This Just In: Adoptees Don’t Do as Well as Their Peers

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Not really news to those of us who read widely and carefully in this area, but hey, what do we know? We are just a bunch of bitter…wait a minute. Actually, we aren’t bitter at all, just realists willing to face bitter Truths about adoption: it isn’t always about pony rides in May sunshine. And sometimes the Truth is a hard thing to accept.

I recently came across the 2011 U.S. government report regarding statistics of well-being for our children in this country. Here is what the website says about it:

“America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011 presents a set of key indicators that measure important aspects of children’s lives and are collected regularly, reliably, and rigorously by Federal agencies.”

This year’s special section was about adopted children and how they fared compared to their peers.  So far, this is what I have found in the report:

“Children who are adopted, particularly those adopted beyond the first months of life, experience disruptions in parenting that can have longstanding implications for their development and well-being. Even children adopted as infants face challenges with identity development and issues of loss and grief regarding birth parents.

Tell me something I didn’t already know. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this in 1993 – I thought I was doing something “honorable, heroic, loving, and courageous.” I now know it wasn’t truly a loving choice for us, but back then I didn’t know the impact adoption would have on your life. If I had, I would have made very different decisions.

And then there was this:

“Adopted children are at elevated risk for physical disabilities, adjustment problems, externalizing behaviors, conduct disorders, and attachment disorders.”

Wow. That’s quite a list. How much at risk you might ask?

“In 2007, 29 percent of adopted children had moderate to severe health problems, compared with 12 percent of all children.”

Yes, you read that correctly. According to the U.S. government, adopted children are 2.4 times more likely to have severe to moderate health problems than their peers. What kinds of health problems plague these “chosen” sons and daughters of our country?

“The most common moderate to severe health problems experienced by adopted children were learning disabilities (experienced by 12 percent of all adopted children), Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder (12 percent), and behavior/ conduct problems (8 percent).”

As I read through this report, I thought of all the remarkable adoptees I have come to know over the past few years. These are women of great courage, grace, wit, intelligence, and compassion.  This latest government reports supports what they have been telling me: being adopted has affected them in profound and fundamental ways. Further, many of the effects are not the “miracle and blessing” promised first mothers when making the “decision” to relinquish their child for adoption. They could have been adopted by the most phenomenal people in the world and have loving, close relationships with them but still…they are still challenged “with identity development and issues of loss and grief regarding birth parents.”

In light of these latest sobering statistics regarding the impact of adoption on the adopted, the success of these amazing women – Lost Daughters – is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, to the tenacity of their souls.  I am grateful and honored to be called friends by some of them.  As you make your way down this crooked and stony path the adults in your life set you upon, I hope you are able to find mentors such as these women who can guide you along your way.

Much love,


6 thoughts on “This Just In: Adoptees Don’t Do as Well as Their Peers

  1. First let me say that I am sorry that you regret your choice, and I think you have some valid points. I found your blog after listening to Marisa’s podcast where you were interviewed. Here’s a little background on my family. Marisa was our beloved case worker at LDSFS, and helped us in the adoptions of our first two children. We tried everything short of in vitro to have children, and I always knew that we would adopt. We have an almost five year old son, a two and a half year old son, and a 10 month old daughter. It is a little ironic that on the very day you posted this letter, we were signing the papers for our second son. The reason our children have disabilities are NOT because they are adopted, but because of what they went through when they were born and because of their genetics. Our oldest son has speech delays and intellectual disabilities because his birth parents have IQ’s in the 70’s, NOT because he is adopted. Our second son has disabilities because he was 1lb 7oz when he was born at 25 weeks gestation. He almost died on several occasions, and his courageous birth mother knew she was not in a place to raise him with his problems. Our daughter has the same birth mother as our first son, and was in foster care when we adopted her. Not all adoptions are bad or are a result of coersion. I hope you can meet your daughter and heal from your loss. Regards, Calleen

    • Calleen –

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, for your response, and for sharing your personal story. I’m always interested in hearing from adoptive parents and their perspective on things.

      I would like to clarify I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim, ALL adoptions are bad. I I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim, ALL adoptions are a result of coercion. I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim, ALL difficulties and disabilities adoptees face are related ONLY to their adoption. From your comment, you imply I have made these claims and this simply is not the truth. To deny the reality that SOME (and let me be very clear I make NO CLAIMS as to what degree or type aside from what the research literature presents) difficulties adoptees face in life are due to their adopted status is disingenuous and does little to foster the discussion on how best to help those adoption is theoretically (and in many instanced, practically) supposed to help: the adoptee.

