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Adult Adoptee

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Adoption is typically defined as the legal process of assuming parentage of another's child and taking on the rights and responsibilities from the biological parents to rear the adoptee as their own. As such, one can reasonably assume that the adoptee in this scenario to be a young child still in need of parental support and guidance. This trope, however, subverts that expectation by having someone officially adopt an adult, who should have been independent enough to survive without parental care. Interestingly, this can also be Loophole Abuse in more homophobic settings; a gay couple who can't get married the legal way will resort to this to get the benefits only available to family members and spouses. Reasons for this unusual arrangement vary. The adoptee might be an orphan or had Abusive Parents, who had developed a filial bond with a Parental Substitute, who then decides to make the relationship official. Other times, the adoptive parent is looking for an heir to inherit their business, but has no time to rear a child into adulthood for that purpose.

Related to Family of Choice. Compare/contrast Adoptive Peer Parent, in which a child is adopted by caretakers who are not much older than them, and are probably not yet adults themselves.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Miyabi Kagurazaki's backstory is that her parents, who worked for the Sakuraba family, died in a car accident when she was a child. Mr. and Mrs. Sakuraba took Miyabi into their household and raised her, but as a servant of the family rather than a full adopted child: the Sakuraba's daughter Aoi was younger than Miyabi, so Miyabi was appointed to be Aoi's educator and guardian. By the beginning of the story proper, Miyabi is a grown woman and even Aoi is now old enough that her parents think it's time to marry her off. But after many twists and turns, the manga ends with Aoi renouncing the Sakuraba name so she can marry her true love, Kaoru. Afterwards, Mr. and Mrs. Sakuraba decide to officially adopt Miyabi as their daughter and heiress. From then on Miyabi bears the Sakuraba name and calls her former master and mistress "Father" and "Mother."
  • Boy's Abyss: It's not an official adoption, but after Reiji leaves for Tokyo with Chako and Gen, Ms. Shibasawa goes to visit Yuko to ask of Reiji's whereabouts. Yuko promises to support Ms. Shibasawa's dreams and tells her to stay at her house in case Reiji comes back. For some time afterwards, Yuko starts referring to Yuri as her daughter, while Yuri helps around the house like a child would — even calling Yuko "mother" and Kazu "brother".
  • The Drops of God: Wine critic Tomine is adopted by Shizuku's father Yutaka shortly before his death, with the goal of inheriting Yutaka's vast and valuable wine collection. The plot becomes a Game Between Heirs to see who inherits the collection.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji's father Gendou was born into the working-class Rokubungi family. When he married his Uptown Girl graduate school classmate Yui Ikari, he was adopted into her family as the heir.
  • Tomie features a story about a rich, elderly couple who frequently adopts beautiful young women, only for the girls to mysteriously die soon after. Later, the woman (who adopted the daughters because she wanted to have a pretty girl to pamper and dress up like a doll) considers adopting her middle-aged servant (who poisoned the daughters so that she can inherit her mistress's wealth) instead, although the old woman dies before she could formalize the decision.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Traditionally, Dick Grayson remained as Bruce Wayne's ward throughout his childhood because when he was first brought to the manor he told Bruce he didn't want to replace his father and was only officially adopted by Bruce after he'd grown up and moved out. Bruce later ended up adopting Cassandra Cain when she was older than 18 as well.
  • Superman: One of the Bizarro comics has a child adopt an adult.
  • Classic X-Men: In one issue, Storm is accidentally transported to a parallel dimension where she meets warrior queen M'Rinn. The two women spend a few weeks adventuring together and become Fire-Forged Friends. Since M'Rinn's biological daughter is her archenemy, she names Storm as her daughter in spirit which Storm happily accepts. But when Storm can no longer deny that her place is on Earth with the X-Men, M'Rinn gifts her with a brooch that would transport her between Earth and the other dimension. But despite the depth of their connection, Storm only returns to her adopted mother once (with the X-Men in tow), and M'Rinn hasn't appeared since.

    Comic Strips 
  • Discussed in Calvin and Hobbes, when Calvin's father thinks, in a moment of exasperation, "We should've adopted a twenty-five year old with his own apartment."

