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The Complexities of Adoption and Family Rejection

Updated On: November 15, 2023

Adoption stories are often laced with complex emotions, intricate family dynamics and unique personal journeys. In a two-part compelling episode of the Family Twist podcast, we had the privilege of speaking with Jeanette Yoffe, a therapist and adoptee, who shared her poignant story of adoption and family rejection.

Her experiences and insights provide a deep understanding of the emotional landscape of adoption, the challenges of reunion and the journey towards healing.

Jeanette’s Personal Adoption Story

Jeanette’s narrative begins with the challenges she faced growing up with her adoptive family, marked by a profound sense of resentment and distance from her birth mother. This emotional gap created barriers in her relationships with her siblings, adding layers of complexity to family dynamics that many adoptees can relate to.

Jeanette On the Pain of Adoption and Family Rejection

“Rejection is very painful. It’s personal and physically painful because we’re experiencing so many losses in this process. You are grieving the loss of leaving your family of origin, leaving everything you know. That’s a big part of who you are.”

The Emotional Impact of Adoption

Adoption is not just a legal or physical change; it’s an emotional journey that encompasses loss, grief, identity, and often, trauma. Jeanette discusses the primal wound – the trauma experienced by adoptees due to separation from their birth mothers. This separation creates a ripple effect of emotional challenges, including a deep sense of loss and issues with identity and self-worth.

Jeanette On Identity and Genetic Inheritance

“Not having that genetic inheritance of knowing who you are… you’re exploring and figuring out. That’s why we seek out our birth family members. It gives us a sense of identity, inclusion, acceptance.”

Seven Core Vulnerabilities in Adoption

Delving deeper, Jeanette outlines seven core vulnerabilities that affect all members of the adoption triangle: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. These include loss, rejection, shame, guilt, identity, intimacy, and control. Each of these vulnerabilities paints a picture of the multifaceted challenges that those touched by adoption often face.

Jeanette On the Complexity of Birth Parents; Emotions

“A lot of birth parents have shame and guilt for having relinquished their children… they’re shunned and shamed. It’s still happening today. We don’t support young mothers enough.”

Reunion and Secondary Trauma

Reunion, a significant aspect of many adoptees’ journeys, can bring its own set of traumas. Jeanette shares her heart-wrenching experience of seeking out and eventually meeting her birth father. This encounter, filled with mixed emotions, showcases the complex nature of reunions and the secondary traumas they can evoke.

Jeanette On Her Personal Journey and Coping

“When my birth father rejected me, I felt isolated, which caused a lot of anxiety and depression. That’s probably why I became a therapist. Writing about my story helped me process what is happening to us. It’s very healing.”

Creating Celia Center and Advocating for Mental Health

In response to her experiences, Jeanette founded the Celia Center, named after her birth mother, to support adoptees and birth parents. This community fosters understanding and provides resources to navigate the emotional terrain of adoption. Jeanette emphasizes the crucial role of mental health treatment in managing the challenges associated with adoption.

Jeanette On the Importance of Community in Adoption

“Community is really important. That’s why I created Celia Center. We need each other as adoptees to support each other through this experience. We cannot do it alone.”


From the Celia Center blog post, Roadmap to Reunion: 8 PACTS

Why do 70% of adoption reunions break down? Because there’s no roadmap.

The 5 agreements:

Everyone has been victimized.

Everyone has experienced loss.

Each person’s loss incomparable.

Everyone will make mistakes.

Practice forgiveness over, and over and over again.


Jeanette’s journey, as shared on the Family Twist podcast, reminds us of the profound impact adoption can have on personal identity and emotional well-being. Her courage in opening up about her experiences, coupled with her professional insights, offers hope and guidance for others navigating similar paths. As we continue to explore these stories, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities of adoption and the resilience of the human spirit in facing them.

family rejection

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