Finding out that you are adopted is understandably a life-changing experience. Many people find out they are adopted early on, and it is their normal. However, there have been many people who have found out they were adopted by accident. There may also be a suspicion of adoption after your parents have passed or shortly before. People may find some paperwork from their adoption or be told by their parents much later in life. As time goes on, more and more adoptive parents are understanding that it is not healthy to keep an adoption from their child.
It is much more beneficial to the child to tell them right away and to have that be their normal throughout their life. However, there are those who still will hold the truth of the adoption or may feel that the truth of the adoption and the circumstances surrounding that would not be beneficial to their child. People may keep an adoption from their child if the circumstances would cause a safety issue. Children may find out they are adopted from other relatives or through a family friend. Many times, this is simply a slip of information. You may find that your family is forthcoming when you confront them with the truth of your adoption that someone has recently disclosed.
If you suspect that you might be adopted, the first step will be to understand why you might feel that way. Is there something that would lead you to believe that you are adopted? Did you find certain paperwork that points in that direction? Did a family friend or family member drop a piece of information that makes you think you might be adopted? Have you just simply felt like you didn’t belong? All of these are logical reasons why you might feel that you are adopted. The great news is that there are some surefire ways and some definitive answers that you can find through various avenues. DNA has come an incredibly long way in recent years and may hold the key to your search for answers. Here are a few ways to delve into that and investigate if you are adopted.
One of the most logical first steps to take when seeking out information on your possible adoption would be to ask your family. This seems like it would be common sense, but some may be too hesitant to ask their family if they feel like their family is keeping a secret. However, “family” does not have to mean immediate family. If you have an extended family member who you trust, it may be wise to ask them if they know anything about your possible adoption. It may be wise to just go ahead and ask your parents. Once confronted with the question, they may find that it is the right time to tell you the truth. Be honest about what you know and go in with an open mind. The news of your adoption may have been kept from you as an attempt to protect you in some way. Understand that the reasoning behind this secret was likely not malicious.
If your parent has been keeping your adoption from you because they felt you are not old enough, you may find that they now feel you are old enough with your attempt to ask the question. I have spoken with many adoptive parents who have asked when was the appropriate age to tell their child that they are adopted. I have advised all of them that they should tell their child from day one and continue to tell their story as they grow. However, some of these children are already a couple of years of age and have no idea that they are adopted. Once that has happened, there is a deep fear that their child will be upset with them or have some sort of trauma due to the adoption.
While adoption trauma is real, it is important for parents to recognize that every day they wait is another day too long. If your parents are waiting out of fear and just waited too long to tell you, they may never find the right time. By asking the question of your parents, you may find that they are very forthcoming. If not, you can simply seek those in the family who would know about your birth.
Birth records can be a very tricky way to find out if you are adopted. This is simply due to the fact that most adoptees received a secondary birth certificate once they are adopted. This birth certificate looks no different than an original birth certificate and does not mention the adoption. You may not be able to find out just from your birth certificate that you are adopted. However, you may be able to find other records within your family’s personal information and personal files that would include an original birth certificate and adoption papers. I’m not suggesting to go snooping around, however, you may be able to find public records that have information on your adoption.
There are a few different ways to obtain public records. If you know what state you are born in, you can request a birth certificate from that state. You can also call and see if anything else is on file. However, the issue is that your birth certificate might not contain your original name. Many times, when you apply for a birth certificate, they ask who your parents are. You may be able to contact the Vital Records Department within your state to see if there is any recourse in looking for a birth certificate for a suspected adoption. However, these records are usually protected.
You can also contact the hospital at which you were born and see if the hospital might be able to direct you to search public records. You can also go on websites such as Adoption.com and search the Reunion Registry to see if anybody is looking for a child who was born in your state on your same birthday. You may also search that information online as a general search to see if there are any records online of your birth or of a child under a different name but the same age as you. There are really endless ways to search for records with the internet.
Probably the most definitive way to find out if you are adopted is to conduct a DNA test. If you have already spoken with your parents and they are not forthcoming, you may ask if a DNA test can be performed. However, the chances are, if your parents are keeping some sort of secret, they will likely be telling you the truth at this point or would refuse to do a DNA test. It is not advisable to do a DNA test in secret. A DNA test should only be done when both parties are willing. However, you may be able to find someone else who is supposed to be biologically related to you in your family who is willing to conduct a DNA test with their DNA. This would give you an idea of if you are related to that person. Your parents may also be willing to do any tests if they are telling the truth and you are not, in fact, adopted. The first step is to ask and then to seek out the truth.
Another step is to submit your DNA to a DNA testing service like Ancestry.com. Not only will this give you a map of your ethnicity, but it will also connect you with any relatives who are in their database. This would be very telling if you were adopted if you connected with other people as a full match or possibly connected with your biological parents. Unfortunately, you would not necessarily connect with someone if they were not in the database. However, you may connect with distant relatives. I recently did a DNA test through Ancestry.com and was immediately connected with my full biological sister and many distant relatives. It may be wise to submit your DNA to multiple testing sites as multiple testing sites have multiple databases from which they draw.
An interesting story with the use of DNA testing services was within my own family. For years, my grandmother told us that we had an aunt who we did not know and who did not know of us. My grandmother only knew her because she saw her briefly as a baby. My grandfather had a child with another woman and that child was, therefore, a half-sibling to my mother and her siblings. For years, my aunt has tried to track her down. It wasn’t until recently she found her on Facebook just based on the information we had been given. The woman actually knew she had been adopted and knew her father’s name, my grandfather, for all these years. However, she just really had no way to reach out to us. She submitted her DNA through Ancestry.com, fully expecting it to connect to all of us. However, it turned out that the story we were all given was not the truth. Her mother was her real mother but she did not know the identity of her father. She was just told it was my grandfather for all those years simply because it was a name to give. As her mother has now passed away, her only hope is that a distant relative will pop up within those DNA registries. While it was not the answer that she wanted, submitting to her DNA to Ancestry.com was the first step in solving the mystery of her identity.
One of the great features of DNA testing services is that these services will keep your DNA within their database. This means that even if you match with someone two years from now, the service is set up to inform you if someone from your family submits their DNA. Others may choose to keep their DNA private, but many submit their DNA hoping to be matched with relatives. If you are looking to connect with your birth family or have recently found out that you are, in fact, adopted, submitting your DNA to the service might aid you in your search. It would also be great in a situation where your parents have passed away, and you are unsure that the information about your adoption was true or if you are adopted at all.
It is important to remember that at the end of it all, your best bet in finding out if you are adopted is communication with your family. That may not be an option if you’re older and your family has passed away. However, if it is an option, simply asking the question may gain more answers than you realize. It may be hard to confront your family with a question as serious as this. However, you will never know unless you ask. Your family may think they are trying to protect you from the things that you don’t know. However, they may simply be waiting for you to ask or they may feel it is the right time when you do ask. It can’t hurt to try.
You might find out that you are not adopted and be able to gather information that appeases your fears or concerns. Depending on the reason you feel that you are adopted, you may have that question answered. Some may feel that they do not look like their family or do not fit in. My childhood friend found out, at 16, that her father adopted her though her mother was biological. She found out due to the slip of the tongue of a family friend. If you have suspicions, raise them. If you continue to suspect, go the route of seeking public records. If you still do not have all of the answers, seek out a DNA service. It may take a lot of investigative work to discover the truth, or you may find that your parents or family are very forthcoming. No matter your journey, tread lightly with compassion and understanding.
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Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on www.facebook.com/halfemptymom/.