A real-life adoption story: Justine's Interview

When considering adoption as a choice for their baby, many birth mothers wonder what life will be like for their child, and wonder what the experience of adoption is like.  For this reason, Options met up with Justine*, who was adopted at birth, for a very special personal interview.  We are incredibly grateful to Justine for being willing to share her story and her perspective, so that others can have an idea of what adotpion has meant to her.  Our interviewer and Justine chose to address some of the more difficult questions that may come up, as well as some rather personal and sensitive questions about adoption, and we are grateful to Justine for her honesty and openess.

So Justine, tell us a little about yourself?

I am 24 years old living in Clapham, I am a hairdresser working in Putney but originally from Hampshire where I lived with my adopted parents, my adopted brother and my sister who is my adopted parent’s daughter.

Do you remember finding out that you were adopted?

I don't ever remember my parents sitting me down to tell me I was adopted. I grew up always knowing I was adopted. I remember as far back as junior school doing a project on family history when I was six or seven years old, standing up and talking about my adoption so it's always been something I've known growing up.

Did you ever go through a phase of feeling upset that you are adopted?

I went through a stage when I was really aware I didn't look like my parents. I’m mixed raced and both my parents are white British. It definitely effects you, especially growing up when you’re at school. When I was around 16 I felt quite angry because I didn't understand why my birth mum put me up for adoption.

So would you say you felt some form of rejection?

I would say I felt slightly rejected, more because I didn't understand the reasons why and as my birth mum was 21 years old when she had me, when I was 16 years old, a 21 year old seemed a lot older than you, and I knew girls who had babies younger than 21 and they were coping fine, so I used to think why didn't she keep me. However, when I became 21 I realised at 21 you are still very young and it's so difficult being a single mum so when I got to that age I could relate to her a lot more and understand her decision.

When did you decide you wanted to track down your birth parents?

It's always been something I've wanted to do; I’ve spoken about my adoption throughout my whole life and I’ve always said ‘next year’ and then that year goes by and I haven’t done anything; but I had to wait until I was 16 to get more records about her; but it’s only been in the last year that I started to trace. I also think it's just the right time now as I'm settled; I’m content in my life and I feel finding her now would be for the right reasons, not for the reasons that she may feel a void that I would have had in my life a few years back, but if anything she will add something to my life. I also feel I am at an age where if she said she didn't want to meet me, I would be able to deal with that in a better way than if it happened a few years back.

What about your birth dad? Is it impossible to track him down?

At the moment yes it is impossible because back then my birth mum didn't put his name down on the birth certificate which back then you were allowed to do, so until I find my birth mother, I don't know his name, all I know is that he is Scottish.

So how do you go about this search process?

There are many different avenues you can go through. For me it was about cost and trusting someone with this. I met a lady at an adoption day which was held through the council that I got adopted through. Once a year they meet with people here have been adopted, birth parents and it’s a day where people talk about their experiences. I met a lady there who does tracking in her spare time and it is a non-profitable organisation. At the moment we are just emailing back and forth and the process seems quite good as she is in control and just keeps me updated with any news.

How do your adopted parents feel about you looking for your biological mum?

No parent should go into adoption and think their child will never ask about it. Obviously it's tough, especially for my mum because I want to know my birth mother as she gave birth to me, which I think is a natural feeling and response, however both very supportive and my dad is very involved in the tracing. I want them to be involved and I want them to come with me and meet my birth mum when the time is right.

How much do you know about the circumstances of your biological parent’s relationship?

This actually helped me growing up as I had the records and I knew the story, but for those who don't know anything in must be a lot more challenging.

They had a short relationship and she got pregnant. She was also in care growing up and she didn't want that life for me as she knows what it's like to have a mother in and out of her life and she didn't know her father. She wrote me a letter I have a photo and in the letter she said that she would hope that we would meet again. She wanted me to grow up in a house with both mum and dad and have a family upbringing, she had no family to support her and me so I understand why she chose this for my life.

How do you feel now you're an adult and looking back on it?

It is a massive testimony to both my parents and the way they bought me up. My parents prepared themselves for questions that I may ask them and they are both really encouraging and supportive of me. Some adopted parents aren't like that and aren't supportive in helping their child find their birth parents and I don't understand why. Looking back over my teenage years I did struggle with it, I think it's great that there are places that people can go and talk to people and especially for me I was raised in church and that was the place I found it easy to talk to people actually where I had the revelation that being adopted was God's plan for me.

Could you imagine if they giving up a child for adoption or adopting a child?

Now I know the circumstances and why she picked me up for adoption, I'm really grateful and I wouldn't be who I am today and it my life would be really tough. My birth mum would be a single mum with no family around her and now I am blessed to have a family, I went to a great school, I've had many holidays and I'm secure in life. I would like to one day have my own kids, but adopting is something I do think about as I know what it's like to be adopted and I would be able to relate to the child and also encourage and support them.

What would you say to people who have been adopted and may be struggling with it?

You need to understand it happened before you could even do anything about it. We are all human, and unfortunately with that, situations happen and we have to put ourselves in the position of these people. For example your mother could been too young and alone to look after you, it may not be the fact that she didn't love you; no, she wanted the best for you, that is sacrificial love. It's hard because we want to be around our biological parents is our natural instinct, but my life would be so different from what it is today if I wasn't adopted. If you are struggling with being adopted there are many counsellors that you can speak to, in order to help you deal with your feelings which could include rejection. The main thing is not to bottle up these feelings and to keep them hidden, but instead talk about them openly and deal with them in a way that suits and helps you. You need good people around you who can speak into your life positively, but also be appreciative to the people that did adopt you because it was a massive ask of them to do so, and they deserve our respect and gratitude.

If you could pass on a message to your birthmother, what would you say?

I completely understand why you did what you did and I'm so grateful that I was adopted, I know that may sound strange to some people. I am blessed with amazing parents and I have had an amazing upbringing so I'm so thankful.

I don’t want you to ever feel I'm upset with you - you made the right decision by us both, and hopefully one day we can form a friendship. I feel I will always have a strong bond with you because there are certain things in my character and looks that obviously don't come from my adopted parents, but I think I look like you from the picture we have together at my birth.

I hope you haven't lived a life of regret and have not been traumatised by what happened, but I just wanted to thank you also because you were really involved in my adoption and many people aren't, but you placed me into a family after meeting them, knowing who they were and securely passed me into that family; many people just let the council decide who they place the child with, but you wanted to be involved, and that touches my heart and I’m so thankful.

* Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.



Further Information on Adoption:

68,110 children were in the care of local authorities on 31st March 2013, compared to 67,080 in 2012. 5% (3,350) of these children were placed for adoption.

5,206 adoptions were entered into the Adopted Children Register (ACR) following court orders made in England (4,835) and Wales (371) during 2012. This is an increase of 9.8% on the 4,740 adoptions entered in 2011.

90% (3,560) of children were adopted by couples and 10% (420) by single adopters during the year ending 31st March 2013.


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