Occasionally, we have the pleasure of sharing with you the thoughts of adult adoptees who are part of our community. We are thrilled to share this piece by Bethany Fraser, a marketing strategy and business development professional and a passionate advocate for trust, truth, and transparency in the adoption community.


May was a month of celebration for many, with holidays like Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. However, for some, these holidays can be difficult and even painful. May also marked National Foster Care Month and National Mental Health Awareness Month, which can both serve as reminders that not everyone experiences holidays similarly. As an adoptee, I remember feeling conflicted on Mother’s Day, wanting to show appreciation to my mom but also wondering about my birth mother and if she thought of me. It’s important to recognize and honor the complexities of these holidays for all individuals and families.

The Secrets Took a Toll

As a young girl, I felt guilty and ashamed when I thought about my birth mother because I didn’t want to upset my loving mama, who kissed my boo-boos and rubbed my back softly to get me to sleep. Despite our close relationship, I still longed for details about my biological family, but no one would give me answers. My birth mother found me in 2005, and we cautiously developed a relationship. However, she continued withholding the truth regarding my birth father, my birth circumstances, and her decision to place me up for adoption.

Her choices left me feeling inadequate and secondary to her need to keep her family secrets. These secrets and a blanket of general anxiety further impacted my mental health. They took a toll on my body and mind without realizing it. It would take over a decade, and a ton of courage, before this chapter of my story, would take a life-changing turn.

My Turning Point

The summer of 2020 was a pivotal moment in my journey of self-discovery. I decided to prioritize my healing, lean into my nagging curiosity, and search for my truth by myself and on my terms. After taking an Ancestry DNA test, I discovered I was bi-racial, which led to an unexpected reunion with my biological father and his family. This news stirred up a flood of emotions within me. Learning about my ethnicity, the circumstances surrounding my birth and adoption, and my father’s identity made me realize that they were essential pieces of my identity that contributed to who I am.

Sorting through this new information was a complicated process that required intense introspection and reflection on my life and the people in it until that point. However, despite the challenges, this journey of self-discovery allowed me to emerge with a deeper understanding of myself and a renewed appreciation for building a life I love – a life I deserve.

Overall, this experience taught me the importance of self-exploration and self-acceptance. It is crucial to embrace all aspects of ourselves, even the parts that may be difficult to confront. Through this journey, I have recognized the value of understanding where we come from and how our past experiences shape us into who we are today.

Loss Upon Loss Left Me Reeling

Just as my biological father emerged and the pieces were coming into focus for me, my father, the man who raised me, took his last breath. I felt my world shatter into a million pieces.

We had always been close, so I was blessed to hold his hand and rub his face and feet as he passed away on a sunny spring day in 2022. However, before his death, with his health declining, I opted not to fill him in on my search or my DNA test results. And hours after his death, I discovered he withheld something from me too. He had known from the moment he received the call from the adoption agency that I was a “special needs” baby – labeled as such because I was bi-racial. And it rocked me to my core.

As I work through my feelings about this still new-ish discovery, I’m often asked if my life would have been different if my parents had shared what they knew from the adoption agency. The answer is yes. My earliest memory of looking for someone like me was in second grade. That’s a long time to wonder, wish, and wait.

Get a Free Guide to Parenting a Child Exposed to Trauma

When discussing my adoption journey with other adoptees and professionals, I often use my experience to illustrate the importance of sharing information about adoptees’ backgrounds. It’s hard to imagine what my life would have been like if I had known the truth from the beginning, but I know it would have been different. And that thought is both comforting and heartbreaking.

Belonging Led to New Coping Skills

Two years after the test and the subsequent reunion, I discovered The Barker Adoption Foundation, an organization near my hometown that offers lifelong support services for adoptees and their families. This discovery was overwhelming for me, as closed records and tight lips had made it impossible to know my ethnicity, leaving me feeling alone and unworthy. And here was an organization helping people like me live out loud. Eventually, I called Barker’s main line. As a result, I found a community that exists to support adoptees, their families, and mental health professionals on this unique and complex journey. I was no longer alone.

