on and be grateful. That resonates with me, right? Because it's about pushing through abuse, pushing through abandonment, pushing through grief to go on and be grateful. While you were talking Lia, I was thinking about, you know, the better life narrative, right? You were given up for a better life, you were adopted so you could have a better life. And what I found out through your reunion is that I would have been much better off with my biological family. My biological mother and her husband have a wonderful life. They have a very good life. They worked very hard. My biological grandmother has a good life. My biological cousins and uncles have great lives. Um, and had someone in the family raised me, I would've had a, a better life and said I had a life where I was abused, neglected, not fed, I was dirty. And you know, I try and figure out how I'm supposed to be grateful for that.  
Tosha    00:13:33    And I had the, the better life scenario as well. You know, they had said that my brother ahead of me had some health issues and things like that. And that was the issue. Come to find out that wasn't the case. But sometimes narratives need to be input to make the sale <laugh> or to make something happen. I'm so sorry that you both went through what you went through. I did not experience that. My just darkness and feeling ungrateful and everything just came from deep voids, uh, very dark places I call part of my life, just my dark period where it was very dark and I'm happy to have survived that. There were some times where I felt like they got their gift. I'm adult now. What am I still doing here? Luckily I've gotten past those things, but you just carry so much. So I don't feel how I could ever be grateful when I deal with so much behind the scenes every day. It's not always in the front, but it's always somewhere in my head at any given moment. And you can just be enjoying your life. I don't even remember what I watched last night, but at the very end of it had a little adoption storyline, I'm just like, why? It's just everywhere and I just want to live free. So I can't ever be grateful for a lifelong sentence of being an adoptee  
Lia    00:14:53    Woo. A lifelong sentence of being an adoptee. Wow, that resonates, right? I think like when I think about, you know, child protective services, D c F, the whole child, we welfare system, it's very carceral in nature. And I think a lot of times people, they don't realize that or, or they don't think about that, you know, and Tosha, like you mentioned earlier, like a lot of times like so, so we'll pump resources into adoptive families or foster families, but we won't pump those resources into bio families to keep them together. And that will forever like blow my mind as to why we can't, why we can't do that, why we're so willing to give this money to strangers oftentimes and expect for this child to just fit in and gel and mold into this family. Like when y'all are strangers to me, how am I supposed to just bond with you automatically?  
Lia    00:16:04    Like, I think that's a very like unrealistic expectation. And I remember like growing up, my adoptive mom, she came from a very close knit family and she really wanted me and my sister, who is my adoptive parent's biological child to be close. But we just are so different that it was just like, it wasn't, it wasn't going to happen. And I know you wanted this, this cookie cutter, white picket fence family, but I, I can't give it to you. You know what I'm saying? Like, I can't give you something that, that I don't have. And I think even like, even siblings who do grow up together, even biological siblings, like sometimes they're not close, you know? And I feel like there's like this added pressure to always be a certain way and just always be thankful that we g here, we g we gave you something, we gave you a roof over your head. Now you need to be grateful. Okay, but what about emotional support? What, what about that? What about making sure that I have some form of, you know, identity or relation to like my bio family? Like what about that? You know, it just gets stripped away and you're automatically supposed to just like fit in with this new family. And I just think it's so unrealistic.  
Dr. Noelle    00:17:24    I also think about the push to be grateful around reunion, right? And the expectation that we are grateful because our biological families are willing to talk to us or our biological families are willing to accept us. And I mean say that out loud, right? Your biological family is willing to accept you. You know, there uh, is not another population of folks who have these kind of expectations put on them and that we're supposed to be grateful. We're supposed to be grateful to sit at the table with people while they talk about their, in my case, 50 years of family history that I didn't get to experience and I'm supposed to be grateful. And I find myself a lot of times telling myself to be grateful, right? Just be thankful that you are here at all. Um, and I think that people believe that, right? Like you should be quiet, you should be grateful, you should be thankful to be here at all. And it's just an added layer of that grieving that we were talking about in episode two. You know, that I cannot say, Hey, I think it really stinks that you raised my cousin, but you didn't keep me in the family. I'm not allowed to say that, right? Because it's not grateful.  
