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,

M.