Are Adoptees Selfish For Wanting To Search?

Keep Calm

One of my birth sisters was placed for adoption just one year before I was born – I am hoping that someday I’ll get to meet her. Is my desire to find her being fueled by an attitude of entitlement? Since I was able to find all of my other birth relatives does that somehow mean that I should be able to find her too? When does it end? When should I draw the line? I have seven siblings in my immediate [adoptive] family, many nieces and nephews, parents, aunts, uncles and have had host of foster siblings over the years, yet I want more. I want so badly to meet my birth sister. Is this desire selfish?

This question has been posed to me many times over the past year during the Q&A’s after Closure screenings. Folks have asked this question in a myriad of ways:

Your adoptive family is so great! Why would you need anyone else?


What if you find out something that you wish you hadn’t known?


What if your birth sister doesn’t want to know you? Doesn’t she have rights, too? posed the question “Should adopted children be allowed to seek their biological parents without their consent?” Aside from feeling slighted by being continually referred to as an adopted child, I find this question irksome as it inherently suggests that an adoptee learning of their roots and kin is somehow not our right. 19% answered “No,” one comment read:

The adopted child should get down on his knees and THANK GOD who intervened on the child’s behalf and provided warm, stable, loving parents, and I for one (who is an adopted parent, a REAL parent, btw) would be insulted if my kid told me he wanted to seek his bio parent.

I’d like to suggest that the person who left this comment view Lisa Marie Rollin’s one woman stand up show entitled Ungrateful Daughter. Lisa, an adult adoptee turns the “Why can’t you just be grateful?” question in to a comedic fare.

Perhaps adoptees are labeled chameleons since we have difficulty understanding when we are allowed to have a say and make a choice. Our birthparents decided to create us, and then somewhere along the line someone (the State, birthparents, foster parents etc.) decided that we should live somewhere else. So, we adjusted and acclimated to new smells, new rules, new schools, new bedrooms, a safer/different environment etc. How are we expected to grow into competent, strong adults if decisions are continually made without our consent? How will we learn to navigate which decisions are ours to make and which aren’t?

I’m grateful that my [adoptive] parents raised me to pursue my curiosities, to strive towards satisfying my incessant existential questions, and to simply try things – even though I may fail. I’m thankful that both my birth family and my adoptive family support me in this endeavor as unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all adoptees. I’m glad that my family understands that my desire to search and learn more about my roots does not simultaneously cease my desire to be a part of my [adoptive] family. Finding my birth family has never been an attempt to replace anyone else, but simply an effort to find myself. Selfish? Maybe…although I’d wager to guess that I’m not alone in my human desire to know how and why I’m alive, or, more simply, to be able to see a physical reflection of myself in someone else. I’m thankful that the great majority of people are able to access this information with relative ease. What makes me (and other adoptees) jealous is that those who question our motives to search are often the same people who brazenly take for granted getting to know foundational knowledge about their life. Adoptees are keenly aware of this injustice and in the absence of this vital and axiological information we search, and search and search (and sometimes we have to defend ourselves while we’re at it).

14 thoughts on “Are Adoptees Selfish For Wanting To Search?

  1. Adoptees are not at all selfish for wanting to find their birth family. I’m an adoptive parent, and hope that we can continue to support our son with his questions about his birth family, and if and when he wants to meet them, we’ll be supporting that too.

    This says it all for me:
    “I’m glad that my family understands that my desire to search and learn more about my roots does not simultaneously cease my desire to be a part of my [adoptive] family”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The person who said they would be insulted if their child searched for his/her birth family is living in a strange, antiquated bubble imho. Of course it is not selfish! I am so glad you have a supportive family. Good luck with your search.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You and others who have searched are not selfish. You are simply searching for answers that will fill in the missing pieces your story – answers that were taken from you before you had a choice or a voice. That’s something most of us take for granted – having access to original birth certificates, knowing whose eyes or nose we got, hearing another person with an identical laugh… So keep on searching and keep on educating. We need more adoptee voices and this adoptive mama is more than happy to help you and others be heard in my tiny corner of the universe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think it is selfish at all. My husband and my mother both grew up without a father in their lives, and not knowing anything about their father did some major emotional damage. My husband finally met his dad in his late 20’s, and although he never formed a close relationship with his dad, I know that he is glad that he finally got to meet his dad.

    My adopted daughter was given up by birth mom under the Safe Haven law (give up your baby, no questions asked). Before her birth mom left the hospital, she did leave a note asking that her daughter not be told that she is adopted. Of course, being that both her parents are not Black, it would be difficult to keep her adoption a secret, nor do I intend to. My question is… do I respect birth mother’s request?


  5. To Erika,
    The girl you adopted is a human being, right? All human beings were born and came from some place, right? Do you know information about your birth, your biological family, where you came from and how you got to this earth?

