The right kind of support for the Adopted teen
by Zara Phillips
I was adopted in 1964 within the closed adoption system, that meant I had no knowledge at all
of whom my Birth Mother was except a vague story ‘She was young’.
Back then adopted parents were told to raise the baby as if it were their own, that they would
never feel the difference between Mothers. Sadly, many families find that their love and good
intentions are not enough.
Adopted teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers and a higher
percentage struggle with addiction and low self -esteem.
I did not seek any help for many years as in my family I had to maintain the secret that we were
all okay and I felt a deep sense of loyalty towards my adopted Mother.
I never read a book on adoption or talked to anyone about how I felt; my behavior however
revealed that there was a lot to talk about. I got sober at 22 and found NORCAP in the UK and
began my search for my Birthmother. I finally began to talk to other adoptees all experiencing
the same feelings but there was no real guidance of what to do with them.
I left the UK after finally meeting my Mother moving to the States, I think in hindsight to survive
the complexity of having two difficult relationships with mothers who would not meet and not
knowing how to access support for the reunion experience which was not as easy as I had
I found an adoption-based therapist and it was only then that I could really start doing the
work. She herself was an adoptee and for the first time I felt that someone truly understood the
inside of my head. She introduced me to books on the subject which I consumed. It was finally
making sense. I was not the only adopted person that felt the way I did. I then went to
Adoption conferences and connected with people from all over the world and slowly began to
write and share my own experience.
I believe it is absolutely critical for an adoptee to see an adoption-based therapist which can be
hard to find. Being a teenager is complicated enough, for the adoptee it has many added layers
particularly one of unacknowledged grief.
CAMHS in the Uk can help guide families to adoption specific support and Link with Barnado’s
which also has useful links for families.
Coram Baaf has wonderful books and access to support for families.
I highly encourage adoptees to join adoption Facebook groups, and in person support groups.
For me healing began when I connected with others who had walked the path. There is so much
power and strength in community and I truly believe that is the answer to make sense of what
many call ‘The Lifelong Impact of being adopted’.
Zara Phillips, singer songwriter, author and Adoptee Advocate. Her most recent book; ‘Someone’s Daughter’ explores the life-long impact of being adopted.
For more links to her work, please visit her website here.