Recently, two staff from Chrysalis House, Inc. were afforded the opportunity to attend a symposium in New York, hosted by JCICS (Joint Council on International Children’s Services). Naturally, a wealth of information was acquired from the scheduled presentations and networking with peers.
The topic of Post Adoption Services was mentioned repeatedly and we felt it important to share some information in this space. Please note: It is common for adoptive families to need support and services after adoption. Adoption affects the adopted child and families in many different ways over the course of their lifetime. Post adoption services are available and can help families with a wide range of issues! Not all families will require services, but in the event our families are faced with challenges – CHI remains here to help!
Most of the time, adopted children are not thinking about the complexities of their adoption. They are busy with schoolwork, socializing and activities. But, there are developmental stages, milestones and events that often trigger adoption themed issues. Consequently, an adopted person’s questions, concerns and needs often change over time. For example:
1. Children adopted as infants may first learn their adoption story as toddlers. When entering school, they may become aware that most children were not adopted and may be challenged to respond to questions and comments from peers.
2. During adolescence, as youth grapple with identity issues and independence, they may have new questions about their birth families and their relationships.
3. As adopted people become parents or old enough to consider parenting, they may find themselves wanting to reconnect with birth relatives or to know more about their genetic history.
4. Milestones and events can trigger a need for post-adoption support:
- birthdays of the child, siblings, parents or birthparents.
- anniversaries of placement into foster care, orphanages or the adoptive family; or adoption finalization date.
- holidays such as Mother’s or Father’s Day. Any holiday that involves family gatherings and sentiment.
- School projects in which the child is asked to talk about his/her family, such as family tree assignments
- A doctor’s appointment, which an adopted person is asked to supply medical history information
- divorce of adopted parents
- adoptive mother’s pregnancy, birth of a child or adoption of a sibling which may upset the adopted child’s sense of security in the family.
- deployment of a military family member
- death of a family member
During these times, parents should watch for signs indicating their adopted child or they themselves may need special support. Overt signs may include changes in mood, eating habits, or sleeping habits.
Research has suggested that the following are some issues for which families typically seek post adoption support:
Grief & Loss: All adopted youth (even those adopted as infants) experience some level of separation and loss. They may struggle with feelings of abandonment as they try to understand why they were placed for adoption and how that affects who they are. These feelings may appear and reappear at different stages of life, even when their adoption is an amazingly positive experience.
Trust & Attachment: Any child separated from birth parents has experienced a break in attachment. Adoption requires the development of new attachment and bonds. Children who have experienced abuse, neglect, and transitions to multiple foster homes often have not known consistent love and affection and may have difficulty trusting and attaching to their new family. This can also transcend into building healthy relationships with peers at different ages and stages.
Identity formation: The process of identity development can be more complex for adopted children and teenagers regardless of when they were adopted. This can be further complicated if they joined a family of another culture. Given the importance of promoting their child’s heritage and supporting their child’s racial or cultural identity, parents may seek educational resources, learning opportunities or special events. They also may benefit from building skills to cope with public scrutiny or racism.
Family dynamics and adoption adjustment: Adoptive parents may experience grief and loss issues of their own. Emotions can be intensified by the stress of the adoption experience and can cause strain in marriages and partnerships. For some it may even result in post-adoption depression.
Birth family connections: Many adopted people want information about their birth family and/or to reconnect with birth relatives at some point in their lives. Today’s technology and social networking opportunities are connecting people in new ways. This fast paced contact opportunity can be extremely emotionally overwhelming to all. Adoptive families, birth families and adopted children may need support in building openness into their post-adoption contact, setting boundaries and navigating their roles.
Difficulties resulting from Early Life Experiences:
- Effects of early childhood trauma – Research shows that traumatic experiences can effect a child’s early brain development which can have later consequences for how a child behaves, expresses emotions, copes with stress and forms relationships. The effects can vary and may not appear until years later.
- Health issues and developmental delays – When children miss out on important developmental activities due to a lack of stimulation and proper nutrition due to being in an institutional setting, they may have unique challenges that don’t appear immediately upon adoption.
- School issues: Some adopted children experience learning delays or behavioral issues that effect how well they perform at school. Children may benefit from evaluation for disability or special education services. Individualized Education Plans (IEP) can be formed to insure children meet educational goals.
Types of Post Adoption Services:
Naturally, Counseling can help address the majority of these issues. It can also help adoptive parents understand their child’s behavior and identify strategies to meet their child’s needs and allow healing to occur.
Support groups for parents and children are available through CHI, many other peer agencies and churches. It may also be an option to informally form one of your own utilizing your support network. There are online support groups, camps, social events and heritage activities to consider. Many new organizations are helping adoptive parents, birth parents and those who have been adopted navigate changes in their levels of openness, conduct searches and even reunite with birth families.
Educational and information resources are a plenty. Books, magazines, workshops, seminars and websites may offer information that responds to adoptive family questions. We at CHI, have specifically entered the social networking world of facebook, Pinterest and blogging with an emphasis on accumulating resources that can be readily available to families in need. Please access our pages as you see fit at the following addresses:
Most importantly, don’t hesitate to advocate on behalf of your family. We are committed to our families today …and tomorrow. If Post Adoption Services may be of use to you, please contact the office to discuss how we may be of assistance in narrowing down your options!