We last spoke to Alex Gilbert, the founder of online adoptee support group I’m Adopted, back in March. At the time, he was just an Auckland-based 23-year-old who decided to harness the power of social media to find his birth parents in Russia.
It’s been 13 months since the website and Facebook page were first launched. What started out as a pet project for the TV media producer has since come a long way.
I’m Adopted is more than a forum for adoptees looking for their birth family. It offers a “safe space” for people to share their experiences with adoption. Already, the project has touched many people, both locally in NZ and across the globe.
“I'm Adopted has helped me so much. I didn’t use their page to find my adoptive family, but more for the platform to express my journey to others,” says Alex Kuch, a Romanian-Kiwi adoptee who turned to I’m Adopted this past year.
“Having found my birth family, I wanted to show to others that being adopted doesn't have to be scary.”
Since March, Gilbert says hundreds of people across the world have reached out to the site, asking for advice and later sharing their stories of success after using the site to reunite with their birth parents.
“They’re from everywhere! I’ve lost track because there are so many stories now!” he says. “But that’s what you want. I want it to grow. It’s a good thing.”
One of these stories comes from Janna Lamb, a Russian-Kiwi adoptee who says, “The 'I'm Adopted Project' founded by Alex Gilbert, has helped me connect to my Russian heritage. The organised meet-ups created an environment where we could support each other through our own journeys. It had given me the confidence to seek my own birth family, and for that, I cannot be grateful enough!”
Another comes from a young Canadian woman named Katiana, who shared with I’m Adopted followers her personal tale of adoption.
“Pretty much I want to make I’m Adopted the biggest support group for adoptees in the world."
- Alex Gilbert, founder of I'm Adopted.
Katiana’s official birth date was estimated she says in her testimonial. She was adopted at the age of three.
“I was born sometime in the spring/summer of 1998,” she shares, since her Haitian orphanage was didn’t have her records on hand.
After being told she had both biological and adoptive parents from a young age, she writes about some darker truths from her adoption experience.
“Many believe that being adopted, you’d be met with unconditional love from your parents just like every other child in the family or as if you were their “real” child. They chose you,” she writes.
“[However] My adoptive mother and I didn’t form a relationship which made it difficult going through my early teenage years. She was a dictator to me, not really interested in the person that I was growing into – I didn’t feel like I ever had a maternal role model and being young, other family members would not take me seriously if I told them what it was like being in my shoes.”
I’m Adopted is more than a search forum for adoptees looking for their birth family. It offers a “safe space” for people to share their experiences with adoption.
Gilbert has noticed the greatest increase in international users on the website have come from Russia and China. In response to this growing community, he’s launched both Russian and Chinese language sites for I’m Adopted.
“With the Chinese site, it’ll come out next month. There are a lot of Chinese adoptees in the world, and it’d be great to have this project linking through to China,” he says
Of course, with their strict online censorship rules, it could be tricky to set up an I’m Adopted site in China. But so far, Gilbert says he’s had little to worry about so far.
“It’s set up on Weibo (China’s version of Facebook). But I’m not linking stories from there to the website yet. I think they check everything that you put on there,” he says. “I realise that things are going to be a bit of a challenge a bit different with posting things up there. But that what’s going to be interesting.”
Gilbert says he’s proud of how far the part-time project has come since its beginning but has his eye on a much bigger multimedia project.
“What I’d like to do is go around and meet adopted kids all around the world and meet their families. And help them on their personal journeys. Find their relatives and go with them to where they want to find their relatives and document it for them on film and help as many people as I can,” he says, hopefully.
“Pretty much I want to make I’m Adopted the biggest support group for adoptees in the world.”