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'Being adopted doesn’t define who we are – it's just the foundations that hold us up'

On National Adoption Week, John and Nikita write about how having connections to their life before they were adopted helped shape their sense of identity

John and Nikita, image supplied

Nikita and John. Image: Supplied

It is National Adoption Week from October 17 to 23. One of its aims is to explore adopted people’s identity to challenge misperceptions.

Adoption is not a line in the sand, when adopted people close the door on all connections to their life, memories, and relationships from before they were adopted. In fact, it can be incredibly important for adopted people to know where they came from and feel connected to their past.

Often this is through physical keepsakes such as letters, photographs or childhood toys from their birth parents or foster families, for example.

Here, siblings John and Nikita reflect on relationships from before, during, and after they were adopted and what has helped them to connect to their heritage and build a sense of identity over time.   

John’s story

My sister Nikita and I were adopted when we were very young, alongside our two other siblings. It was a big change for our parents, going from having no kids to having four all at once! Our birth parents weren’t able to look after us and meet our needs, so we were put up for adoption so we could be looked after.  

Our adoption has never been a secret – our parents have always been open with us about what happened in our lives, and each of us had a life story book, which told the story of our adoption journey. We were able to read it whenever we wanted, ask questions and talk about our lives before we came to live with our new family.  

We also used to get letters from our birth parents once a year. We’d all sit around the dining room table, all six of us, and my mum would bring them out and we’d read them all together, or if we preferred, we could read them in private. We’d also get photos and birthday cards, which was wonderful to feel connected to them, and understand more about their lives and where they come from. It makes me emotional to know they still think of us on our birthdays. Having the letters and our life story books really helped us all understand our lives before we were adopted, which is a part of who we are.  

We had other items from before we were adopted that also help us stay connected to that part of our life. I own a stuffed dog called Callum, which I got as a baby from my Aunty. He’s always been there for me – I still sleep with him every night! He’s a part of me and makes me feel safe. 

John and Nikita when they were kids, image supplied
John and Nikita when they were kids, image supplied

Nikita’s story

One of my favourite treasures is a necklace our birth parents gave me, which says ‘special daughter’. It’s a little piece of them I get to keep with me. I don’t wear it every day, but just knowing it’s there is very special.  

I realise that not all adopted people get these kind of opportunities to connect and have contact with their birth families like John and I do, which must be really tough. That’s why it’s really great that, with adoption today, it is encouraged for adopted people to have access to information about their lives before adoption.

For me and my siblings, it helps being able to have that communication with our birth family and to feel connected to them. Even just being able to ask them questions meant so much to us. It felt like fitting together puzzle pieces, like where our names came from. Your name is such a big part of your identity, and finding out the story behind that was really important and special. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IztAeGEtGw

John and I are really close as siblings. One day we decided to get matching tattoos – his says “my sister’s protecter” and mine says “my brother’s keeper”. Our relationship is everything to me – I don’t know what I would do without him and I feel very protective of him. When he was getting bullied at school, I always stood up for him. We’ve always looked out for each other and have the strongest bond imaginable. He is a huge part of who I am!  

Preserving items and memories from our childhood has helped us both to understand who we are, and they mean the world to us. We both agree that being adopted doesn’t define who we are – it’s just the foundations that hold us up. It’s part of us.  

To find out more about National Adoption Week or to seek information or support, visit youcanadopt.co.uk/NAW 

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