Fake News About Adoption (and other myths!)
Carissa Moran reflects on fake news and common adoption myths and her personal experience.
“They’re probably rebelling because they are adopted.”
“You should go look for your biological family.”
“Just find shortcuts for the legal papers.”
“You’re just adopted!”
These phrases are considered commonplace when talking about adoption, whether in movies, teleseryes, or real life. But is this the way that things really are, or are supposed to be? Carissa Moran proves otherwise as she shares her experiences and reflections.
Myth 1: An adopted child will be bullied growing up.
The moment Melissa Moran laid eyes on a baby named Angelica, something — perhaps wonder, perhaps tenderness — blossomed in her heart.
“The first time my mom saw me, she was drawn to me because of my eyes. I was looking up at her and she felt a connection. She was afraid at first because she thought, how am I going to take care of her? I don’t know her. My dad eventually felt that connection too and he was the one who was like, okay, let’s take this step,” Carissa narrates.
Melissa Moran had experienced two difficult pregnancies. In 1986, her second daughter passed away a few days after being born. Shortly after, Melissa and her husband decided to adopt a baby girl and Angelica became Carissa, the latest member of the Moran family.
(Watch our Live Chat with Melissa and Carissa Moran here.)
Carissa explains, “In my family, it’s really just me who is adopted. I grew up knowing that and it wasn’t really a big deal for me because I never felt a difference between me and my sister in how they raised us up.”
“I was about three or four years old when my parents told me the story of my sister (the infant) passing away. I knew of it but as a child, I never really understood. They told me, we adopted you. I think it was really just that one conversation and then I never really inquired further.”
“Growing up, even my extended family — my aunts, uncles, grandparents — were all very much accepting. It was never ‘ah, this is my adopted grandchild’ or ‘this is my adopted niece’ or whatever. The difference between being a biological daughter or a biological grandchild wasn’t in my vocabulary at all,” she says.
“In school, I had some kindergarten, grade school, and high school friends who knew that I was adopted but I never got bullied for it. I never got talked down to because of my situation. Everybody in my world was pretty much accepting.”
“I was on a panel for DSWD before and people were prodding, ‘Oh really? There was no one bullying you?’ There really was none! They were shocked to hear that. It wasn’t that I was pampered or protected. I had a wide variety of friends and people in my network, but not once did I ever experience someone talking down to me due to the fact that I was adopted.”
“I would even joke with my sister how I’m the special one. She was born into the family, so they had no choice, but they chose me!” Carissa laughs.
“When we talk of people who have that stigma, who think ‘Oh, you’re just adopted’ —I never experienced that. I was blessed and I was really meant to be part of this family,” she says.
Myth 2: It’s not necessary to adopt a child the legal way.
Carissa was born Angelica and when the Moran family welcomed her, she was baptized as Carla Isabel. “So technically I have three names: Carla Isabel Angelica Elana Moran!”
Carissa’s parents took the legal route and went through the entire adoption process. They got in touch with Kaisahang Buhay Foundation, Inc. (KBF) — a child and family welfare agency, licensed and accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) — to help with getting the necessary documentation together. This proved to be a meaningful, lifelong connection, as Carissa’s mother is now a board member of KBF.
While Carissa’s parents made sure that her papers were in order, not all families are aware of the legalities surrounding adoption and the need to get a child’s documents in order. Culturally, it is not uncommon for families to take in a child without pursuing the process of legal adoption. This results in cases of simulation of birth, fraud, and other situations that could be a burden for the child. Although their families were well-meaning, a lot of adoptees have to face hurdles and bear the consequences because their parents did not things the right way.
“I feel blessed that I was adopted the legal way but I am aware that it’s normal in Filipino families to go, ‘okay, I’ll take you in, call you my daughter or my son, but when school time comes and you need paperwork or your US visas comes in and you need certain papers —that is not the case’. It’s mind-blowing.”
“To this day, it’s common practice. A lot of people resort to that (not adopting legally), even well-meaning parents, simply because they don’t know or they’re afraid. But doing things the right way, the legal way will spare everybody the hurt and pain, and the trouble with documents and legalities. It will really make life so much simpler,” she explains.
ROHEI Foundation advocates for legal adoption and assists adoptive parents by explaining the necessary legal processes and documentation, as well as connecting parents to a licensed and accredited agency such as KBF and the DSWD.
Myth 3: Adoptees will eventually rebel or are “troublemakers.”
Carissa admits that yes, she did go through the typical rebellious teenage phase but simply because she was a rebellious teen — not because she was resentful of having been adopted.
“I didn’t really have the best or smoothest teenage years but everybody goes through that phase, right? It was never because ‘oh I’m rebelling because I’m adopted’ or ‘I want to give my parents a hard time because I’m adopted’. No, it wasn’t like that. That was never in my head or in my heart. It was really just teenage hormones and issues. I was with the wrong crowd and everybody was doing things that our parents didn’t approve of. It was because I was a teenager,” she explains.
She adds, “That child is like that because they were adopted’ I hear that in Filipino TV series. They really put that into the minds of the people who watch. I guess that’s why you can’t remove the stigma from others who think that people behave a certain way because they’re adopted. But no, it’s really not like that. It’s fake news.”
Carissa’s experiences and reflections are a reminder that the teenage years can be difficult for everyone, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Everyone has insecurities and there is no such thing as a perfect childhood, or perfect parenting journey — for biological and adoptive parents.
“While I do have fears as a parent — my children are almost going to be teenagers — it’s really prayer and God’s grace that can help us get through. It’s a real phase and now that I’m an adult looking back, I’m wiser. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done those things but I also acknowledge the realities that come with the teenage years.”
Myth 4: Looking for the biological family is an adoptee’s obligation.
A lot of people have this idea that once a person finds out that he or she is adopted, the person needs to track down his or her biological parents in order to feel complete or know what their identity is.
“There are people who come forward and look for their biological parents but for me, growing up, I never did. That’s because I felt secure, loved, and safe with my family,” Carissa declares.
“It was only in the recent past, in 2016, that I thought about my biological family. I was suffering from some health complications, and it was taking so long to get diagnosed. Apparently, it was a thyroid condition. At the time, I thought, how will I ever know my medical history? I will never know, not unless I find my parents and ask, do you have any history of this or that disease? But then I said that if I’m with good doctors, they will figure it out. They will find out what’s happening to me.”
Carissa shares that after some time, treatments worked and there was no need to look further.
“I’m comfortable where I’m at because I know people love me. I have good friends and a good family, I appreciate that fact of my life, that my parents took me in, that I’m adopted. But to go and dig back to my roots — I’d rather not. That’s my choice. That’s how I am,” she explains.
“There are many who will want to search, who are curious to know ‘How did I end up looking like this? Who do I look like, my mom or my dad?’ It’s something that will fill the void in their hearts or help them understand their person — who they are — better. That’s okay. That’s definitely valid. But to each his own. Every adoption case, every adoption story, is different.”
“I like where I’m at. I appreciate what I have. For me, my family is my family. Yes, I came in a different way compared to my sister or my cousins but I appreciate that — and that’s a beautiful story.”
Carissa is now a mother to two boys and continues to share her adoption journey in order to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding adoption.
She reminds people, “This is a family we’re building, it’s not like it’s something bad, right? You want to have a family. You want to share your love with people. So why make that a bad thing when definitely, it’s a good thing! People’s lives are going to change.”
“If I wasn’t adopted, where would I be now? What would I be doing? How would I handle this pandemic? I value where I’m at and appreciate who’s in my life. I really would just like to share how grateful I am that I am who I am, and that I was taken in by a loving family.”
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