    Do you think it’s just and right to be taken in a car, blindfolded, wearing earplugs, unable to speak, and to arrive at an unknown destination unable to know how and why you got to the destination and why you are even there? What if someone else wanted this passenger to be kept in the dark? Would that “someone else” who’s not even in the car have more authority over this passenger than this passenger who’s being forced to take a mysterious “ride”? Why should this passenger have no say in what goes on in and about the passenger’s life? It actually sounds kind of criminal, doesn’t it?

    The secrets and deception in adoption can be much more damaging (or less) to the person adopted than the car passenger example I brought up.


  6. That mother may have changed her mind over the years. But whether she did or not, your daughter has a right to any information you may have. And she has a right to search. I look at it this way. We can tell our children we don’t want them to dye their hair. They have to follow that rule because they are our children. Now when that child turns 18, they are legally able to make that decision on their own, and probably will. I say the same for searching. Don’t discourage it. Just explain what happened, and go through what might happen. The mother may still not want contact. The mother may have been scared and has changed her mind and does want contact. The mother may be impossible to find. But it’s your daughters choice. Back her in whatever she decides.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was my son’s foster carer before I adopted him. I met many members of his birth family and saw first hand the events and behaviours that let up to him being placed for adoption. If I’m being totally honest, at the start, part of me wanted to whisk him away from those people and just rub out the awfulness of his early life and never mention it again. But of course I know now, as I did then really, that this is not possible, nor desirable. Time mellows us, and now, only a year in, it’s much easier for me to accept that he may one day need to search, as you do. Distance and time have given me a more balanced view of his birth family, and, being estranged from one of my own parents, I have some limited understanding of the deep need to know who we are and where we came from. All the adoptive parents I have ever met or spoken to fully support their children’s desire to search (or not!) and it’s a shame that the antiquated and insensitive attitudes of a few still prevail. Will I find it difficult if/when he decides to search? Will I feel threatened? Maybe. But parenting, all parenting, requires that we put our children’s needs and best interests before our own.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My feeling is “don’t tell her she’s adopted” was more about keeping your daughter from searching for this woman. If she doesn’t know there might be something to search FOR, she won’t be tempted to search, right?

    Where does your loyalty lie? With your daughter or with this woman you don’t even know?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m surprised that adoptee “selfishness” is still being discussed. I keep on thinking that we’re a more enlightened and aware society now, but I guess not.

    Anyways, when I think of adoptee “selfishness” for having questions that others (government and adoption agencies and adoptive parents) obstinately refuse to answer, I can’t help but think of the recently countless times the man who adopted me unapologetically and proudly declared his own “selfishness” over little things (too little to remember). The US (media/society) is always applauding those who are so driven/selfish, individualistic and unobstructed by others. I guess the adopted person with questions is obstructing the adopters’ own selfish ways.

    But if people/agencies/government answered the adopted person’s questions, then the adopted person wouldn’t have to repeatedly ask these basic questions about themselves so publicly, would they?

    How about give adopted people the same tools as every other human being to have the same answers every other human being easily gets? Then you wouldn’t give others the impression of being such a ******


  10. No, you do not. I’m an LDA, so my adoptive parents never told me I was adopted. I still found out, though. And I will never fully forgive them for lying to me my whole life. Every other LDA I know feels the same way. It shattered my world & 15 years on, I still haven’t picked up the pieces. I’m not sure I ever will. It’s not your story, it’s hers.

    It’s also her life & her health at risk if you don’t tell her, as well as any kids she may one day have. Far better to tell a dr. “I don’t know,” than wrong info.


  11. *banging head on desk* It drives me bananas when people ask me why I want to make sure that my kids get their original birth certificates. It drives me bananas when people (friends) continually say “I couldn’t do it” when I mention hanging out with X’s first mom. It drives me bananas when people, especially adoptive parents act like that a*hole you quoted. Too often I come across these attitudes and frankly, I’m sick of it perpetuating secrecy and shame when it comes to families.

    ‘kay rant over.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. My birthmother adopted two kids after I was born. How is is that, according to “real parent” that she was was dangerous for me, but not for the two kids she adopted later?


  13. YES YES YES!!!

    Back in the day, whenever a couple divorced, “Daddy” was supposed to go away quietly once “Mommy” remarried. Then the kids were told “This is your new Daddy. Don’t let anyone know different.”

    How is that horrible archaic attitude any different than adoption secrecy? In my husband’s family back in 1907, his great-grandmother died in childbirth with twins. One twin survived and was raised by an aunt and uncle. She was never formally adopted by them, and her father and other siblings lived nearby. There was no “she’s ours now – go away!”

    When marginalized fathers fought back, suddenly it was “in the best interests of the child” to know who his/her biological father is. Gee, what a concept. The ex-spouses did their best to GET ALONG for the sake of THEIR children. Wow – another new concept.


  14. I was never planning on keeping her adoption a secret… as I wrote on my original post… I was merely playing the devil’s advocate… Ultimately the decision will be up to my daughter whether to search for her birth family or not. I will support her 100% and help any way possible whichever way she goes. There is not a day that I don’t think about the grief the birth mother is going through for being away from her daughter. And my heart breaks thinking of how much the separation from birth mom affected my baby girl.


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