Why Does My Adopted or Foster Child Hate Me?

Dear moms through adoption,

I just received another note from a discouraged mom. “My daughter hates me. Will I always be second best? Will she always reject me?”

Perhaps you are feeling the same?

My heart goes out to you moms.

How I wish I could talk to my own mom again and tell her that I didn’t know what I was doing. I lashed out at her uncontrollably almost a daily basis, yet she took it and kept loving me.

With my anger, I thought something was wrong with me because no one else that I knew had as much anger as I. Why was that?

The anger comes from a deep sense of abandonment by our birth moms. Even in the most wonderful of circumstances, even though the parents had a fancy ceremony, even if the parents were there while the birth mom gave birth, we still feel abandoned.


In addition, there is a deep loyalty to her, even if there was trauma in the womb or after birth. I know of one case where a mom fried her toddler in hot oil. When the child was hospitalized, for some crazy reason, they allowed the mother to visit. And, guess what the first thing was that the child did? She lifted her arms in glee and called “mama.”

Yes, our love for our birth moms (and dads) is cellular. Of course, our birth mom’s womb was our first home. But, she kicked us out. That’s how it feels.


Your child’s anger doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or that your child doesn’t want to love you. We do want to love you but we just can’t get past the flood of emotions. They’re like an avalanche, pounding down on us.

This whole subject makes me think of Jesus on the Cross when he said,”Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

That would describe us,  moms. We don’t want to throw the avalanche on you, but we can’t help ourselves.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that we know that you are there for us, and because you are, you get the brunt of our anger.


Of course, you must know that our anger is at our birth moms. We are angry as hell that she disappeared from our lives. If you try to point this out to your adopted child, he or she will deny any anger at birth mom. Why? We fantasize about her. Perhaps she is a queen living in a palace? We envision her as everything.


The only advice I can give is  to help your child learn to regulate her emotions. How do you do this? Here’s my understanding of it and as I explain, realize I am still an angry adoptee in recovery:

  • TELL THE TRUTH. “You are very very angry.”
  • VALIDATE THE EMOTION:  “I know that’s what you need right now. It’s okay to be so angry. You have been through a lot in your life.”
  • SEPARATE THE PAST FROM THE PRESENT: I don’t believe in blaming adoption for the intense anger. If it were me, I would just refer to hard things that your child has gone through. “You may be remembering something from long ago that really hurt and you’re feeling those strong feelings right now. “I wasn’t able to be with you then, but I am with you now and want to be with you as you work through these feelings. I am here for you and always will be.”

Moms, you need support of those who are in the trenches like you. May I refer you to one of my favorite resources for parents? Confessions of An Adoptive Parent. Check it out. You’ll realize you’re in good company, even though you’re going through difficult times.

Last of all parents, I want to assure you that there is always hope. Adoptee anger is not a terminal disease.We can learn to work through the issues and grow because of them.

Hang in there, moms.





30 responses to “Why Does My Adopted or Foster Child Hate Me?”

  1. JackieJ Avatar

    Anger is one of the stages of grief. If she was adopted at birth or soon after, her trauma is pre-verbal. Someone has to give her the words to describe her grief, because she literally can’t do it. Please read, “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier and then give it to her to read. Acknowledge the tremendous loss she suffered and continues to suffer and help her grieve.

  2. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Donna, what a powerful story you have. I believe there is a topic not discussed about adoptees, and that is hatred. From the moment of your daughters original loss, anroot ofbitterness grew right along with loss. If that isn’t dealt with, hateful relationships occur. I respect your journey.

  3. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Mary, hang in there. You can do it. Find encouragement through other adoptive moms.

  4. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Yes, Dads go through a lot. The reason for writing to moms especially is that they become the brunt of the child’s anger.

  5. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Yes, Cindy! Profound and wiser than many adult adoptees. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!

  6. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    I am so sorry you have to go through this. Know that you are certainly not alone. I think she’s trying to figure out her identity. Do whatever you can to support her…perhaps counseling for you?

  7. Shan Avatar

    I needed to read your comment. My adopted daughter turned 18. She became hateful moved out suddenly, to move back in with her birth mother. We asked her why she was acting like this, if she even loved us…. she looked directly at us and said I don’t know. She refuses to speak to us. It’s been 8 months since she talked to us 😥

  8. Cindy Costerison Avatar
    Cindy Costerison

    Love this! My adopted son asked when he was quite young, “if I love you, does that mean I can’t love (my birth mom?” Profound words from a 5 year old.

