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Nov. 21, 2004

Growing up as an adopted child

by Betsy Costillo, Page Editor
Many people tell me that I look like my mother; they say that the shape of our faces are similar, and that we have the same nose and mouth. These comparisons are quite amusing to me, considering my mother and I aren't biologically related.

I am one of the 1.6 million children under the age of 18 adopted in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Like many of these children, I was adopted from infancy in a private adoption without the involvement of a professional agency, and like many, I wonder about my origins.

My experience

Growing up as an adopted child has left me with many unanswered questions. I have, what seems to me, a pretty normal family: Christmas with my grandparents and extended family, parents who walked me to the bus stop when I was little and drove me to my soccer game every Saturday. But, like most teenagers, I am moody and pick fights with my parents. We have all the arguments of "normal" families, like why they won't let me go out Friday night or why I can't have friends over until I do my homework. I wonder, though, if my attitudes and emotional roller coasters are more than just the normal, hormonal tangents of adolescence, or if they have any connection to the fact that I am adopted.

"Everyone I know who is adopted has had emotional setbacks," claims senior Elzmarie Eckert, who was also adopted at infancy. Eckert also believes she had a pretty normal childhood. She recalls when she would sit on her father's lap every Saturday night to watch Xena; Warrior Princess, and say "I'm going to sit here every night, Daddy, even when I go away to college."

The nights of daddy and Xena, however, haven't even lasted through high school. Eckert no longer believes she has a normal "parent-daughter" relationship with her parents, and sometimes thinks that it may be due to their lack of biological bonds. "There are just too many differences between us," says Eckert.

I want to believe that I don't use my adoption as an excuse to place a wall between myself and my parents, yet sometimes I feel as if I am unable to communicate as well, and lack the child-parent bond that seems to come more naturally to biologically-related families. However, according to clinical social worker Karen Schulz, the fact of adoption doesn't cause emotional or psychological problems. "Everyone is different; it's an issue among many that people are trying to understand, but to say what causes the problems is complex," she says.

Junior Samuel Morris, adopted from China at the age of one, does not believe that his adoption has caused any difficulties between the members of his family. "My life seems normal as it is," explains Morris. "I don't remember the time before I was adopted, so there is no reason for me to be unhappy now. I get along with my parents as well as any of my friends [get along with their parents]."

Schulz believes the relationships between parents and their adopted children have to be analyzed on a person-by-person basis. "Some adoptees do have a more difficult time bonding with their parents, and some don't," claims Schulz. However, she admits that the only thing that children who are biologically related to their parents have that adopted children don't is genetic material, and "that is a very important bond."

The search for identity

In a 1996 study of American adolescents, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 72 percent of adopted adolescents want to know why they were put up for adoption and 65 percent want to meet their birth parents. Some adoption agencies and Social Services adoptions require that an adoptee be 18 before allowing them to access information regarding their biological parents. However, because my parents adopted me directly from my birth mother, I am free to search for her at any time.

I have often toyed with the idea of trying to find my birth mother, especially when I'm going through a rough time with my parents. Many factors hold me back from searching for my biological family, however. I am afraid of hurting my adoptive mother and father, and I fear the possibility of rejection if I do find my birth mother or father. However, if a child feels a sense of curiosity and interest to know their biological parents, they should not be afraid to ask, according to adoptive mother and Adoption Together domestic program director Susan Saidman. Saidman and her 12-year-old daughter interact annually with the child's biological mother. "I believe it is important for my daughter to know her birth mother," says Saidman. "I encourage the relationship."

I do plan on finding my birth parents when I am ready; I hope locating them will help me feel more secure with who I am. Knowing my genetic medical history will also help me in case I suffer from any health problems in the future. I know my parents have all the information regarding my adoption, but something has always held me back from talking to them about it.

Eckert also plans to search for her birth parents, despite her initial sense of rejection as a result of being put up for adoption. "I'm just thankful that she didn't abort me or leave me in a dumpster," says Eckert. "I want to find my mother so I can find out what really happened."

Unlike Eckert and myself, social studies teacher Jacob Lee, who was adopted at the age of two months, claims he has "no desire" to find his birth mother. "It would break my parents' hearts," he says with a shrug. "They're my real parents; they're the ones who raised me--and I got lucky."

Coming from a family of many adopted children, Lee believes that his relationship with his adoptive parents is ideal. "[My parents] are fantastic," he says. "I think I have a better relationship with them than most people do. I still go home every week for dinner."

Junior Miguel Noel-Nosbaum also has no plans to find his biological parents. Born in El Salvador, Noel-Nosbaum was found as a baby and taken to an orphanage where he lived until his adoption at age two. Even if he could find information about his biological parents, however, Noel-Nosbaum does not think that he would attempt to locate them. "I never knew my birth parents," explains Noel-Nosbaum. "I only know the way I live now. I'm used to my parents and my life, and I think anything else would be weird."

The missing link

I hold no resentment towards my birth mother for what she did. Giving me up for adoption took great strength and courage on her part, and I admire and am grateful to her for making the decision to give me a better life. Yet while I am happy with my life right now, finding my identity is something I have wanted and needed to do for a long time. I wonder about my mother every day of my life; I will always feel empty and incomplete without that part of my life. Like Eckert and one million other adopted children in the U.S., I will try to find my biological parents and fill in the blanks of my history.



