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Adoption: Welsh young people hope to break identity struggle taboo

12 June 2023

By Liz Clements

BBC Wales communities correspondent

The podcast, Truth Be Told; Adoption Stories features nine adopted people between the ages of 13 and 26

"It's really difficult to know where I belong."

Mimi Woods, from Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, was adopted from Thailand at the age of three.

Over the years she has struggled with issues around identity and belonging, but wanted others to know they were not alone.

The 22-year-old said adoption was a "taboo subject" which "needs to be talked about more".

Mimi and other young Welsh adopted people have created a bilingual podcast episode for the National Adoption Service for Wales about their experiences featuring nine adopted people between the ages of 13 and 26.

Mimi has struggled with her mental health in the past, but said talking to "people who understand what I'm going through" was a huge help and the podcast was an opportunity to "help other people".

Mimi is a Welsh speaker who was born in Thailand and moved to Wales with her adoptive family when she was three

Moving from Thailand to Wales meant Mimi dealt with not only a culture change but struggled a lot with her identity.

"I would identify as Asian and I have a lot of connections with my culture, but also with Wales, I love everything about it. Rugby, cawl (soup or stew)... all that.

"When you look at me, I don't look Welsh. But I speak your language. It's really difficult to know where I belong, but I definitely feel like I belong in these groups."

Tackling common misconceptions around adoption was something discussed in the podcast.

She said people think adopted people are "these 'challenged' children and they grow up to have no jobs and they don't do anything with their lives and that's really not the case".

"I've got friends and family who support me and I'm like no other, just that I had a lot of trauma in my early years of life," she said.

Mimi believes people need to be educated so that adopted people are better supported and know they are not alone.

Ellie-Rose says being adopted is a "proper rollercoaster"

"I would've loved to have listened to other people's stories growing up," said Ellie-Rose Griffiths from Cardiff. 

The 22-year-old said the adopted people bounced off each other while recording the podcast and it made her feel "understood".

The student paramedic said she felt very fortunate having such "amazing adoptive parents who are my parents. I wouldn't call them anything else".

She now wants to encourage other adopted people to share their stories in order for people to learn more about adoption.

Ruth says many adopted people feel isolated and a sense of not belonging

"Once they started talking about their experiences and were there together supporting each other, you couldn't stop them," said Ruth Letten, manager of Connected, a service for children and young people by Adoption UK.

Ruth expressed how important it was for adopted people to share experiences to "legitimise how they feel and to help them understand that they are not on their own".

She said adoption has changed a lot over the years, moving on from a lack of support as adopted children became adults.

Ruth said modern adoption was about "placing the child and young person at the heart of everything".

"So it's making sure that we are listening to them and responding proactively to their voices and what they feel is important, rather than just assuming we know what's best."

Adopted people are now given information such as life story books which help them understand why they were placed for adoption so they can "understand their story, so it can become integrally part of who they are".

The youth worker said, for many of the young people, it was the opportunity "to shape and change things and to put things in place for younger adoptees".

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