      I am particularly heartened that you were able to adopted siblings, even if it was at different times. My heart goes out to their first mother – losing one child adoption is heartbreaking, even when it is in the “best interest” of the child. Loosing two….I can’t imagine how crushing that would be. I am sure she is comforted in some way knowing they are together with you.

      Wishing you and your family the best on your own adoption journey –


      • I appreciate your response, thank you. When I began to read your blog, I was sick hoping that our childrens’ birth parents might feel this way about us and their desicions. While I don’t think that is the case because we have very open relationships with them, it makes me I’ll to know there are those who suffer because of closed adoptions. It really pisses me off when a so called open adoption is closed for the selfish reasons of AP’s! We love our kids’ birth parents, and try to honor our open adoptions the best we can. In fact, the reason we have Olivia is because we have an open relationship with R. I took her to her appts when she was pregnant, and was there is court with her when the state made her relinquish her rights. It was one of THE WORST days of my life to know that because she was losing another child, I was gaining one.On a side note, she lost two sons prior to placing our oldest with us. I could go on all day about how much we love her and M, put I will spare you the boring details! One more thing, I can’t STAND it when people ask us how we could possibly let “these women” share parenthood with us. Won’t it DAMAGE your kids? Whatever!!!! Thanks for reading my rant. Have you been able to have contact with your daughter yet? Good luck in the future.

      • Calleen –

        If you haven’t connect with Rebecca Hawkes, adoptee & mom via foster adoption, you should! Here’s her blog: She’s figured out how to navigate what can only be described as the rocky shoals of open foster adoption & has been able to build a strong and healthy open relationship with her daughter’s first mother.

        Sadly, many mothers in open adoptions suffer, too, they are just afraid to speak out about their pain because of fear. I have spoken with many mothers privately who are in tremendous pain, but must paint on a happy face because they fear the adoptive parents cutting off access to their relinquished child. Most of these women have witnessed first-hand other adoptive parents doing so to our fellow sisters, sometimes without any explanation to the very woman who made them parents in the first place. These first mothers don’t dare to speak publicly about it in any setting because they are concerned about it getting back to the adoptive parents. Even if the adoptive parents are amazing, giving, wonderful, kind, generous, open, benevolent, the scepter of being cut off from their child relinquished causes many first mothers within open adoptions to minimize or outright deny their grief in public. Their silence about their is the price they pay to maintain access to their relinquished child.

        By sharing this information with you, I am **NOT** saying the first mothers of your children feel this way, nor am I implying this is the situation. All I know is that I personally know first mothers in what appears to be *PERFECT* open adoptions who have approached me privately, looking for a safe place to share their anguish and sorrow because they don’t feel they can do so in front of the people in their face-to-face lives. I think your situation is a bit different, though. The women I talk with all signed voluntary termination of parental rights papers within hours of their child being born, whereas in your family, it sounds like the TPRs were court-ordered, am I right? It doesn’t diminish your children’s first mother’s loss, but perhaps it may ameliorate some of the fears first mothers in domestic infant adoptions face.

        I am so grateful you have an open and loving heart for your children’s first mothers – details about those kinds of things are never boring, BTW! The fruits of your labors will be repaid in ways none of you can even imagine at this point in time. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures as time goes on!


        P.S. I am in intermittent texting contact with my oldest daughter.

  2. Melynda,

    Thank you for your response. Only our daughter’s parental rights were terminated in court. Our oldest was relinquished at the hospital, and our second was relinquished after two months in the NICU when his birthmother decided she wasn’t able to parent a special needs child. He has had multiple surgeries, is delayed and had oxygen for 10 months upon discharge from the NICU. I could friend you on Facebook if you want, but I don’t know how to find you there.
    Let me know,

    • Oh goodness, poor little guy! My little nephew who just reached his first birthday has had a hard time, too, and spend his first 8-9 months in NICU. He was born with Down Syndrome and wasn’t given much of a chance to live (major heart/lung problems). Every day with him is a miracle!

      You can search for me at FB under my name, Melynda Fitt. I’ll be watching for your friend request!


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