It’s not uncommon for people to adopt babies, but what about adults? How does one end up being 24 and being adopted? By someone you don’t share DNA with? Today, Ashley shares her sad/sweet/important story.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Ashley, and I am 26 years old. I’m from Southern California but was born in Central California. I am a freelance writer, runner, cat enthusiast, and psychology student.
What was your familial situation when you were growing up?
My biological parents had me when they were teenagers. They got married, but they were 16 and 18 and it didn’t work out. My bio father was in the Navy, and my bio mother remarried a man named Keith soon after the divorce. They had a daughter together when I was 4.
How did you come to live with your now-adoptive-dad?
Less than one year after my sister was born, my mom left me and my sister with Keith. She had started using drugs and gotten involved with a man who was essentially homeless. Occasionally, she would take me to stay with her. It was absolutely terrible and frightening, and I remember my mom becoming a mean person.
About one year after she left, my mom got sober. She eventually remarried. I went to live with her and my new step-dad when I was 10 or 11, but he had three kids of his own and they had two more together. I never really had a bond with my mom, and there didn’t seem to be room for me in her new life. She was stressed out by my step-siblings, and I suspect she was resentful for her responsibilities. She sent me back to live with Keith and my sister when I was 14, and it was honestly the best thing that had ever happened to me.
When did you and your dad start thinking about adoption?
I started considering adult adoption when I was 24. My grandma (Keith’s mom) had casually mentioned it in conversation, and that got me wondering if it was even within the realm of possibility. There was no inciting incident — it just sort of happened when I realized it was an option.
Did you tell your mom and bio dad about it?
I never kept my adoption a secret. I told my mom about it, but I didn’t explicitly tell my biological father. He’d been in and out of my life. We’re okay now, but we don’t have a close relationship. I believe he knows though. My mom thought I was angry, but I wasn’t really. I didn’t do it out of anger. I did it to celebrate the sacrifices my dad (Keith) made for me.
What are the benefits of being adopted as an adult?
The benefit is mostly emotional for me. I like knowing that the man who raised me is listed as my father. He is the only parent on my birth certificate, and if I am not married and something happens to me, I know that I can trust him to make the health decisions I would want.
Can you walk us through the process of adult adoption?
My first step was to visit my county court’s website. They had all the necessary forms online, and all I needed to do was print them out and fill in the details. I had to briefly describe my situation in writing, and we both had to sign the documents. We brought them to the court and paid a small filing fee. I think it was somewhere between $20-$40. We were given a court date, which was two weeks away. I learned that my court did adult and child adoptions on the same day, and I was last in line.
It was kind of neat to see all these families walk out of the courtroom happy and excited to start a new life together. When it was our turn, the judge simply asked if I wanted to be adopted and if my dad wanted to adopt me. He signed the paper, and we had to take the documents back to be filed. It was done. If I was going to change my name, the process might involve additional steps.
How did you and your dad celebrate your adoption?
We didn’t actually do much to celebrate. I posted something on Facebook and we had lunch. It was a big step, but nothing had really changed because he had always been Dad to me. He does still tell me that it was the best thing he’s done.
Do you think this experience has affected the way you think about family?
Oh, my childhood with my weird parent situation has definitely affected my perception of family. I’m not married, but I think I would like to be one day. I don’t necessarily want to have children. If I change my mind, I would be glad to adopt.
What have you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
I have learned that your family consists of those you build strong connections with. Simply sharing genetics does not make somebody “family.”
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ashley! Do you guys have any questions for her?
P.S. The other sides of the coin: An interview with a woman who gave her baby up for adoption and an interview with a woman who found and met her biological mom after being given up for adoption.