This article was submitted as part of the Forget Me Not Family Society Oct 2013 presentation to grad students at UBC School of Social Work (BC Canada), and published in Adoption Circles #66

How Adoption Affects Adoptees

by Mary Ann Dubeski, adoptee


What is important for social workers to know about how adoption affects adoptees:

  • Adoption is a permanent change in an adoptee’s life which should be avoided the way you would avoid stepping in front of a speeding train, or pushing someone else in front of a speeding train.


  • Adoption causes loss, grief, and lifelong trauma. The loss is great: loss of mother, family, ancestors, heritage, genetic connection, history.  Adoption loss is not recognized as a valid reason to grieve by today’s society.  Adoptees are often told to “Get over it. Stop being a victim.” Adoptees have to repress many emotions and are often stuck with “complicated grief”, post-traumatic stress issues, and are often told by mental health professionals that they have “no reason to be ill because adoption is not a mental health issue.”


  • Adoption should only be permitted in rare cases when a child is a true orphan, with no capable family members, or when the mother is dangerous to the child’s survival. Mothers who are “too young” should not have their babies taken away from them because of their youth. Youth, in parenting, is an advantage in many ways, and these young mums (and dads) may need some teaching and support to learn parenting skills. “Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Youthful parents will mature. No one stays young forever. But adoption causes children to be lost forever.


  •  Remember: You can never replace Mother.

Book reference:  Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier

  • The loss of the original family cannot be made up by adoption into a family of genetic strangers, no matter how wealthy, willing, or loving these strangers are. Something will always be missing in the child’s heart and psyche.  It is very difficult for non-adoptees to understand the depth and breadth of the loss that adoptees have suffered.  The concept of “as if born to” is dishonest. It should never be allowed in adoption. Social workers and adoptive parents who foist it on adoptees are causing everyone emotional pain.


  • Children, even newborn babies, are not blank slates. They are primed to bond to their natural mothers and feel the loss of the natural mother if they are removed from her after birth. Removal at birth is devastating.  It changes brain development and makes the adoptee more prone to depression, stress, and relationship and other issues throughout their lives.


  • No one should ever interfere with a mother during her pregnancy, labour, delivery and post-partum recovery, nor coerce her into making an “adoption plan” before the baby is born. A mother should be given every opportunity to bond with her newborn, to feel baby’s skin, breastfeed and care for her baby. Baby needs this. Mother and baby should be left unmolested by all others who want to take the baby away.  It is in the best interests of the child to be with mother during the first few months of life until weaning.   Often, a first time mother does not even know how the birth of the child will affect her.  She is naïve and has no clue.  She should not be talked into an “adoption plan” before the baby’s birth.  She should not be told that she will fail in life, be on welfare forever, and that no one will ever marry her if she keeps her child. Coercion should be illegal.  Also, prospective adopters should not be present at the birth. It is an intimate and important bonding time for mom and baby and should be respected.   After mothering a child for several months, if the mother feels incapable of parenting due to her circumstances, then an adoption plan may be made.


  • When a child is adopted, the child has a right to know about their adoption. Secrecy about the adoption should never be allowed. Social workers should make sure that the adoptive parents have told the child the truth at an early age.  There should be follow-up. All records, all identifying information about the natural mother and father should be available to the adoptee when they are ready.  The adoptee should be the one to decide when they are ready, and if they want to search for their natural parents.  As a late discovery adoptee, I know how devastating and humiliating it is to find out late in life that I was adopted.  Everybody knew, and I was never supposed to find out.  My ethnic identity and heritage, and family were purposely hidden from me so that I would “love my parents” exclusively.  With DNA tests available, the internet, Facebook, and a well-connected world, it is only a matter of time before any adoptee is contacted by natural family members, or discovers non relation to parents through a DNA test. Reference: the UN Commission on The Rights Of The Child


  • Social Workers should make sure that prospective adoptive parents have undergone psychological screening and tests to ensure that they are not adopting to replace a child who has died, been lost in divorce custody, or in the case of infertility, an unborn natural child. No one has a “right to adopt.”  Many people are happier in the long run adopting a puppy, parrot, or kitten.   Adoption means you will be raising someone else’s child. This will never change. You will be their protector, nurturer, and guardian.  But you will never be their true mother and father. You can never give an adoptive child what their natural parents can give them. Many adoptions are not “happy” adoptions and adoptive parents often regret adopting a stranger’s child, although they are not allowed to say it. Adoption should be discouraged as a way to “build a family,” as it is actually a way to destroy natural families.


  • Two quick ways to fix adoptions:


  1. Money should never change hands in an adoption. There should be no legal fees, donations to orphanages, admin fees or expenses paid for the mother’s living expenses, social worker’s expenses, doctor’s fees, or agency’s fees. If no money changed hands, if it were illegal for money to change hands, there would be fewer, if any, adoptions.
  2. If infant adoption were not allowed, there would be far fewer adoptions. Babies would stay with their natural moms, where they belong, and grow up normal.  Foster kids who need homes would find more placements.  Infant adoption should be outlawed because everyone prefers newborns.


  • Adoption of children is not the answer to Africa’s or Asia’s problems. Trans-racial adoption and growing up in a foreign culture is bad for the child, and bad for the country that loses the child. Adoption is part of the colonial mentality in any country.


  • Every social worker should read Primal Wound, by Nancy Verrier.