Adoption is something that is experienced differently by most people. If you’re adopted, you may have grown up with your adoptive parents being totally open about your biological parents. You may even know who they are. But you may have had a totally different experience, only finding out that you were adopted later in life, or not knowing who your biological family is. There are so many different situations and scenarios. But there are also some very common feelings that many people experience if they are adopted.

In the United States, adoption statistics reveal a complex landscape shaped by the needs of children and the desires of families looking to grow. According to the most recent data from the Adoption Network, approximately 115,000 children are adopted in the U.S. every year. This includes children from foster care, which accounts for a significant portion at about 59%, as well as international adoptions and those from private domestic agencies. Interestingly, while international adoptions were more common in the past, recent years have seen a decline, with domestic adoptions now being the majority. This shift highlights the evolving dynamics of adoption in the United States, reflecting both changing societal attitudes and legal frameworks governing the adoption process. Overall, around 5 million Americans are adopted.

Adoption occurs for myriad reasons, affecting both the adoptive families and the children involved. On the side of the adoptees, common reasons can range from the inability of biological parents to provide care due to financial issues, health problems, or young age, to more tragic circumstances such as the loss of parents or severe neglect and abuse. Children sometimes enter the foster care system as a result, where they may eventually be adopted.

On the other hand, individuals and couples choose to adopt for various reasons. Some cannot have biological children due to infertility or health concerns and see adoption as a fulfilling way to build a family. Others are motivated by a desire to provide a loving home to children in need, whether out of altruistic reasons, personal experiences, or both. There are also those who undertake adoption as a way to expand their family beyond biological means, welcoming children of different backgrounds and cultures into their lives. These varied reasons for adoption illustrate the complex interplay of personal, societal, and economic factors that come into play.

Whatever the circumstances, people who are adopted often share some similar feelings about it. Here are five of the most common feelings that are totally normal.

1. Desire to Track Down Biological Family

Many adoptees feel a compelling need to seek out their biological family at some point in their lives. This desire can stem from a variety of reasons, such as wanting to understand more about their genetic background, medical history, or simply to fill in the missing pieces of their identity puzzle. The quest to find biological relatives can be emotional, fraught with challenges, and not always successful. However, for some, figuring out how to find biological parents is a crucial step towards achieving a sense of completeness and personal peace. Advances in DNA testing and social media have made this search easier than in the past, providing hope and connection across distances.

2. Feeling of Belonging

Despite loving adoptive families, some adoptees grapple with feelings of not fully belonging or feeling out of place within their family or community. This can be especially pronounced in families where there are noticeable differences, such as race or ethnicity. These feelings can lead to a complex exploration of identity, as adoptees seek to reconcile their upbringing with their biological heritage. Supportive environments that encourage open dialogue and respect for the adoptee’s unique experiences can greatly alleviate these feelings and foster a stronger sense of belonging.

3. Curiosity About Origins

A natural curiosity about where they come from is common among adoptees. This can include questions about their birth parents, reasons for their adoption, and the cultural heritage of their biological family. This curiosity can range from a simple interest in knowing more to a deeper need to understand their own story in the context of their origins. This exploration can be a source of empowerment for many adoptees, providing them with a richer understanding of their identities.

4. Mixed Feelings About Adoption

It’s normal for adoptees to have mixed feelings about their adoption. On one hand, there can be gratitude for the life opportunities provided by their adoptive families and an understanding of the difficult decision their biological parents made. On the other hand, there can also be feelings of loss, abandonment, or resentment. Navigating these emotions can be complex and may evolve over time as adoptees grow and process their experiences differently at various stages of their life.

5. Concerns About Rejection

Adoptees often harbor fears about potential rejection from their biological family if they decide to reach out. The uncertainty surrounding their biological family’s current circumstances or feelings towards them can be daunting. This fear can be a significant barrier to seeking connection, requiring courage and sometimes support from others to overcome. Nonetheless, many adoptees find that reaching out, regardless of the outcome, is an important step in their personal journey and growth. Beyond the fear of rejection by their biological family, adopted individuals may also experience a heightened fear of rejection in other areas of their life, often manifesting in relationships, friendships, or professional settings. This pervasive fear can stem from deep-seated feelings of abandonment, influencing their interactions and how they perceive acceptance from those around them.

The process and aftermath of adoption vary greatly from person to person and can change over time. Adoption creates unique families, builds bridges between cultures, and provides children with opportunities for love and security. However, it also presents individuals with complex questions about identity, belonging, and connection. The common feelings adoptees share highlight the importance of support, understanding, and open communication within the adoption community. Ultimately, the narrative of adoption is as much about the journeys of finding and forming new bonds as it is about nurturing them throughout life.