During the celebrations and hoopla that National Adoption Month brings, it can be easy to forget or dismiss the reality that adoption is not always the fairy tale ending to a child's life. A child brings with him or her a lifetime of pre-adoption history that is often very difficult and filled with trauma.
Trauma is not "cured" through a "forever family" alone. The adoptive or permanent family (and we must remember and acknowledge legal guardianship is also considered a permanent placement) that is best able to provide that supportive platform is one in which the child or youth's history, including trauma, grief and loss, is acknowledged and addressed.
Some children and youth continue to mourn and grieve at the same time as they embrace their adoption. This is, as many experts have acknowledged, a paradox - that one can understand the losses that adoption has brought as well as the gains.
This paradox is one that many children and youth understand very well. It is the adults in their lives - the social workers, the foster and adoptive parents, other family members, and society - that often has a harder time understanding or acknowledging this paradox.
So as we spend this month discussing the benefits of adoption, let us also be aware that there may be extra supports that children, youth and their adoptive or permanent families might need to stabilize and strengthen these placements.
Below are some resources for helping children and families:
- For adoptive parents: the MN Adoption Advisory Committee, a group of youth 13-22, created the Adoption Tip Sheet: What Adoptive Parents Should Know, describing why some of the ways teens behave might seem like they don't want to be adopted
- Understanding the 7 Core Issues in Adoption (parents, check out the ones for adoptive parents and birth parents too!)
- Understanding Ambigous Loss for Foster and Achildren, from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)'s Adoptalk.
- Finding the Missing Pieces from Adoption Learning Partners
- Sherrie Eldridge's helpful guide, A Tool To Help Adoptees Resolve Loss: Understanding grief in the adopted child suitable for children 7+
- The Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons factsheet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Resources to help families find a therapist that understands adoption is a challenge that many adoptive parents say is critically needed. Here are some resources for finding skilled therapists that understand the core issues and loss and grief involved in adoption:
- From the Child Welfare Information Gateway - Selecting and Working with a Therapist Skilled in Adoption
- Adoption Competent Therapist Traits from MN Adopt. MN Adopt also has two other factsheets, Choosing Adoption Therapist and Working with an Adoption Therapist.
- Finding an Adoption Competent Therapist by Cynthia Roe for the American Adoption Congress
- Choosing a Good Therapist- or Becoming One by Dee Paddock for the NYSCCC