Adoptees Grow Up to Be Adults

The perpetual children narrative and consequences

A.J. Bryant
3 min readOct 25


person holding small sign which says “what can you do today that you couldn’t do a year ago?’
Photo by Miquel Parera on Unsplash

Policymakers view adoptees as children who never grow up.

This persistence that we are ‘forever’ children must end. It delegitimizes our narratives and individual lives. We’re sidelined and excluded in policy decisions that affect us.

Lastly, it damages the adoptee’s psyche. For those adoptees struggling with feelings of negative self-worth, feeling like your story and life don’t matter hurts.

Adoptees can’t re-shape the story of adoption; away from the ‘lucky’ fairy tale, to one that includes pain, loss, and heartache. As a result, adoption accounts remain one-sided and only seen as positive.

Adoptee citizenship legislation

My awareness of this problem increased in the last few years. I’ve worked with some groups trying to pass an adoptee citizenship bill.

Certain transnational adoptees lack US citizenship. I’ve run into the infantilization problem addressing this. I’ve been advocating, writing, and speaking on this issue since 2013.

Adoptees’ citizenship might not have been officially finalized for various reasons. Maybe their parents didn’t want to hassle with the paperwork. Years ago, multiple U.S. government agencies were involved in the adoption process. Often they didn’t communicate leading to confusion, false assumptions, and neglect. Sometimes the adoption agency gave incorrect information.

Adoption agencies and adoptive parents recognized this problem. They organized and changed the law through the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. That granted retroactive automatic US citizenship to about 145,000 transnational adoptees.

Unfortunately, anyone born before February 27, 1983, did not qualify. The bill excluded legal adults.

Approximately 25,000–49,000 transnational adoptees adopted legally, lack US citizenship.

That reality, of course, is not the adoptee’s fault. They were infants. They didn’t decide to be adopted. Adults made that choice. People who claimed to have the children’s best interests in mind.



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, and contemporary India. Prawns are my love language. @adoptedkeralite