    Fan Works 
  • Inter Nos: After Chikane Himemiya's sister, Suou, is killed in battle, Chikane offers to adopt Natsuki of the Otomeians as a member of her family, in part because her late sister was fond of Natsuki, and in part because Chikane's friend, Shizuru, is romantically involved with Natsuki, and adopting her would grant her Himean citizenship (It had been discussed earlier in story that Shizuru couldn't marry her as a non-citizen, and to take her to Hime and have her as a "kept woman" would imply slavish status on Natsuki, something Shizuru was unwilling to do for her own dignity as well as Natsuki's)
  • Seven Days in Sunny June has the human Twilight Sparkle's family adopt Sunset Shimmer, who is in her thirties as a pony and is only physically a teenager as a human. Granted, Twilight's family has no idea that Sunset is an adult pony from another world when they adopt her, but when they do find out they still treat her like another daughter.
  • Stone Streak: Played for Laughs with the Tiger kwami Roaar proclaiming the Cat kwami Plagg as her kitten. Plagg is annoyed at this, especially since he's a couple of centuries older than her.
  • there is a fire in me has Zuko bending Jet's fire to save his life — according the Fire Nation's rules, it's a terrible insult if you're not acknowledging the other party as belonging to your clan. Toph wonders if it means Jet now has to call the younger Zuko his dad, only for the prince to clarify Jet would be more of a sibling or a cousin.
  • With Pearl and Ruby Glowing: In the "I Love You" side story, Daffy (in his late twenties-early thirties) is adopted by Foghorn Leghorn (age unspecified but old enough to have a seventeen-year-old bio son). Daffy (who had extremely Abusive Parents) has no complaints, although he is a little confused if it's legal or not.

    Films — Animation 
  • At the end of Meet the Robinsons, after the Bowler Hat Guy (a.k.a. Goob as an adult) has a Heel–Face Turn, Lewis coaxes a reluctant Wilbur to adopt him into the Robinson family. However, when Wilbur turns to talk to him, the Bowler Hat Guy has disappeared. This becomes a moot point once Lewis gets back to the past, as he wakes the young Goob up to make the winning catch at his baseball game, and it's strongly implied that Goob gets adopted later that week.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ben-Hur (1959), Judah Ben-Hur is adopted and made a Roman citizen by Quintus Arrius, the tribune whose life he saved.
  • This is attempted by Jervis in the movie version of Daddy Longlegs. He wants to help out Judy, a young woman who was raised in an orphanage and now helps out with the younger children there, but has no real future of her own. His advisors inform him that adoption would be inappropriate, he'd just look like he's trying to groom her (compare Gigi). They convince him to just become an anonymous sponsor to send her to college.
  • Towards the end of Feast of Love, while grieving the loss of her fiancĂ© Bart and after nearly being threatened by Bart's father, a pregnant Chloe asks Esther and Harry to adopt her. They agree to take her up on her offer.
  • "[1]" begins with Youngman Grand, a homeless man, being adopted by Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire.
  • At the end of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey gets adopted by twins Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa from beyond the grave. It is implied that Rey takes the Skywalker name with Luke and Leia's approval, showing how she found her Family of Choice in the Skywalkers and not her biological grandfather Emperor Palpatine; but it can also be interpreted as Luke and Leia adopting Rey as their adult daughter.
  • Played for Laughs at the end of The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, when Sonia tricks Bryce into signing papers he believes are his bodyguarding license. Only belately does he realise that he unwittingly signed adoption papers and is now legally Sonia and Kincaid's son, despite already being an adult in his late 40s. Oh, and she never even discussed with her husband beforehand, shocking both Kincaid and Bryce. It makes you wonder why Bryce didn't read the papers before he signed them, or even asked what they were.
    Bryce and Kincaid: What the fuck?!
  • In Stuart Little, Stuart was 18 in mouse years when he was adopted by the Littles. Not that extreme an example, but still legally an adult.

