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AdopTEA with Courtney: Core Concepts of Adoption

Adoption is beautiful, but it does come with some caveats (e.g., the “Seven Core Issues with Adoption and Permanency”). Please note that this post may not be an “easy read.” It’s also not a “slam” on adoption nor is it coming from a place of resentment toward any members of my family. I’m not anti-adoption at all. Like I said, adoption is a beautiful thing (as is knowledge and understanding)!

My Research

As a transracial adoptee, I’m a lifelong supporter of adoption as well as encouraging adoptees, birth families, and adoptive families (a.k.a., the “adoption triad”) to understand some of the nuances/complexities of adoption (especially, transracial adoption: i.e., when a child of one race is adopted into a family of another).

For example, the Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency, as studied and published by adoption experts Sharon Kaplan Roszia and Allison Davis Maxon (1982 and 2019) should be researched, reflected upon, and openly discussed by all members of the adoption triad (if possible). These “issues” (or “concepts,” as I prefer to refer to them) include:

  1. Loss

  2. Rejection

  3. Shame and Guilt

  4. Grief

  5. Identity

  6. Intimacy

  7. Mastery and Control

I didn’t learn about these concepts, until I started seeing a transracial adoptee therapist this year (at 36 “years young”). Below is a breakdown (the “tea”) outlining these concepts that I’ve researched through my therapy sessions, the work done by Kaplan Roszia and Davis Maxon (1982 and 2019), as well as Adoption & Beyond. Normally, I like to make things “look pretty,” but in this case, I’m keeping it simple and Canva-less (even though I’m obsessed with creating with Canva!).


My “Tea”

The first core concept is loss. As a child, I was always aware and openly-informed that I was adopted (which literally, could not be ignored, as I have a different skin color than my adoptive family). I was also often reminded about the “why” behind my adoption: my young and single birth mom wanted me to have a family who could give me stability. As my adoption was a “closed adoption” (i.e., my adoption agency restricted my birth families’ and my information from being shared among us, until I reached adulthood), I understand this. I remember looking out at the moon in our family’s Colorado home and wondering if my birth mom was looking at the same moon (An American Tale vibes, for sure). I often wondered what she was doing, and if she was also thinking of me on my birthday (as I was her), and thankfully, I eventually got to meet her as well as my birth father and half siblings (the meeting on my birth father’s side was over WhatsApp, because they live in Botswana)!

The second concept is rejection. As a child, I experienced a lot of rejection. My parents always had the best intentions for sending me and my sister to private schools, to give us the best education. At my schools, however, I experienced a lot of bullying. I was excluded a lot. I was misunderstood. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t gain acceptance and belonging. Looking back, I wish that I had shared that with my parents sooner. As soon as they knew of the situations (including some with my teachers even), they pulled me out of those schools.

The third concept is shame and guilt. I’ve often joked that I have “Catholic guilt,” without having been Catholic a day in my life. In my opinion, I think that stemmed from feeling like I needed to “earn” love and belonging. I didn’t want to “rock the boat.” I think my childhood self always thought that, if I didn’t adhere to my family’s wishes and focus on “keeping the peace,” I wouldn’t be “lovable” or “accepted.” I've recently learned, however, that was a survival skill. I made myself “smaller” to “protect myself” from a place of fear of abandonment.

The fourth concept is grief. Fortunately, I have been able to reconnect with my birth families. The fact that we have such close relationships is not common, from what I’ve read (in articles as well as social media groups), experienced firsthand, and discussed with other adoptees. That’s all I’ll say on that, other than I wish other adoptees had such positive experiences with reconnecting with their birth families.

The fifth concept is identity. I have definitely struggled with this. Growing up in a home and around people who didn’t look like me, I always wanted to look like someone. I even made up an “imaginary friend,” who was my twin. The funny thing is, when I saw a picture of my half sister on my birth mom’s side for the first time on Facebook, I thought it was a picture of me! I finally got my twin!

The sixth concept is intimacy. An early photo taken of me and my mom (my adoptive mom, to be “technically” specific) shows me pulling away from her. I also screamed in the car all the way home from the hospital. I’m still trying to figure all of that out, but I do recognize that I have some intimacy issues. Even though it may take me years (as I tend to assume the best in people), I often push people away and even cut them out of my life after they hurt me, as a defense mechanism: I try to avoid abandonment. Thank goodness for therapy!

The seventh and final concept is mastery and control. This may be the biggest one for me. I have often joked that I am a “recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser” and am horrible at making decisions. After learning about this concept, however, my “joke” (fueled by my innate desire to lighten heavy topics through humor) is actually a studied reality, and I finally understand it more.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! I so appreciate your openness and willingness to “listen!” I’m not gonna lie: this post is not an easy one for me to write. I’ve actually put it off for a while (over a year, in fact). That said, I am encouraged by the fact that adoptees – and transracial adoptees, in particular (including Angela Tucker, who published her book, You Should Be Grateful, this year – are sharing their stories more. I have so much more to learn, but it’s going to be a process. I know that. Also, I do think that some of these concepts – if not all — are applicable to non-adoptees as well. 

If any of this resonates with you, please send me a message. I am always open to conversations and learning more perspectives.

As always, thank you for listening!

Sincerely and authentically,


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