Adoptees Grow Up, Stop Treating Us Like Perpetual Children!

I’ve become more aware of the infantilization of adult adoptees, due to my work with the Adoptee Rights Campaign to give adoptees US Citizenship. The Adoptee Citizenship Act fills a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2001, which gave all international adoptees US citizenship age 18 and younger.

A common question I receive is ‘why is there an age limit of 18 for the original bill?’ As far as I know, it’s because the CCA was championed by adoptive parents (APs) who followed a historical pattern; viewing adoptees as children and never as adults.

Newsflash: we grow up.

This persistence that we are ‘forever’ children must end. It doesn’t help adoptee’s psyche, delegitimizes our narratives and sidelines us from inclusion in decisions affecting us. It also removes adoptees from shaping the story of adoption, away from the ‘happy go lucky’ fairy tale, to one that also includes pain, loss, and heartache.

I think it’s easier advocating for and securing funding regarding adoption related issues when people picture children. Folks don’t like denying children, particularly ones coming from tragic or heartbreaking circumstances. Lawmakers do not like explaining their inability to fund orphaned children.

However, throwing political capital into fighting for adult adoptee rights is a different story. We are of voting age and no longer cute, unsuspecting, naïve, little children anymore. People might be less inclined to support us.

The adult adoptee is frozen in time and absent the public and policymaker’s minds. That might be one reason adult adoptees are increasingly visible. We grew up, some of us have adopted children ourselves and we are not voiceless.

Adult adoptees, bring unique perspectives that need to be heard.

For too long adoptive parents ruled the adoption discourse. Certain ones and their attitudes towards adult adoptees are a problem. Some AP’s are intimidated by adoptees, for a few reasons.

One, they think we’re all angry and suffer serious trauma because of our adoption. As a result, they don’t trust our judgment and ability to integrate into the adoption triad. Many adoptees I know find this assertion insulting.

Two, certain APs dominate adoption dialogue. Maybe they’re extremely religious, work for an agency or adoption provider, or are solely naïve. Regardless, these APs have their own conception of adoption. They don’t want adult adoptees fracturing their worldviews.

These APs want to keep adult adoptees out of the spotlight and public eye. Then adult adoptees won’t question and challenge the ideas they’re spreading. The only people who can truly speak about the adoptee experience, are adoptees themselves. Other people can speak as experts about other parts of the process, agencies, adoptive parents, but not the true adoptee experience.

To be clear; these APs represent a small number of adoptive parents who speak for the adoptees themselves. The overwhelming majority does not share their ideas. Most AP’s are incredibly supportive, my mother is one of them.

Another consequence of the forever child mindset is the impossibility for domestic adoptees to access their original birth certificates. Adoptees nationally have fought this battle for years with mixed results.

While I understand balancing privacy with openness, the fact that adoptees can’t learn their own history is wrong. Adoptees have the right to learn their legal roots and origins.

Infants are punished for adult decisions when states refuse them access to their original birth certificates. Essentially, this is the adoption experience. We live with the consequences of adult behavior when we had no words.

Perhaps if adoptees were involved in the original Child Citizenship Act of 2000, there wouldn’t be 35,000 adoptees without US citizenship. Adoptees would have known, that we grow up, and don’t stay children forever.


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