  • In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Strabo Plinth is unable to legally adopt Coriolanus Snow due to Snow already being legally an adult. However, he adopts in every manner but legally, making him his heir and treating him as part of the family following the death of his own son.
  • The Jules Verne novel Clovis Dardentor (1896) is built around that premise: Jean and Marcel, two students about to enlist in the French African military for need of money, meet the eponymous Clovis Dardentor, a wealthy elder bachelor who openly declares his plan to secure his factories' faith after his death by finding a suitable successor and then adopting him. However, after researching the idea, the three find out that under the French law, a person can only adopt another adult if they have lived in the same house for 10 years, an exception being if the adoptee had rescued his adopter from mortal danger. Jean and Marcel now hatch a plan to follow Clovis Dardentor in his sightseeing tour through French North Africa in the hopes that an occasion would arise in which they could rescue him from death and thus be eligible to be adopted. But throughout the book, it is always Clovis who rescues them instead.
  • In the Earth's Children series, the Mamutoi can adopt or "sponsor" an adult into their tribe. This happens to Ayla in The Mammoth Hunters; she's 17/18 years old (and considered an adult by Mamutoi standards) and has no people. After living with and growing close to the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi, they ask her to formally join them, with Talut and Nezzie offering to adopt her. However, to everyone's surprise the shaman Mamut is the one to formally adopt her, although Talut and Nezzie are still like parents to her; the whole camp basically becomes one extended family for Ayla, which is a big deal for her because she was orphaned as a child and forced to leave the family who raised her. Even after leaving the Mamutoi to join the Zelandonii she proudly states she's "Ayla of the Mamutoi" when people ask where she's from.
  • Firekeeper in the Firekeeper Saga is adopted by the Earl Kestrel following her retrieval from the wilds.
  • The Imperial Radch trilogy: Anaander Mianaai, the Lord of the Radchaai Galactic Superpower, adopts Breq into the fantastically prestigious Mianaai family upon promoting her to Fleet Captain. Complicated by the fact that Breq is the last surviving Wetware Body of a warship Artificial Intelligence who knows the Awful Truth about Anaander and absolutely despises her.
  • InCryptid: Antimony adopts her new friend James Smith after seeing how his father treats him, and he never looks back. Her family, already containing a few adoptees, seems unfazed at suddenly having another adult son.
  • A Little Life: Jude, who is an orphan that has gone through a a lot of abuse, is adopted as an adult by Harold and Julia.
  • The Malloreon: Emperor Ran Borune adopts Varana, an intelligent and trustworthy general, as his heir to avert a Succession Crisis, as Ran Borune has no biological sons.
  • Modern Villainess: Runa's grandfather Hikomaro was adopted into the childless Duke Keikain in the 1930s.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms has several examples, the two most notable being Dong Zhuo adopting Lu Bu and Guan Yu adopting Guan Ping. Historically, Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu were merely described as "being as close as father and son" rather than there being an actual adoption, and Guan Ping was actually Guan Yu's biological son.
  • Temeraire: The protagonist Will Laurence is adopted by the Emperor of China in Throne of Jade to resolve a diplomatic crisis. As a patriotically-minded 19th-century Englishman, he treats his newfound princedom as an embarrassing legal fiction, and is repeatedly reminded that it's a very serious matter in the Empire.
  • The Wheel of Time has a variant: the Aiel people have a ritual for extremely close friends to adopt each other as siblings. Aviendha and Elayne eventually become sisters in this manner, though the latter is not Aiel.
  • Star Wars Legends: A known practice, bordering on sacrament, among the Mandalorians. Family is Serious Business, even more so than most galactic cultures, but they are quite unconcerned about bloodlines. If an established Mandalorian takes on a promising recruit, and that recruit agrees to sever any former ties (or had none to begin with), and follows their Code (including speaking the language), then they can accept being adopted into that clan with all the rights and responsibilities of one born into a clan.
