Why don't people want to adopt teenagers

Adopted Children: The Breach in Childhood

Series: How Family Succeeds - Part 6

At Adopted children is the self-image of Affiliation and the origin not as clear as most of the others. How important is knowledge of one's ancestry for identity development?

Text: Annette Cina and Giselda Kilde
Photo: Getty Images / Kirsten Lewis

Usually children are born into a family and grow up loved, supported and bound up there. Children love to know where they are from and where they belong. But not all children have these experiences. Adopted children have a break in their curriculum vitae: at some point they realize that the Ask about your own identity is not that easy to answer.

Developing your own identity means creating a consistent picture of yourself. An image of being an independent person, with certain characteristics and positions in the world, your own congruent history, your own feelings and judgments about yourself. This is how we want to be perceived by others. The feeling of I-identity is a kind of correspondence of one's own perceived and felt self with that in the eyes of others.

While children form their own identity by imitating their attachment figures and looking for similarities, in the teenage years the detachment from attachment figures to an independent self begins. Questions like "What makes me special?" and "How do I differ from others?" are particularly important in teenage years. It is a typical development task that we all have to master.

The replacement as a balancing act

Building your own identity also means setting yourself apart from certain people and groups and joining others to whom you feel you belong. In the family context, this often means to be von parents to delineate and Affiliation among peers to search.

The detachment from their parents can be experienced by young people on the one hand as a liberation, on the other hand as a loss of orientation. On both sides, parents and teenagers alike, this can create insecurity and fear. This process of detachment can lead to painful and heated discussions between parents and young people about how a new relationship can be built up. Letting the teenager go their own way and still be there when they need it is therefore often a balancing act.

Whomn part of your own story is missing

If a person experiences that they are allowed to be who they are, their story is unique and special, and - despite differences - they belong to a group, a stable personality can be developed. Ideally, this is an independent personality that is aware of its otherness and yet coherent in itself.


For most adoptive children, next to the question "Who am I?" sooner or later the additional question: "Where do I come from? "


These questions are important for creating your own identity. Adopted teenagers in particular are becoming increasingly aware that their résumés look different from those of their colleagues and friends. Not knowing where you actually come from, why your biological parents were unable or unwilling to look after you, where certain characteristics come from and where you belong can trigger major crises.

Part of my own origin is unknown: where should I orient myself if I cannot find a match? In addition to identification with the social parents, there is identification with the biological parents, who, however, are not known. Part of their own history is missing.

An examination and your own assessment of reality is not possible. In response, the biological parents glorified, but also the biological as well as social parents rejected become. The uncertainties are further increased if the teenager cannot openly ask these questions about his origin, for example so as not to hurt his or her caring parents.

Several studies show that clarity about one's own story, no matter how tough it is, makes it easier to form an identity and find a place in society.
Knowing the reasons and causes of being given up for adoption can also have a conciliatory effect and boost self-esteem. In this sense, knowledge of parentage is in itself a human right that a person may or may not exercise.

Conditional access to information for birth parents

Since 1973, adoptions were only available in Switzerland as full adoptions and with secrecy about the identity of the adoptive family possible. The connections to the birth parents were severed, whereby the relationships were extinguished. At that time, the legislature assumed that not only a legal, but also an informational separation between biological parents and child had to be given so that full adoption could succeed.

Since January 1, 2018, a new regulation has been in force that, under certain conditions, allows the birth parents to know the personal details of their adopted children. Since this revision, the adoptive child and the adoptive parents still have a fundamental right to preservation of adoption secrecy.

As long as the child is incapable of judgment or if one parent does not agree to the disclosure of the information, that will remain Adoption secrecy preserved. If the child is capable of judgment on this point and the adoptive parents and the child have consented to the disclosure, the birth parents may be given identifying information about the minor child or its adoptive parents.

If the adult child has consented to the disclosure, identifying information about the child may be disclosed to the birth parents and their direct descendants. This includes information that allows direct conclusions to be drawn about his person. This can be his personal details, but also information that can be used to easily find out who it is.

This means that direct descendants of the biological parents, including biological brothers and sisters, now have the opportunity to receive information about the child that has been given up for adoption.

The child has a right to be certain.

In contrast to this only limited access to information for the birth parents, the adoptive child himself has the right to receive information about the personal details of the birth parents. The child is also entitled to know that it has been adopted. The adoptive parents are free to choose when and how they want to inform the adoptive child about it. However, you are obliged to inform the child about this and not withhold this information from him.

If the birth parents and the adoptive parents know each other, they can also decide on an open adoption. In contrast to secret adoption, open adoption involves contact between birth parents, the adoptive parents and the adopted child. The agreement on the contacts as well as any changes are subject to approval by the KESB. The KESB has the obligation to make those involved in the agreement aware of the consequences of their decision. The child must also be heard before the agreement is approved. If it is already capable of judgment on this issue, its consent is required.

The agreement may not be unilaterally changed or even canceled. The adopted child has the right to veto: If it refuses to contact its biological parents, it is not obliged to tolerate contact with its biological parents, despite the existing agreement. The adoptive parents are also not allowed to pass on information such as school reports or photos against their will. In addition to this legal framework, the challenges of open adoption can also be met with other measures.

Information that is too late shakes trust in caregivers

In order for the adopted child to understand and accept their situation in life, it is important that they receive information about who they are and where they come from as early as possible. These should be as clear and age-appropriate as possible so that the child can classify them. Reports of adoptive children who found out late that they were adopted make it clear that trust in their caregivers, especially in the adopting parents, is severely shaken. Studies show that adoptive children whose families were open to their parents of origin at an early age or who knew their birth families personally are better off mentally and have greater self-confidence.

This speaks in favor of giving children - whatever their circumstances - with loving openness and trust that they will understand their story and be able to deal with it. This requires adults who can support the ups and downs of child and youthful ambivalence and who accompany the children with a lot of patience and confidence. Even if there are crises and conflicts of loyalty. Because coping with these is important in order to be able to go your own way to your own stable identity.



The series at a glance

PART 1 Parent-child relationship
PART 2 Being a parent - staying a couple
PART 3 Being a father, mother, parents
PART 4 ​​Parental custody
PART 5 Siblings - the longest relationship in life
PART 6 Adoption
PART 7 State and Family
PART 8 family models
PART 9 Roots and Wings
PART 10 Right of Contact