Experiencing belonging and having a sense of identity, or the lack of either, can profoundly impact mental health. According to Angela Theisen, Psychotherapist at Mayo Clinic Health System, it’s nearly impossible to separate the importance of a sense of belonging from our mental health. I struggled to find my ethnic and biological roots, feeling like an outlier. Although I grew up embracing my Grandma’s horn cookies from the Old World, I loved her Slovakian accent and listened to her softly spoken stories. I knew they weren’t the stories of my biological ancestors. It left me with what I now describe as a disconnected feeling.

These feelings layered on top of all the other unresolved feelings, affected my mental health, coping skills, executive functions, and self-confidence, which was shaky. I felt left alone to identify the “why.” Through this process and now surrounded by support, I gained valuable insights and developed strategies for coping. I received validation for my feelings and experiences. Telling my story and listening to others became essential as I realized how crucial it is for adoptees to have a safe space to explore their emotions and identity.

Searching For and Finding Other Adoptee Voices

I searched tirelessly on social media, podcasts, and blogs for other adoptees sharing their stories and found a supportive and safe community. I discovered non-profit organizations like Barker, On Your Feet Foundation, and CreatingaFamily.org that provided resources, community support, and training for the adoption constellation. Finding these communities in my mid-40s was another transformative moment for me.

Despite being grateful for my loving adoptive parents, I yearned for a deeper understanding of my identity. I found comfort and solace in hearing similar stories and experiences. Knowing I wasn’t alone and my feelings were valid was a relief. These resources have been invaluable and helped me navigate my identity.

How Parents Can Support An Adopted Child’s Search for Identity

While adoption is beautiful, it also can be complicated. It’s filled with emotions and questions that need to be addressed and can’t have an expiration date – the journey is ongoing. It’s essential to have open and honest conversations with all the adoption constellation members. By creating a space for these conversations, adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents can better understand and support one another and, ultimately, help create a world where adoption is understood and celebrated for all its complexities.

Here are two critical suggestions that can help provide support and contribute to your adopted child’s mental health and wellness:

1. Find community support for your child.

Adoptees may struggle to express their feelings to family and friends who may not share their cultural background. But adoption is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Finding spaces where your child can feel understood and supported is essential. For me, the Beyonding Community, a transformational space for executive women of color, was a game changer. To support your adoptee of color, consider donating to a cultural organization that aligns with the community they need.

Additionally, adoptee voices, like April Dinwoodie and Angela Tucker, can help parents and caregivers make decisions that support their child’s mental health and well-being. Adoptive parents must create space for honest conversations in their children’s lives.

2. Truth, trust, and transparency are essential.

Childhood trauma consultant Beth Tyson emphasizes honesty in improving mental health. Admitting and apologizing for mistakes can repair trust in relationships. Honest conversations about identity, especially for bir-racial adoptees, can help them overcome overwhelming feelings and find a sense of belonging. Seeking support from a trusted third party can facilitate these conversations and provide guidance on the adoption and foster journey — organizations like Creating a Family that provides expert-based, trauma-informed courses and others that offer post-adoption services.

To support your child’s journey, start by listening and validating their experiences in a safe and open environment. As adoptees often face challenges in understanding their identity, parents and caregivers must support their search for information.

How Do Transracial Adoptees Develop a Racial Identity?

Bringing Hope to Adoptees and Their Families

In sharing my story, I hope to bring hope, healing, and joy to other adoptees and families. It’s never too late to start this open communication and create a safe conversation space for your adopted child. Searching for truth may be challenging, but seeking support and resources can help your child’s personal growth, mental health, and general well-being. Embracing all aspects of identity can be empowering and enriching. For parents, sharing information about a child’s cultural heritage and biological roots can help create a sense of belonging within the family. Open communication and honesty are essential for building a robust and healthy identity in your adoptee and deepening the connection in your relationship.


Thank you, Bethany, for sharing your search for identity and belonging as a transracial adoptee. We are grateful for your voice!

Image Credits: Евгений Карепанов; Steven Arenas; Andrea Piacquadio