  • The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy shows this is par for the course in Chiss family politics, with the most prominent Chiss families seeking to adopt promising or proven members of other families. However, some high-ranking positions require leaving your family, which is why Admiral Ar'alaninote  has no family name. In addition, biologically related family members, referred to as "Bloods" are inherently of higher ranking than adoptees, who have to go through certain formalized trials to move up the ranks.
  • The Twilight Saga: Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper and Alice were sired as vampires and legally adopted by Carlisle Cullen when they were already young adults and Edward when he was 17.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A&E reality show Adults Adopting Adults followed the journey of three families adopting adult children. However, it was cancelled early in its run due to concerns over one of the prospective parents fearing he would cheat on his wife with his 20-year-old daughter, leading to grooming accusations.
  • Discussed on Boy Meets World. After Shaun's father dies, his best friend Cory's family offers to adopt him. He is touched but ultimately declines.
    • In the sequel series, Eric reunites with TJ, or Tommy, an orphaned boy he wanted to adopt in the previous series. He ultimately didn't adopt him because another foster family (one with more resources and experience with raising children) wanted him. Eric let Tommy go to the other family, despite the pain this caused them both. TJ, now an adult, ends up being the one who saves Eric's mayoral campaign. When Riley asks Eric what he's going to do now that he's up in the polls, he says he's going to adopt Tommy. TJ politely declines, saying he'd rather work with Eric (who happily complies).
  • In the Korean Historical Drama Emperor Wang Guhn (and the real life history it reflects), the Emperor of Silla note  has no male heir, so he adopts the man who marries his daughter. The daughter is thought to be barren so the new Emperor has a son with a concubine; but then the Empress becomes pregnant, and it's another son, which complicates things and leads indirectly to the downfall of Silla.
  • General Hospital. All My Children's Skye Chandler comes to town having just discovered that she's the illegitimate daughter of Alan Quartermaine from a long ago fling with her mother. After a rough start, they're able to build a relationship, only to discover that he isn't her father after all. They alleviate their disappointment by having him adopt her even though she's 30-something years old so that they don't have to lose the bond they've developed.
  • Gilligan's Island: Discussed in an episode when the Howells consider adopting Gilligan as their heir.
  • In Living Color!: A sketch has a grown man in an orphanage (who's 35, divorced, and a college graduate) pestering prospective parents to adopt him.
  • Law & Order: "The Taxman Cometh" has a lesbian couple reveal that one partner adopted the other because at the time same-sex marriage wasn't legal in New York and adoption allowed them to gain some of the legal rights reserved for married couples. Truth in Television for many gay couples prior to the Supreme Court decision which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
  • Major Crimes: Sharon Raydor adopts her Foster Kid Rusty Beck after he turns 18, so she will have a legal familial connection to him.
  • Mork & Mindy: A mix-up with INS leads them to believe that Mork is an illegal immigrant to the USA. Being a Human Alien he can't produce a passport or citizenship documents for any country on Earth and risks being deported. In the end, Mork's friend Exidor agrees to adopt him and transfer citizenship that way.
  • Newhart: Larry, Darryl and Darryl take it into their head to adopt a child; the adoption agency allows them to adopt a boy who is 17 years 11 months old.
  • Northern Exposure: In one episode, Maurice considers adopting Chris, his radio station's DJ, as heir to his business interests.
  • The Red Green Show: One episode has the plot of discovering that the lodge effectively has adopted a child, as Old Man Sedgewick has donated the lodge's emergency fund to a home for unwed mothers. The reveal shows the "child" to be a woman in her early twenties. Justified in this case, however, as the donation had been made about 20 years ago.
  • Samurai Sentai Shinkenger: Kaoru adopts Takeru before stepping down as head of the Shiba Clan, making him the real lord instead of a decoy.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: Invoked and inverted, where as Jesus is dying on the cross, he entrusts his ageing mother to the care of his disciple John (despite the fact that his brothers are still around to do the job)note , and afterwards John takes Mary to his home to take care of her.
    When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
  • In Norse Mythology, Odin technically "adopts" Loki into his family through an oath. They're considered blood-brothers, though some creators have decided to make Loki his son over the years.