  9. Von Avatar

    Is this blog still active for support

  10. Stuart March Avatar
    Stuart March

    What about dads??? We go through just as much!!!!

  11. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Mary, I agree with you…your daughter isn’t able to receive your love. She doesn’t know what love is. Many adoptees are told that the birthmother loved her so much that she placed her for adoption. That just doesn’t compute in an adoptee’s heart. Instead, we reason, “If that’s what love is, I don’t want anything to do with it.”
    Don’t give up, Mary. You’re doing all you can…that should bring some peace to your heart.

  12. Mary Robbins Avatar
    Mary Robbins

    Feeling very down today with similar story as described here in several posts. Our foster daughter came to us in January 2017 at age 18, so broken and unable to trust. She left us in December to live with a man who she thinks she’ll find love with. We have given her nothing but unconditional love, but through all her hurt she just doesn’t seem capable of receiving it or wanting it even. And I most certainly get the brunt of her hurt and her anger. Thank you for these posts and I look forward to reading your book — so hoping it will help me to understand this better.

  13. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Sweet friend, no, you are not alone. This common amongst adoptees, as we have a problem with misplaced anger. Many are furious that our birth moms gave us up. However, the adoptive mom gets the brunt of it. You may want to check out my book called TWENTY LIFE-TRANSFORMING CHOICES ADOPTEES NEED TO MAKE. Look on amazon.com. I interviewed more than 70 adoptees of all ages, and in this book, we share how we see life. You will realize you’re not alone and will feel validated.

  14. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Yes, Herding Chickens! There is that unspoken. DNA bond that we adoptees have with our birthmom, even if she has hurt us. I love your mature and nurturing heart.

  15. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Oh, Donna. Please don’t give up hope. There may be a time of reconciliation as she matures. She has such deep identity issues and doesn’t know where she belongs. I’m not defending her hurtful behavior….you have been an influence for good even though she can’t see it. But God can and He weeps with you.

  16. Donna cunio Avatar
    Donna cunio

    You are an angel sent from God … it is nothing you said, did or didn’t do … feel proud of yourself for you gave a piece of your heart to your daughter that someday will surface through her … you may not see this for yourself but it will be. Prayers and hugs to you.

  17. Donna cunio Avatar
    Donna cunio

    My heart goes out to you. As a young child she came to us at 3 – happy until she saw me watching smiling waving from the side lines … and the the face changes. As a teen hormones were an excuse I made to allow our daughter to get away with abusing me. She does not love or like me unfortunately … but I feel so sorry for her as this is a disability I can not fix no matter how much love or support give to her. She has a cold and hard heart when it comes to me and I have been nothing but a nag to her.
    Our daughter will be graduating from college in May. I have always felt that with patience and love nothing is impossible. I pray constantly to find the strength I need to see our relationship through but I no longer feel I can. I must let her go … with out guilt … I pray we gave her the education she will need to support herself; her education was totally paid for by my husband and I. Our daughter holds me responsible for taking her from a foster home that did not want to adopt her. It was unhealthy for my daughter to continue this relationship … our daughter was put on display to their family and friends to prove they were good people. Now – she is seeking these people out as her parents. They who did not want the responsibility of raising her … I am so sorry for this blog … I must accept the things I can no longer change and have the wisdom to know the road has ended for me to be her mother and to be in her life.
    I hope she finds happiness … she has been in love with the same boy since 16 – his disfunctional family has only added to the drama of our lives.
    God bless you all …

  18. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    I’m glad it was helpful, Elaine.

  19. Elaine Avatar

    I needed to read this today – I’m an adoptive Mom with a daughter who is early teenager. She has told me she doesn’t know why, but she doesn’t like or love me — and that she wishes she did, but she doesn’t. Wow — cuts like a knife — what does a parent do with THAT information? I have poured all my love into my child – she is truly loved and cherished, yet she is defiant, says hurtful things, and genuinely seems to dislike me. It makes me believe I’ve done something fundamentally wrong as a parent although I really don’t think I’ve been a bad parent -and I’ve certainly tried my very best to be the best Mom I can be. I really felt down today and like crawling under a rock – I feel so badly for her that she misses her birth Mom so badly and that she is missing out on that truly secure and warm fuzzy love a person is supposed to have when they are with their parent – that she just can’t seem to get that feeling from me breaks my heart for her and for me. I guess I just have to press on and keep loving her and not give up hope that things will change for the better one day.

