In 2016, I posted “What Is It Like to Be Adopted?” to the Huffington Post platform. I also wrote a piece titled “Foster Kids Need Our Help.”

Whether a person is adopted or born into a family and kept there, the bottom line is the same: our identities are important and we still want to know:

Who am I?

But what happens on the search to answer this all-important question?

Finding Out Can Hurt

Why? Maybe your ‘dad’ isn’t your real dad. Maybe you were adopted and you never knew. Your ‘mom’ isn’t your mom.

Does that mean someone gave you away? REALLY? First of all, rejection hurts all the way down. As grownup adoptees, we try to pretend we are over it, but rejection festers after a while. How do I know? The book Fixing the Fates, an Adoptee’s Story of Truth and Lies by Diane Dewey unveils a grown woman’s obsession with finding her identity. Dewey relates her surprise at the depth of “unknown emotional territory” as she begins a difficult relationship with her biological father starting when she was forty-seven years old.

The truth of rejection hurts for a long time. Lies make us even more nuts, and Ms. Dewey had more than her share. Was Dewey’s situation unusual? What about you? Do you want to know your past? You may not.

Being adopted is hard, but how are adopted kids and foster children, in general, faring these days?

Statistics Are Just Numbers shows that the number of children waiting to be adopted was 123,417 in 2017. The highest number of children waiting to be adopted over the preceding ten year period was 133,682 in 2007. We cannot know how long the children have been waiting, how old they are, or their circumstances. The numbers tell faceless, soulless, stories.

The foster care system holds worse news. The data show depressingly stable levels of kids needing homes. The non-profit About Us Kids says,
“Children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians.” data show there were 442,995 children in foster care in the U.S. in 2017; that number hovering pretty near 400,000 every year since 2007. The unhappy constancy is exemplified by the year 2017 in which 269,690 children in the U.S. entered foster care while there were about 247,631 children exiting foster care.

Not a New Problem

Movies, musicals, and plays such as “Elf” (2003), “Annie” (1977), and “Romeo and Juliet” (1597) run the gamut, but each art form shows how we want to claim our identities and how much we need to be loved. Plus, we need to learn how to give love. Movie moms, adopting moms and dads, foster parents and biological parents hopefully learn it somewhere along the line, before the end of the movie, and maybe by the end of the book: there’s more to being a parent and being a good, healthy-minded human being than giving birth or being born. Try Diane Dewey’s book or catch a new or an old movie, musical, or play. Being human isn’t easy, and knowing who you are can be a challenge. But if you still want to know,

who am I?

… it’s very possible that finding your true identity may surprise you. And, be prepared. It can hurt. Or it can be awesome. Like “Elf.”