  • Little Shop of Horrors: In the stage version, Mushnik adopts Seymour for his money. Seymour is at least in his late teens.

    Video Games 
  • Cute Knight: One of the possible endings has the protagonist (who had been kicked out of her orphanage for being "of age") get adopted into the magic teacher's family after befriending her daughter.
  • Dreamfall Chapters: Occurs at the very end, where deuteragonist Saga, who at this point in this story is thirty-five, convinces Kian Alvane, one of the game's co-protagonists, to legally adopt her before their sojourn back to Kian's homeland of Azadir, in order to secure rights for herself that she would not otherwise have while there. While we don't learn much of what happens there, the adoption leads Saga to take on Kian's last name, explaining how her older self, introduced two games earlier in The Longest Journey, came to be called "Lady Alvane".
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The Warrior of Light, who is old enough to drink, is taken in as a ward of House Fortemps during the events of Heavensward, granting them free access to the otherwise isolated nation. By the end of the expansion, the Warrior is more-or-less adopted as an honourary son or daughter of the House.
    • Completing the Sahagin Beast Tribe questline will have Novv name the Warrior an honourary member of his clutch as thanks for all of their help. From then on, the other members of Novv's clutch will proudly refer to the Warrior as "clutchmate". Novv himself is delighted to see the Warrior and refers to them as "my shorewalker spawnling".
    • About midway through the Reaper questline, the Warrior has proven trustworthy and capable enough to be considered a part of Drusilla's family of Garlean exiles and misfits. To emphasize the point, completing the questline will have her refer to them as brother or sister.
  • Ghost of Tsushima: Jin's uncle reveals he wishes to formally adopt him as his son, because as the ruler of Tsushima, he needs an heir in case the Mongols kill him.
  • My Cafe: The once-famous (and promiscuous) musician Clyde Bowen comes searching for the children he might have sired during his youth. He is introduced to Emily, who grew up without a father and is of the right age, and they get along really well together. She is later revealed not to be his daughter after all (her biological father is in prison), but Clyde decides that he doesn't care and formally adopts Emily even though she is a working adult.
  • Quest for Glory II: The player character is adopted by the Sultan of Shapeir for saving the kingdom. This comes in handy in future entries (particularly the fifth game which has voice acting) because it allows the game to call you Prince of Shapeir instead of whatever custom name you've entered.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Bounty Hunter can become the legal adoptee of Mandalore the Vindicated, thus becoming a fully recognized Mandalorian by their culture's law.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: Downplayed. Loona reveals in "Spring Broken" that she was adopted by Blitzo when she was almost 18 years old. In "Seeing Stars", it's shown that Loona was going to be aged out of the hellhound adoption circuit less than a month before Blitzo adopted her, meaning he adopted her no more than a handful of days before she became a legal adult.

    Web Comics 
  • Cyanide and Happiness: Defied in this Depressing Comic Week strip. A man and a woman ask a middle-aged man how they can adopt orphans, and he says that he's not an employee, he's one of the orphans. He asks them if they'll adopt him. They just leave without another word, much to his dismay.
  • Something*Positive: Davan's parents adopt his acquaintance Monette after she moves in with them following a bad breakup.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Signature", Richard adopts his mother's fiance Louie in order to prevent them from getting married. Louie retaliates by adopting Richard's wife Nicole, resulting in a Tangled Family Tree.
  • The Cleveland Show: In "Hustle 'N Bros" Cleveland's father adopts Donna's ex-husband Robert.
  • Cow and Chicken: In "Goin' My Way", Mom and Dad adopt The Red Guy whom they think is a kid. Cow and Chicken are able to prove he is an adult by showing them his driver's license. Surprisingly, Mom and Dad have no problem with this but the Red Guy flees the house upon being exposed because he thinks they're going to kick him out.
  • Dan Vs.: In "Dan Vs. The Ski Trip", an overly cheerful family that Chris meets bond with him and plan to adopt him. He protests that he's an adult, but they insist that they "have a friend in social services" that can deal with this issue. When he brings up his married status, they just offer to adopt his wife as well.
  • Futurama: In the "Wizzin'" segment of "Anthology of Interest II," Mom (playing the role of the Wicked Witch) offers to adopt Leela (playing the role of Dorothy), who grew up as an orphan and still seeks out her true home as an adult. Leela agrees despite Mom being evil, wanting the powers that come with being a witch, but Mom is accidentally melted before the deal can go through, much to her chagrin. Of course, it turns out to be All Just a Dream anyway.
    Mom: I'll tell you why I brought you here, you twice-baked barf bags! Because I've always wanted a daughter to love. You wanna get adopted, you little skank?
    Leela: And live here and be a witch like you? Yeah, all right. As long as I get to hurt people and not just dance around at the equinox.
    Mom: Absolutely.
    Leela: Oh, Mommy! I found my true home! [they hug]
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the climax of "ScavengerPants", after SpongeBob and Patrick manage to find every impossible thing Squidward asks for, they are tasked with finding his long lost brother who obviously does not exist; after spending six whole months searching, they go to Mrs. Tentacles, who reveals Squidward is an only child and one baby is enough. But SpongeBob refuses to go back to Squidward until they give him the brother he never thought he'd have, so he arranges for Mrs. Tentacles to adopt him and Patrick so they become Squidward's brothers, fulfilling the task. It was never acknowledged again afterwards.

