No, It’s Not Binary

Just because an adoptee has decided to find their biological family does not mean that they are going to choose them over their adoptive ones.  It is not necessarily an “either, or” decision and it is quite possibly an “and” decision.

The “either, or” thinkers – I’m thinking of a vast swath of adoptive parents and non-adoptees who don’t understand – worry that the adoptee doing a search is going to make a discreet decision between two families.  They believe that the adoptee has arrived at a crucial fork in the road of their life and they plan to choose one path over the other. This would be a discreet binary decision. Either left or right. Adoptive family or biological family.

In most instances that I’m aware of, adoptees who do a search for their biological family are “and” thinkers.  They have arrived at a point in their lives where they have decided that they would like to find their birth family to understand their biological truth while remaining within the adoptive family that raised them.  They believe that connecting with their birth families is an enhancement and evolution to their existing familial structure. The arrival of the biological family into the adoptee’s life does not auotmatically replace their adoptive one.  It is supplemental and could even be complementary. And for many adoptees, they finally get answers to complicated questions they have wrestled with for their entire lives.

For many adoptive parents and those close to them who are “either, or” thinkers, the perception of the adoptee’s pending binary decision is a threat that must be contained.  An adoptee will hear things like, “Why are you doing something so hurtful to our family?” or, “You should be more grateful to the family that raised you!” or, “How will your parents feel?”

Are you kidding me?

That is small-minded thinking.  You see, it shows just how much people don’t understand what it’s like to be adopted. We have every right to know who we are, to meet the people with whom we’re genetically connected, as well as to obtain critical medical information.  Non-adoptees have this privilege, so why can’t we? This information is fundamental to our understanding of who we are and just as importantly it might give us clues to dangerous genetic diseases that run in the family, so to speak.

So please know that when we decide to do a search it’s not necessarily an “either, or” situation and in my case it was a big, giant “AND.”  For you “either, or” thinkers, I really hope you are able to understand the “and” approach. This would be one small but important step in understanding and supporting the adoptees in your life.  If you really do not understand this argument or question how an adoptee might be searching for their biological truth, I might suggest that therapy be a good course of action for you.

3 Thoughts

  1. Well said Adrian. All children eventually evolve into fully functioning adults with a mind of their own. They can be gently guided and mentored but the paths they eventually chose to follow are up to them. Adoptees who perceive themselves as wanders and seekers may see ancestry research as a perfectly natural curiosity common to nearly everyone. With age comes experience and wisdom, a better understanding of self, and an ever increasing sense of forgiveness. When they come to the realization of what adoption means, they should never be forced to choose between parents. If a parent can love more than one child, then a child can love more than one parent. When I discovered the identity of my biological family the love and appreciation I had for my adoptive parents and all they had done for me over the years greatly increased. I had so many more people to love, and love me. The improved sense of self-identity and self-worth that I achieved from discovering my roots was well worth the effort. Unfortunately, it is normal for adoptive parents to feel hurt when their ‘forever child’ seeks answers to the labyrinth of life in other realms–the adoptee should always be sensitive of the hurt they may cause.


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