Some Thoughts on Adoptive Family Kinship

In the lifespan of an adoptee, it is necessary to look at the whole picture. The adoptee grows up within an adoptive family. That includes the adoptive parents’ sisters and brothers who are the adoptee’s aunts and uncles. There are cousins who are older and cousins who are younger. There are children of the older cousins, who are second cousins to the adoptee. These children grow up together and form emotional attachments. Such is family life. (See the book: Adoption and the Family System, 1992, by Miriam Reitz and Kenneth W. Watson.)

Those attachments are not broken when an adoptee is reunited with their biological kin. If there is genuine caring and understanding, those adoptive kinship feelings do not change. The adoptee does not swap feelings for the adoptive over to the reunited family of birth. Rather, the adoptee somehow integrates the “new” people into her life. And integrates the new “self”, which is also her biological self and family of origin. There are more relatives to reunite with than the parents of birth and siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins — the usual extended family.

When one looks at the lifespan of an adoptee, it is necessary to look at the family developments and development of self though the life span. Young adulthood, marriage, children, aging and dying parents, middle age complications of divorce, changing or ending jobs, and aging of oneself. There is also the ebb and flow of relationships. Reunion does not happen with one event. It is a process that continues throughout the adoptee’s life. Relationships may end with some relatives, but there are continuing relationships, and surprising new ones as well.

I have found biological kin  that I have had long-time relationships with that no one else knows about within other reunited relationships. I have social circles that are separate from my natural father, my adoptive mother, my step siblings, my three sisters whom I do not want involved in my life. I enjoy close emotional ties to blood kin distant cousins for over 20 years.

In my extended adoptive family, there are relatives who have not been aware of the drama that has been going on. These relatives have not caused pain and have not been involved in spreading rumors.  

From my childhood cousinship relationships, I have learned:

Step families can and do flourish with love and open communication and laughter.

New Step families bring in new children to play with. There was no distinction. We added the new cousins right in with the old ones. Because we were kids.

Families who broke off and went their own directions for decades and who have touched base again, are renewing childhood emotional bonds. Some of us have not seen each other since childhood and are brought together in middle age due to parents dying. We are re-discovering what we meant to each other as children. We are forming continued relationships as middle aged adults.

So, adoption  kinship does not end when there is a reunion between an adoptee and her natural family. I have said this since 1974 when I was 18 years and newly reunited,  and I continue to say it: every adoptee has two sets of real parents. Deal with it. Adoptees must deal with it or live in denial. How other relatives deal with it is their own choice. An adoptee who searches for natural parents must conduct a search with responsibility and caring. Biological kin who search for and find an adoptee must do the same.

I was found by siblings I knew nothing about. Adding my reunited biological kin back into my life, and adding new biological kin in the decades that followed the initial stages of reunion, in no way destroys adoptive family kinship. The adoptee is in the middle and struggles with dual identity. It is a life process.