finding out you're adopted

Am I Adopted? Finding Out You’re Adopted & What to Do Next

“Am I adopted?” Many people, both in their adolescence and as adults, have found themselves wondering, “Was I adopted?” Sometimes this thought only occurs once, but for some, there is a persistent nagging suspicion that their parents are not biologically related to them.

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Chances Are Slim

If you’ve ever furtively typed “how to find out if I was adopted” into Google, then you should first understand that the chances of you being adopted without you knowing it are very slim. Finding out you’re adopted late in life is very rare, so for better or worse, your parents are likely biologically related to you.

Today, 97 percent of children who were adopted are told about their adoption from the very beginning, leaving only 3 percent of adoptees who are still unaware of their adoption. Because studies have revealed that increased openness in adoption leads to increased overall happiness in adoptees, adoptive parents are now making an effort to talk with their children about their adoptions from day one — so very few adoptees are unaware that they were adopted. In addition, 95 percent of adoptions today are open, so only 5 percent of modern adoptees do not have any contact with their birth family.

So, what does this mean for those who have always wanted to know how to tell if you were adopted? It means that people who were adopted almost always already know, so it’s very unlikely that you were adopted and don’t know it. It may put you at ease to know that finding out you’re adopted is actually very unlikely, and probably not going to happen to you.

But If You Are in That Small Percentage…

“I just found out I was adopted.” It’s extremely rare for all the reasons we mentioned above and more, but it does occasionally happen.

So what happens when you’re finding out you were adopted, and it all comes as a shock? Where do you go from there?

If you’re finding out you’re adopted late in life, you’re considered a “Late Discovery Adoptee,” or an LDA. For those who suddenly discover that they were adopted later in their lives, there are a number of negative emotions that they may experience, which can potentially include:

  • Feelings of betrayal and hurt, and an inability to trust those who kept the secret from them.
  • Pain at the secrecy from their family or anyone who withheld information about the adoption.
  • Disorientation about their childhood memories, both positive and negative.
  • Going through the stages of grief.
  • Experiencing an identity crisis, or feeling as their previous identity were false.
  • Delayed emotional processing of their adoption, whereas other adoptees have their entire lives to process their adoption.

If you’re just now finding out you’re adopted, coming to terms with this new reality can be a difficult journey, but there are resources that can help you.

Even though there aren’t very many Late Discovery Adoptees due to the shift toward increased openness in adoptions, fellow LDAs are very supportive and have helpful resources to offer; you don’t have to feel alone.

If You’re Still Not Sure If You Were Adopted or Not

You’ve likely already approached your parents directly with your questions. If you haven’t, do that first. Ask them outright: “Am I adopted?” It may be hard, but going straight to the source will be your best first step.

If that’s not an option for you, or if you don’t feel like your family has been honest with you, you can learn more about how to conduct an adoption search here. It may be able to provide you with a definitive answer if you are in the 2 percent of the U.S. population who was adopted.