    Real Life 
  • In The Roman Republic, it was customary for a patriarch of the family to formally adopt an unrelated-by-blood but capable (adult) successor. This is from where the suffix "-ianus" comes from, as adoptees would change their full name but receive an extra surname indicating their original family. One famous example would be the first Roman Emperor Augustus, born Gaius Octavius, who was Adopted into Royalty by his great uncle Gaius Julius Caesar at the age of 19 and became officially his son under the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.note 
    • Likewise, all of the Five Good Emperors of The Roman Empire were adopted by their predecessors at adult ages.
  • This is very frequent in Japan, as traditions dictate family business (or historically, titles and estate) is to be transmitted to the eldest son. Thus, in the absence of an acceptable son, families tend to adopt to extend the family line. Wikipedia has an article on this. Some specific example are as follows:
    • Toyotomi Hideyoshi was of very humble birth, and thus not eligible to be a Regent for Life — before he was adopted by a Fujiwara in 1585.
    • Ito Hirobumi, the first prime minister of Japan, was born a peasant. He gained status as a samurai after his father Juuzou was adopted by Mizui Buhei, a samurai's retainer, and after that, Mizui adopted by Ito Yaemon, a low-ranking samurai.
    • Adopting adults as heirs continue to be a common practice in Japan; an exaggerated example would be Suzuki Motors. When Toshihiro Suzuki succeeded the company's presidency from his father Osamu, it was the first time in the company's 106-year history that the successor was a biological son of the Suzuki family. Since this is very similar to handpicking a successor from the ranks, it is argued that this is why the country's family-owned companies continue to be competitive as the Sucksessor trope being defied.
    • One common way this is being done in Japan is to adopt a man who is already the owner's son-in-law, or will be his son-in-law. This is why the Japanese don't blink an eye at the trope of Not Blood Siblings.
  • On June 9, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, at 76 years and 96 days old, Mary Banks Smith was adopted by her 92-year-old cousin Muriel Banks Clayton, who had cared for her after her father died of a heart attack and her mother was sent to a mental hospital.
  • It can be used in some countries to avoid paying inheritance taxes.
  • Before same-sex marriage was legalized in various jurisdictions, there were cases where one partner would adopt the other so that they would have legal standing with respect to medical care and other issues, and also to simplify matters related to inheritance.
  • Sia adopted two 18-year-old sons who had barely aged out of foster care, while at the same time became a grandmother at age 44.
  • American comedian Dale Jones, mentions in his November 2021 album I'm Not Well that his second wife's two children, aged 31 and 29 at the time of asking, went to him saying that as the only man who they saw as a father, if he could officially adopt them. Which confused the adoption judge, since "everyone else was adopting four and five year olds, then [he] walked in with two six-foot-tall men with beards".
    Judge: Are you here to turn yourselves in?


Video Example(s):


You are now our son!

Believing the papers procided by Sonia Kincaid are a grant to get his bodyguard license back, Michael Bryce eagerly signs before reading them closely. It turns out those papers are... not that.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AdultAdoptee

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