  20. HerdingChickens Avatar

    Loyalty and love are beautiful qualities. The fact that my adopted children can love their first family is truly beautiful. Despite why they have been through they care about their first Mom. They may deal with the consequences of her mistakes. They may feel abandoned. But they also feel love. I believe that this quality is one of the best qualities. The ability to LOVE.

  21. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your story, Terri.

  22. Terri James Avatar
    Terri James

    This is for all adoptive mothers. In all actuality I must ask, do you love the child? You see I’m an adoptee, oh how I hate that word!! Nevertheless I’m 53 and in all actuality whether you’re 3 or 53 you truly know if someone loves you. I was adopted when I was only a few days old, though as long as I can remember which was back to being a little girl, mother never did love me, let alone like me! I knew it too. Sad she still doesn’t. I have tried my best to love her with all my heart, you wouldn’t believe the things I’ve done throughout my life to try to please her. I know what I’m saying is true because of my little girl. She’s also adopted. She loves me very, very much because I love her!!! She is my world; it’s an unconditional love!! She doesn’t like my mother, for at times I see my mother wanting to treat her the way she did me. I didn’t need that kind of validation to tell me what I already knew though it did confirm it. I have no earthly clue as to how old the child is you’re talking about, just be patient…for if you truly love this child they WILL know. Just like it states in the Bible…Love, Hope and Faith; but the greatest of these are Love! That’s always been my motto. God definitely knew what He was talking about!!! You wouldn’t believe the horror stories I have read in the past about adoptees hating their adoptive parents, especially their adoptive mothers. They had good reason to. I don’t hate mine because I refuse to send my soul to hell, instead I try my hardest to feel sorry for her. Please read some of these stories. I strongly suggest it for if you read our stories it might just help yours. There are hundreds if not thousands out here. Everyone wants to be loved. Though so many times mothers and fathers adopt children to fill an empty hole. Then turn around and find they’ve done so for the wrong reasons. If you truly adopted the child because you want to love this child and have a family with this child, then you will be patient. You’ll read these other stories and you won’t stop here. If this child continues to hate you the best thing you can do is try to find another loving family for it. I’m sorry to say but there’s definitely a reason this child is hating you. Truly I am trying to help you and give good advice. Go to the narcissistic website also, read some of the stories there too. That’s where I started a few years ago when I was trying to find answers as to why my adoptive mother hated me. Lo and behold one thing led to another and I’ve been reading how to handle my narcissistic adopted mother ever since. I’m one in a million for there are millions of us out here. Prayers For A Happy Family… Simply, TJ

  23. Kay Avatar

    What a beautiful post. The title caught my eye as I was looking for blogs on adoption and adoptees. Reading this hit home and I teared up a bit. I’m an adoptee and my mom and I have had quite the rocky relationship over the years. Especially my teen years. Glad to see it’s not just me.

  24. Janie boltz Avatar
    Janie boltz

    Do you have a Facebook page?

  25. […] einiger Zeit hat Sherrie Eldridge den erneut bewegenden Post „Why does my adopted child hate me?“ veröffentlicht. Er knüpft ein wenig an meine gelegentlichen Zweifel als Adoptivmutter an und hat […]

  26. About Sherrie Avatar

    Thank you, Joanie. Glad it helped. xoxo

  27. About Sherrie Avatar

    That sounds reasonable to me. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  28. httpadoptionwilliam Avatar

    Former judge of the Family Court of Australia, Professor the Honourable Nahum Mushin on ‘permanency and adoption’:
    “I think the concept of permanency is contrary to what I regard as being in the best interests of children. We shouldn’t be talking about permanency, we should be talking about long-term. Once we get to that, really what you got to do is that you have to construct a care regime for each particular child depending on his or her needs, and you can’t say ‘one size fits all’.”

  29. Joanne Peterson Avatar
    Joanne Peterson

    Sherrie, thank you for articulating this for us. I have read this before, but it helps coming from your mouth.

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