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Adoption Counseling

What are post-adoption services for?

It is common for adoptive families to need support and services after adoption. Post-adoption services can help families with a wide range of issues. They are available for everything from learning how to explain adoption to a preschooler, to helping a child who experienced early childhood abuse, to helping with an adopted teen's search for identity. Experience with adoptive families has shown that all family members can benefit from some type of post-adoption support. Families of children who have experienced trauma, neglect, or institutionalization may require more intensive services.

Post-Adoption Issues That Most Adoptive Families Encounter:

Because of the lifelong impact of adoption, members of adoptive families may want or need additional support, education, and other services as their children grow. The following are some issues for which families typically seek post-adoption support.

Loss and grief: All adopted children experience loss at one or more points in their lives, and they may grieve their loss as they come to understand the role that adoption has played in their lives. They may struggle with understanding why they were placed for adoption and how that affects who they are. These feelings may change and reappear at different stages of life. Some adopted children may be confused by conflicting emotions about their birth parents—anger at having been placed for adoption or having their birth parents' rights terminated or worry about their birth parents' circumstances. All of these feelings may be acted out as hostility toward their adoptive parents.

Birth Parent Counseling

Information for Birth Parents Thinking About Adoption:

Being faced with unexpected pregnancy can be very scary. You may be confused, upset, embarrassed and feel overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make. Many women in an unplanned pregnancy are not aware of the choices they have, or do not consider the outcomes of their decisions. Adoption is one of the choices that you have. It is not an easy choice, but it is a loving choice for your baby when you are not able or ready to be a parent at this time in your life. Adoption is much different then it was in the past. You can choose the family for your child and decide on how open you want the relationship to be with your child and the adoptive family. You can have the opportunity to meet the adoptive family, see your child and/or to have pictures and letters shared between you, your child, and the adoptive family. Many families are not able to have children for many different reasons, but very much want to be parents and provide a child with love, guidance, and a stable, secure future. For these couples, their dreams of being parents and raising a child become reality when a young woman in an unplanned pregnancy who values the life and future of her child chooses adoption. You have more choices and support than you might think.

Pre-Adoption Counseling

What is pre-adoption counseling?

Families just beginning the adoption process are faced with a confusing array of adoption options. Choices must be made between domestic and international adoption, between independent and agency adoption, and among a variety of agencies and/or adoption attorneys. Pre-adoption counseling provides emotional support and guidance, while creating an awareness of adoption trauma down the road, especially in adopting children domestically, internationally or with special needs (developmental delays, medical conditions, behavioral issues, etc.); An adoption consultation helps potential adopters clarify their thinking about these choices, identify their priorities, and choose the kind of adoption and the resource that will best suit their family. A social worker is available to discuss any particular concerns you have about the adoption process and to answer your questions as you embark on your adoption journey. Review of the child's records from abroad can help a family understand more about their prospective child and recognize what issues this child may have upon arrival. It helps parents make an informed decision about their capacity to parent the referred child, and to appropriately prepare for bringing the child into their family. Preparing for meeting and traveling with the child and understanding the immediate physical and behavioral needs can help ease the travel and transition period.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Do we thoroughly understand the process of attachment or parent-child bonding and the consequences of children experiencing insecure attachment or broken attachments? Do we have the necessary commitment to make an investment in parenthood that raising a child requires? Do we know what kind of child we would consider bringing into our home? Do we have sufficient knowledge to ask the right questions about a child? Do we know how to establish resources before we adopt that we may need after the adoption? Do we have the patience to participate in pre- and post-adoption placement counseling to be prepared for the problems that will arise? Do we have the financial resources including adoption subsidies to raise this child? Does the adoption subsidy include appropriate psychotherapy and residential treatment if these become necessary?

Questions to Ask Agencies and Caseworkers

Is the agency willing to provide full disclosure of all records prior to adoption finalization? What were the circumstances that placed this child in foster care and for adoption? What is the history of this child? What kind of abuse (physical, emotional, and/or sexual) has this child endured? How long has this child been in foster care and what kinds? How many times has this child been moved since birth? What are the existing or potential problems for this child? What post-adoption intervention resources are available should problems arise?

Adoptee Counseling

What is an adoptee?

The number of adopted persons in the United States is estimated to be between six and ten million. The one thing all adopted persons share in common is that somewhere, some time, a decision was made that was intended to be in their "best interest." Whether infant or older child, domestic or international, stepparent, relative, or "stranger" adoption, that "best interest" was present.