Tosha    00:18:45    And just to piggyback off of that, you know, I grew up in a family that actually did that. You know, cousins were raised by different and aunts and uncles and all of that. So to grow up and see that and then like, well why couldn't they do that with me? Why couldn't I stay with my family to make that work? Seeing it happen was almost like a slap in the face and a bit of a gut punch that I just handled on my own. And so there's just so many layers of ungratefulness or gratefulness, so many layers of grief and you know, um, as what you said, Lia, as far as there's no resources for the adoptees or anything. I know the way I grew up, they would've known anything was wrong with me because I was so petrified of being sent to some place that they saved me from.  
Tosha    00:19:32    So they probably could have put therapists or people in front of me, but I would've been way too scared to reveal my true feelings. And that alone is why I think some things need to change. We have to get checked in on. I don't know what that looks like cuz I will always say we didn't, I didn't create this. I can offer some solutions, but I don't know how we get to that point of being open. Maybe with the age of technology we'll have resources where adoptees can reach out on their own and get some help. But I feel like by then it's a little too late. Especially if you're told at a younger age. Cuz all the damage that does to be the most perfect child and even doing this podcast makes me a little bit nervous sometimes because I still want to, I don't want them to feel any type of way. And that's still protecting the industry. It's still protecting the adoptive parent. It's still protecting adoption and that still leaves me carrying all the burdens. And that's not fair to adoptees at all.  
Dr. Noelle    00:20:28    They're asking us to be grateful for being lied to the narratives of grateful adoptees. The grace that is adoption is a lie, right? And so we're supposed to be grateful for those lies. I I'm supposed to be grateful for lies like being told by my adoptive mother that my biological mother wa was incapable of taking care of me. She made up lies about the mental health of my adopt of my biological mother. She made up lies about my biological mother being on drugs. None of those things were true. I'm supposed to be grateful for those lies for being lied to.  
Tosha    00:21:13    I can say with all those lies and finding out things along the way for me, my experience being adoptee is my identity always getting challenged. Like, oh, okay, I'm this, I come from this more information. Oh that wasn't true. Okay, can't claim that anymore. Okay, find out more information. Oh, this is who I really am, this is my background. No, okay. So it's a constant cycle of going up and down as you peel back layers as some people try to protect their truths to make this situation okay. Even different, even the infertility stories and things like that. I found out information way later in life. Like in my thirties, I'm just like, I wish I would've known that I've been telling this one story this whole entire time and that's not the case. And it kind of made me wanna shut down. Um, but luckily it did the opposite.  
Tosha    00:22:08    It maybe wanna keep digging and keep finding out more information and then having to fact check it. And that's one thing that like for me, I don't have a lot of people to fact check things with and they know that. So self information, I just take a grain of salt. And then it's also trusting people, trusting some people in my family who I thought had my back rumors being told about the adoption. Not everyone in the family accepting the adoption. So how are we supposed to be grateful about all this stuff? Like seriously, I don't understand how you can ever ask an adoptee to be grateful. I guess out there there's someone with the most perfect adoption story, but at the end of the day, I would still think they would carry some internal grievances. I'd have a hard time. They would, I I just couldn't believe that. Not right now. Maybe it's possible, maybe someone has the perfect story out there. But from all the adoptees I've talked to, all the things I've seen, I've never seen someone a hundred percent happy about giving, being giving up and being severeties, losing their identity and being told lie after lie after lie.  
Lia    00:23:13    Yeah, I feel like gratefulness is really, it really centers adoptive families, adoptive parents. And I feel like that's why this narrative is pushed to begin with because there aren't enough adoptees being centered in their experiences, being centered even though like we have the lived experience, we are the experts, you know, there needs to be, you know, more conversations like this, more folks willing to listen, to really understand why we're not not grateful and why it's harmful to say things like that. Because then you start to feel like you have, again, you have to like do all of these things. And like for me it, it came out a lot of times in like perfectionism feeling like I had to be perfect all the time or something was gonna happen to me even in my adoption when I was in high school. There was a period of time where I got kicked out at my adoptive parent's house.  
