Adoption is such a beautiful, and simultaneously chaotic, journey. Someone’s gain is someone else’s loss.

 I was 21 years old when I was adopted but had been living with my parents (who are my maternal great aunt and uncle) since I was 11 years old. They took guardianship of me when I turned 12. Since I was in guardianship, adoption was not talked about, rather my parents provided consistency and made it their job to ensure that I felt secure in their home.

 I had trust issues and it took me a long time to feel like this was my final home. I was 11 when I moved in with my extended family and was old enough to understand that my birth mom could not take care of me and that my birth father had not been in the picture since I was 3 years old. My parents really did help me feel secure in their home and helped me understand that I never had to move again. I also really appreciate that they never forced me to call them mom or dad, all our bonds formed organically, even with my siblings.

 Looking back though, I wish I would have been in therapy in high school. I struggled a lot with “where” I fit in within the family structure. I went from being the oldest child with my birth family to the youngest child in my guardianship home. I did not know how to be a “child”. I had been so used to taking care of my cousins and my little brother, that having the opportunity to just be an 11 year old was hard for me. Growing up, I struggled with believing that my parents loved me like their own children (my parents have four other children, one in heaven). I also did not know how to have a sister, but over time we have become best friends and her children are my world.

 Adoption was something my parents and I talked about when I was about 19 or 20, but we did not follow through because of how expensive it was and at the time I didn’t care, I knew they were my parents.

 Years later the topic of my parents adopting me resurfaced and I asked for advice from an adoption agency that I interned with while in college. They offered to complete the adoption free of charge and said they wanted to thank me for all the work I did with them. And so on October 22, 2014, I officially became Cassandra Lee Alvarez.

If you were adopted I want you to know: Your story matters, your trauma matters and it is not okay for anyone to try to take that away. It is okay to ask questions and feel the need to fill that void in your heart. In addition, it is okay to rebuild any relationship with your birth family. I have been rebuilding mine with my birth mother at my own pace, and on my terms.

Adoption is still something my family and I talk about and I’m so grateful for my adoption story: it brought me my family, my nieces and nephews and my calling as a social worker.

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