Common Clinical Issues Among Adoptees Who Have Received Psychological Treatment:

Disrupted attachment of feelings of disconnectedness: (especially in delayed adoptions). With infant adoptions there is a sense of ambiguous attachment, a tenuous sense of attachment. Even if loved, an adoptee may feel like they don't fit in or belong in the family.

Splitting of good/bad self and good/bad objects: Around 8-11 years of age, adoptees have trouble integrating nurturing and punitive parts of self and parents. They may switch the fantasy back and forth. Birthparents are rejecting parents as nurturing and vice versa. Black and white thinking can become prolonged. Ambivalence towards parents.

Damaged self-image, low self-esteem: Thinking, feeling, acting rejected, sees self as "damaged goods." "I must have done something horrible to have been sent away from my (birth)- mother."

Feelings of rejection: Understanding concept of relinquishment.

Feelings of shame and guilt: Shame that they were so "bad" they had to be given away. Anger towards birth/adoptive parents, guilt about anger. Feeling overly grateful/protective towards parents.

Problems in identity development. Physical/psychological similarities and dissimilarities: Who am I like? Where do I belong? Fit in? Difficulty in differentiating from family of origin/birth family culture.

Perceived lack of control. Increased oppositional behavior, stubborn, pouting, temper tantrums: Things have been "done" to them. They had no choice/control in ending up in their family. Ambivalence - no choice of parents /wish to be with birth family. Anger that the parents made them feel the loss of their birth0-family. Not knowing their background they struggle to find some sense of control in their lives. The issue of control is crucial. Many adoptees feel over-controlled by simple home/school rules other kids easily accept. Help regain some control for them by answering questions, making adoption rituals, giving choices / decisions to child . Get them involved in rule making too.

Loss and unresolved grief: With the loss associated with divorce and death, people get comfort, support and recognition for their grief through accepted universally known rituals. With adoption, the child experiences a loss (like a divorce or death) of an unknown person, and doesn't know why. There is no social context in which the loss is recognized. There are no adoption rituals to help you cope and grieve. It seems there is no one who understands your loss. Consequently, adoption loss rituals are encouraged for your family to create.

Active fantasy life: With no knowledge of one's past, there is an emptiness, a void, which the adoptee "fills" with an active fantasy life. With the loss being an on-going issue and never fully resolved, reunion fantasies increase.

Learning disabilities: Learning disabilities are more common in adopted children due to genetics, prenatal care, teenage birthmothers, birth trauma (drugs, forceps birth, induced labor, pre-maturity, low birth weight, etc. ) . Boy babies are weaker at birth and more vulnerable to birth trauma (as well as the genetic factor of Lid.) Learning disabled children feel different, depressed, angry, and confused about the learning disabilities. They need help dealing with this as well as their adoption issues (which may be put "on hold" until they can cognitively understand it). You may need to present adoption information at a later date or in a different form (puppets, play therapy, etc.).

Adoptive Parent Counseling

What is the importance of adoptive parent counseling?

Professional counseling can be extremely helpful when trying to make a decision, which will affect the lives of many people. Birth parents should seek the advice of a counselor prior to making a final decision regarding adoption. A professional counselor can offer their assistance when one is trying to sort out feelings regarding such a big personal decision. A birth mother is making a decision that not only affects her life, but also the life of a child. A counselor will often ask the birth mother or birth parents to create and complete a list of the advantages and disadvantages of going through an adoption. That list can then be gone over with the counselor on an objective basis to discuss the impact of those decisions. The decision to place a child for adoption or choosing to raise a child will have lifelong effects.

If the birth mother chooses to place the child for adoption, she must consider how this decision will affect her in the future. Will she be at happy with her decision? Is adoption in the best interest of everyone involved? Does the adoption plan sound possible to achieve? Many issues should be addressed before making a decision for adoption. A professional counselor is in position to be objective about these choices. It is often difficult to discuss adoption with relatives and people who are close to you. It is always helpful to discuss the possible choices with friends and family, which should also be consulted. The most objective information will come from an adoption professional. Are both spouses ready to accept a child into their home and understand the responsibility of raising a child? Do they accept this responsibility? Are they prepared to adopt a child sometimes with little prior knowledge? Have they both dealt with the issues regarding their own inability to have biological children, if that is the situation? Have considerations been made for adoption a child of a different race, color, ethnic background, etc.

Issues discussed with prospective adoptive parents:

  • Attachment
  • Bonding
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Special needs children
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Reactive attachment disorder
  • Anti-social behavior
  • Learning disabilities
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Alcohol related birth defects