Lia    00:24:10    And so I think about that too, right? Because that's another like form of abandonment. And I think some of what goes into it as well is like, I think sometimes people forget that like, especially if you're adopted at a young age or like as a baby, like we grow up, you're only a baby for like a year and then after that, like you grow up and you become this, this person with your own thoughts, with your own feelings. And it's always been like mind blowing to me. I've always wondered like, what type of information are they giving adoptive parents? Because when I think about, you know, we talked about reunion in our last episode. Um, when I think about the, the friction, the tension that it caused between me and my adoptive parents, like did you not think that someday I would want to know where I came from? The same way that you're trying to build your family tree and you know, do all this stuff and find all these people. Like why wouldn't I want that too? We're I feel like we're all entitled to that again. It's, it's my birthright  
Dr. Noelle    00:25:19    And that dismissal of birthright. I started in reunion and started adding biological family to to Facebook. My adoptive mother, um, actually commented on a Facebook post and someone had left, Hey, we love you cuz, or something like that. And they were my actual cousins and my adoptive mother left a comment on that post that said, who are these people? They're no relation to you. Where where is her gratefulness, right? Where, where is her feeling good or grateful about me becoming whole? Right? There's no expectation, uh, that the adoptive family is grateful.  
Lia    00:26:09    Noellele, when you said that, it reminded me of. So, you know, I mentioned previously that whenever I was going through the beginning of my reunion journey, I found out that my mother was Puerto Rican and black. And so I bought these like little boxing gloves that you see sometimes in, in people's car and they, you know, they said Puerto Rico on 'em and had the flag and all that stuff. And I remember one time I went to go see my adoptive parents and my dad was like, take those out your car like you're not Puerto Rican. And I was like, but like it's part of my identity and just like the sheer audacity and boldness to just be like, no that's not you cuz it doesn't fit into your narrative or what you wanted and you're also not willing to like learn about it. I remember I would try to talk to them about my siblings and my experiences and it was just like they just didn't care.  
Tosha    00:27:04    And I think a lot of that's done to just preserve their idea of what they wanted. They wanted a baby and that's it. They didn't want a baby with the past even though that's what they did, literally what they did and they went to sever that. And I remember being very anxious about wanting to share the fact that I was interested in doing research and wanting to know more. Cuz you would have to think like for adoptive parents, like don't you think at some point they're gonna ask questions? Like you never think that. And I remember talking to someone who was looking to adopt and they were asking me questions like that. Do you think if I adopt a child that they will want to know where they come from? Yes. Do you think this child will ever say you're not my real parent and I stopped her right there.  
Tosha    00:27:53    If you are not prepared for that, then I don't think you should ever adopt, just stay in your lane. And it was someone with fertility issues. But that's a whole God complex sometimes too. Like or what I don't wanna bring religion into it, things like that. But I'm trying to say is sometimes there's a situation where you cannot have children and sometimes perhaps that should be the end of the sentence and leave it alone because maybe you're not equipped to be an actual parent. And I'm probably going down, we can talk about more than this stuff later. The narcissism that comes from a lot of adopted parents. We into it girl. So girl <laugh>, ladies <laugh>, there's so much to all of this. But I just, I, I don't know, I just, again, I, I love this topic of gratefulness and being ungrateful. I'm thankful for some things but not grateful if that makes sense.  
Tosha    00:28:42    Cause I look at them as two separate things. Cause I am thankful that I have adoptive parents who are open to me doing my research. Cuz there at one point I said, maybe I won't, maybe I'll just live in this. But you, you feel, and when you know you can't ignore that. So I am thankful that they did let me know some information. Am I thankful that I was told between the ages of six and eight? Cause I kind of blacked that out. Like, how do you tell a child that? Because from that point I had this whole image in my head, I thought we were all one family, all of this. And then from moving forward, I lived a life of devoid of things, questions, always wondering, looking around, are you my sibling? Are you my sibling? Do I know you? Are you my relative? And that's a tortured life that they don't, I don't think they realize that. So I would like, I don't know what kind of information adoptive parents are given. Like I would, I would, I ki one day I'm gonna go down that rabbit hole and figure that out and see how prepared they are for this journey themselves.  
Dr. Noelle    00:29:41    I will tell you what I'm grateful for. I am grateful that my adoption did not kill me. That's what I'm grateful for.  
Lia    00:29:49    Hmm. That's all folks. Like I, I don't think there's anything else that can be said. I really resonate with that. Like I'm grateful that, that it didn't kill me because it almost did several times, but I'm still here.