Column: Being adopted was the best decision ever made for me

Jay Mitchell Wenger with his parents, Mitch and Debora. They are pictured in a church. Submitted photo.
Jay Mitchell Wenger with his parents, Mitch and Debora. Submitted photo.

Jay Mitchell Wenger
Oxford Stories

June 2, 2002. Jacksonville, North Carolina.

This is when and where I was born.

More importantly, this was the day I was adopted.

My biological parents weren’t able to care for me, so somebody stepped in. The foster care system and adoption agencies don’t always get it right. Fortunately, for me, they did.

Jay Wenger, as a member of his high school homecoming court. Submitted photo.
Jay Wenger, as a member of his high school homecoming court. Submitted photo.

Until I was 7, I had no clue I was adopted. When my parents finally told me, I still didn’t know what it meant. To me, it just meant they weren’t my real parents. I didn’t take it to heart because they were the only parents I had ever known.

Around age 12, I started to ask what it meant, so they told me. Again, I wasn’t fully aware of the situation or how it came to be, and still felt no emotion toward this new ideology about my life.

Around high school, I began to have misconceptions and real emotions about it. I didn’t know if being adopted was bad or good. If I hadn’t been adopted, would I be homeless or living in an abusive household? Would I be completely fine and living with Bill Gates?

I always told people I was adopted because I felt it was a unique character trait and good conversation starter. Eventually, I began to think about how much I love my life.

The bond I developed with my family due to the adoption and the conversations it sparked for us was unique. It is easily the best decision someone has ever made for me.

Some of my experiences have been traveling the United States and to more than 15 countries, attending college and experiencing a family’s love. My family never treated me as if I was not their own. Even with extended family, I was always Mitch and Deb’s son.

Traveling extensively has allowed me to view situations from an exterior perspective. I feel I’ve become more empathetic because I’ve seen firsthand what people in Africa, Asia and South America go through daily. This is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life already, enabling me to grow as a person.

In terms of attending college, I don’t know what my future or past would look like if I had not been adopted. However, I do know I wouldn’t be at the University of Mississippi if it weren’t for my parents. The path they have paved for me and guided me through has been like no other. I have never taken anything for granted.

Jay Mitchell Wenger, as a child, with his dad. Submitted photo.
Jay Mitchell Wenger and his dad. Submitted photo.

It’s easy to look back on my life and say that without my family, I wouldn’t be who I am today. The many experiences have helped me develop as a person. When asked about my struggles and accomplishments, I will surely credit my upbringing and the force behind it.

Now that I’m a sophomore in college, I’ve become an adoption advocate, whether it is in a discussion group or survey. I truly feel, based on my experience, that adopting is one of nicest things an adult can do.

While 1/3 of Americans have thought of adopting, only 2% have actually adopted, according to statistics published by the Adoption Network. Although there’s only so many people who can afford to adopt a child and welcome them into their home, more awareness is needed.

The foster care system has around 428,000 children, and 60% of them will spend two to five years in foster care. This doesn’t mean they will be adopted. Once a child reaches the legal age of 18, whether they’ve had a stable home or not, they will be thrust out into the world.

There are two types of adoption, closed and open, according to the Planned Parenthood website. Open adoptions allow for contact between the two families before and after the physical adoption, and the biological parents may choose who adopts their child.

Mine was a closed adoption, meaning there was very little, if any, communication between the two families. It allows privacy for both halves. Closed adoptions also mean the biological family has no choice in who adopts their child.

I’ve always been curious about reaching out to my biological parents to see if I’d get a response – just to ask some questions about their thought process and why/how it happened. If I had the choice to do it all over again, I would choose being adopted 100 times over.

There will never be one solution for unwanted pregnancy. There will never be an easy choice in regards to that process and what it brings. However, I want to continue to advocate for adoption because I believe every child deserves the opportunity to live up to their potential.

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