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  • wow on November 21, 2004
    i totally loved this article. Even though I'm not adopted, i always wanted to know what it feels like to be adopted. when i was little i always joked around with my parents telling them they found me on their doorstep and that i would run off some day looking for my real parents...well i think i'd want to look for them if i was actually adopted
  • Mrs susan wilding (View Email) on November 22, 2004
    Hi Betsy. I loved reading your story. I too am adopted, although i have no desire right now to find my birth parents. My childhood was wonderful, and my parents are fantastic people.I feel like they love me even more because i am adopted - as they had to have so mny tests and wait years on a register to have me, i know i was truly wanted. Now i am 28 years old, and have a wonderful husband and a 2 yar old daughter. I used to think that i may need to fill in the blanks to get know myself, but now at 28 - wondering where the last 10 years went - (they flew by!)I feel like my life is complete because i do know myself. Who i am in society, who i am to my hubby, who i am to my daughter. I have learnt to admit mistakes, always be honest, take (calculated) risks and enjoy life! Then you will truly learn who you are. Regards, Sue Wilding.
  • Sarah on April 18, 2005 at 1:20 PM
    As an adopted child and iam only 13 i must wait until i am 18 it's not fair
  • Jazmine Graham (View Email) on May 18, 2005 at 7:25 PM
    hello...
    i read your site and i would like to just say thank you. You see I had to do this debate thing for school and by you making this site....it really helped me finish my project so i would just like to say thankyou again and i hope that all the people that shared their stories turned out to be descent people
  • phyllis (View Email) on October 19, 2005 at 9:01 AM
    looking for brother adoped in 1968 in missouri.dont know where to start.
    • Kristin Stafford-Burgess (View Email) on March 28, 2009 at 1:14 AM
      Well phyllis you start off by contacting your capital bidg social services division and You ask if they have information on a brother that you would have had. Tell them you wish to have contact , they will guide you. And if you need any further advice you can feel free to email me at jagkris2000@yahoo.com I am an adoption search angel and I can help you as much as you can. Gl in your search. Kris
  • Hoping 4 Help on February 19, 2007 at 2:02 PM
    I need help please.... i am looking for a parent... i no her name, but how do u track some1 down? If any1 has any advice plz email me at galllowayhope@yahoo. thank u for all your help every1!
  • Ashley (View Email) on January 10, 2008 at 7:45 AM
    k so i know what ur going through I have no idea who my mother is...hang in there...I myself am searching for her right now email me if u want to talk.
  • Kristin Stafford-Burgess (View Email) on March 28, 2009 at 1:47 AM
    I have a daughter named Taryn who just turned 19, she is some where in Wayne County MI, and Im looking just pray we find her. I also have daughters named Ashley, Jessica, and a son named Roger Just waiting for them to turn 18 and they can all come back home to their mother. Successfully reunited with 20 year old Daughter Named Kendra, who is in Oakland County Mi.
  • anonymous on July 20, 2009 at 12:56 AM
    I was adopted at infancy, and I'm in contact with my biological father via facebook [weird i know] my parents dont know that though :x

    I don't have the best relationship with my adoptive father, but thats not because I was adopted.

    Many people say I look like my adoptive mom, which me and her both find amusing.

    I don't feel any different from other people who arent adopted, though sometimes when I was younger and when I got upset, I would often think I was a mistake.

    But now I'm over that. I realize that my biological parents did this just because they love me :]
  • Angie Bateman (View Email) on October 16, 2009 at 10:59 AM
    I am looking for Stormie born 08-07-1993, she's 16. Thomasina born 01-30-1995, age 14. And Thomas born 03-31-1996, age 13. I've been looking for you guys since 2000. Momma loves and misses you guys.
  • Brian on January 5, 2010 at 5:29 PM
    My wife and I have been together since we were 15 yrs old. We feel in love even as "pups" and weathered the storm for 18 years together. After 2 losses, and alot of pain we thought dear god all we want is someone we can share our life with and love. We are currently considering adoption but honestly reading posts above, my fears increased dramatically. It seems that adoptive parents are pushed to the side once the child evolves to a sense of self discovery. How much do you think that impacts parents who would give anything for a child as oppose to those who choose their life paths and had to give up their children. I'm sorry but read above stories. How do you cope being a parent to know in the end you were just a temp worker. Sorry mostly fear speaking but any advice from those of you who understand would be greatly appreciated. brian6291@gmail.com
  • Carrie on March 10, 2010 at 2:20 PM
    It's amazing to read this article that was published in 2004 and see that in 2010, there are still people moved my content. I hope this child got an A! I am a grandparent of a child that is now adopted. My son and his girlfriend were too young to raise this beautiful little girl, and they wanted her to grow up in a "normal" family. Normal to them was having mother and father together under on roof and a family that could give her a good life. They looked through many scrapbooks of parents wanting to adopt and they finally interviewed a couple that we all fell in love with. They are wonderful parents to my granddaughter. They agreed to an open adoption so we have regular contact with her. They keep pictures of her biological family in her room and we all celebrate her birthday together. During Christmas, they schedule a day for each side of her biological family to come over and open gifts. They keep up all updated on milestones, like the first step, first tooth, first laugh. They are trully wonderful people. But as a grandmother and person who came from a poor but big family, I cry everyday because I'm so afraid that my granddaughter will grow up and feel like she was given away because she wasn't wanted by her family. That would just break my heart. My son still cries today and I cry daily thinking about her and that maybe I should have insisted that he keep her and I could helped him with raising her. I hope that all adopted children don't feel abandoned by their biological family. I know that many people who give up a child do it because they feel they are going to give them a better chance in life. They do it because they love them. I know that's how my grardchild's birth parents feel. My son is no longer in a relationship with the birthmother but they are still friends and I know they both love her.
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