One would believe that most families who adopt make this decision based on the belief they have something to offer a child who has lost his/her primary family. Just as one would believe; a birth parent wants to love and nurture their own child.
In most cases, these are true statements. Most people want the best, and intend the best for children. Their own and others. In some cases people are so profoundly harmed themselves that they are not able (or even possibly willing) to provide care to a child. Their best may be harmful. A sad reality of the many complications of (most likely) childhoods ravaged with harm and unmet need.
In this writer’s work children and families are met at various stages of adoption. Stages can include; a child in an initial placement who is still connected to his or her biological family. The family at various stages of reunification. A child who is in foster care. His or her family rights terminated or voluntarily relinquished. He or she (the child) may be in his or her -first or fifteenth placement in foster care. A child who has an adopted family identified and the family who has made this initial commitment. A child who is adopted and the family who has adopted. And, a child (of any age, and any placement history) who is adopted and his or her adopted family members.
The families and children are also met at various stages of struggle.They have sought services, or are mandated to attend services, with the goal (and hope) of finding answers. These services are therapeutic in nature and ideally provide avenues to support their child’s needs, learn new relational concepts, behavioral strategies, gain an improved understanding of their child’s inner world and struggles, gain and understanding of their own internal realties and struggles, and make the changes necessary to sustain and improve the quality of relationship and the life of the child they have committed to.
This is Ideally what is to occur. And, in many cases this does occur. Parents, at various stages of placement, are able to engage in the difficult work of supporting children who have been exposed to traumatic impact, loss of belonging, and who come with the many layers of self protection that show up as clinical diagnosis, adaptive, emotional, behavioral, social challenges, and high levels of relational fear. These parents are often capable of empathizing with the child’s experience, can attune to the needs of his or her (or their) child, and buffer the impact of childhood trauma (http://childtrauma.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/DobsonPerry_GilBook_2010.pdf). They are often willing to look at their own struggles with their children and look squarely into the eye of how this came to be for them. They work to stay conscious of themselves in the process of parenting a child who has, at his or her core, been harmed and is both in need of and afraid of connection.
This is not every parent and child’s capacity. Sometimes parent’s cannot understand the child’s need or experience. Sometimes the child’s need is large and their need to distance profound. This coupled with the parents capacity (often based on their experience of childhood adversity or lack of safe and nurturing relationship) is not able to maintain safe presence and provide a secure foundation for their child. The child will inevitably know this and respond with his or her best survival strategies.
These are not statements of blame. Every person has inherent strengths and struggles, and has created his or her own unique attachment (survival) strategy. These are statements of reality. The reality that impaired attachments (attachment abilities and/or strategies) consistently lead to initial placements, often subsequent and multiple placements into foster care, relinquishment or termination of parental rights, disrupted adoption, and recently the profoundly damaging and, at its worst, the harmful practice of re-homing. http://www.reuters.com
In the United states 10-25 % of adoptions fail. Children who were initially placed and in need of a safe place continue to be harmed. This harm can be in many forms (emotional, physical, behavioral, social, and relational). In addition, the recent trend known as re-homing internationally adopted children is in process. Due to the fact that this is a largely individual practice (not overseen by an identified agency) there are no viable statistics in regard to re-homing.
Overall, supporting and strengthening biological children and families is crucial. Provision of solid needs assessments and interventions is a must, prior to termination or relinquishment. Once a child is placed and adoptive placements sought, informed practice is essential. And, when a child finds (what is often deemed his or her “forever home”) it is imperative that solid assessments and on going supports are provided to adoptive families so this can be a reality for him or her.
The Voice for Adoption Coalition www.voice-for-adoption.org is a dedicated group of adoption and child welfare partners who have committed to raising awareness to the critical needs of adopted children and families.The coalition has made recommendations to inform and encourage federal policy makers to implement strategies and change foundational thinking in regard to how adopted children and their families are supported. In essence, the coalition recognizes the crucial need to provide on-going support to adopted families in the form informed practice, tax credits, access to informed services, and on-going advocacy. Support that may help to facilitate informed practice in regard to aiding parents in maintaining initial commitments, and aiding children in maintaining safe relationships in their “forever home” and becoming safe, happy, well adjusted, and contributing members of our larger society.
The Coalition has cited the Reuters reports in regard to the recent practice of re-homing internationally adopted children, as foundational support for their policy recommendations. Please see the Coalitions informed and thoughtful recommendations at www.voice-for-adoption.org.
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