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Ask the Expert: All About Adoption, Emotions, and Family Relationships

Posted by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM
  • 52 Replies

Do you have questions about adoption issues such as relationships with birth parents or communicating with your adopted child? Our expert is here to answer them!

Dr. Marlou Russell is a therapist who specializes in adoption issues, and as an adoptee herself, she's in a unique position to counsel those who have been touched by adoption. She'll be here all next week to offer advice and answer YOUR questions about any adoption issues you're experiencing!

Please post your questions as replies to this post. Dr. Russell will post her answers here as well.

-Cafe Kristin


by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM
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Replies (1-10):
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 4:28 PM

 How exciting!!!

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 1:21 PM

im looking to foster adoption is it easier an less expensive

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 1:39 PM
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Dr. Russell, We have been searching for daughter's BM and think we have found her (in Russia). We'll have verfication soon. DD is 16 and wanted this search done. I've told DD that she needs to be prepared for almost anything--perhaps her BM won't want contact, perhaps her BM is a terrible person and I won't allow contact, etc., etc., but my instinct is that she will and I will. Once we've established contact, do you have any advice on how to moderate DD's expectations? Any advice for me on how to moderate how I may feel about all this...? 

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 2:04 PM
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Thank you Dr. Russell to take the time here. My question is more general:

Have you already experienced or do you expect a shift in your practice due to the trend/ majority of domestic adoptions being open today? What new issues are you seeing today that you did not see 10-20 years ago and what issues do you anticipate coming as all of these children of open adoption reach maturity?

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 2:53 PM

What forms of therapy do you find most effective to promote attachment of children with lengthy histories of abuse, neglect, and multiple foster placements?  How do you transition from attachment work to treating trauma?  What forms of therapy do you find most effective for treating early and chronic trauma?  Any recommendations regarding the treatment of siblings who have formed a trauma bond? 

Background:  We adopted three siblings from U.S. foster care, now between age eight and twelve.  Double-digit placements, diagnosed with RAD, PTSD, bipolar or other mood disorders, sensory issues, in-utero drug exposure.  Abuse (all kinds), severe neglect.  We have seen all of the behaviors typically associated with each of these disorders, including urinating, hoarding, lying, stealing, rages, regression to infancy or animal form, sexual acting-out (primarily towards mom--me), abuse of pets, property damage, assaults, including injury to me requiring surgery to correct.  Regulating sleep and hunger (binge or starve) are also big issues.  We started with two years of attachment therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, and behavior coaching.  The kids are currently benefiting from EMDR and Somatic Experiencing as trauma therapies and our oldest child has a mentor through the mental-health agency.  The kids have been relatively stable for the past three months, though the trauma work is very difficult for them and the therapist is proceeding slowly and carefully, due to the very short period of stability--the first in our children's lives.  It's taken a year with the current therapist for the kids to trust enough to work with her.  It's taken us four years to earn their trust. 

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 3:29 PM

 To continue Allison489 thread- when dealing with a teenage boys adopted older from foster care with extensive trauma and sexual abuse, how do you help them to trust? To stop the control techniques that have worked for them for years? How do you deal with the sudden rush of overwhelming anger that dissipates as quickly as it appears? How do you deal with inappropriate sexually acting out especially when this is more often directed at the mom? What will make them Care about life when they are so shut down and nothing is a motivation to them?

Pam in Alabama
A Mom to nine sons and one daughter with six still at home!
by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Thank you Dr. Russell for your time--for a younger teen sibling who has physically hurt his older teen brother with severe physical and intellectual disabilities (I would go to next room and this would happen and even have child follow me and this would still happen)  and also us and the animals--(he currently not in the home but we have had tons of attachment counseling prior to him leaving the home, done what they said, and been years of this) Our last thing was to place him because we know about the bonding, attachment and that effect.  He has always refused to aknowledge us as parents but deep down I feel he does.  Our concern is safety of actually both of them and the safety of the brother with the dd and physical disabilities and also our younger one with making sure he feels safe.  Is it always the best thing to keep siblings in the same home after years and years of severe neglect prior to you adopting them??  Our younger one (actually an older teen)  refuses contact with us but we keep reaching out to him.   He denies anything he has done and will not at all aknowledge it in therapy or admit or even discuss. What do we do??

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 8:24 PM

I have two adopted boys through DCF. My oldest is 9. He tends to shut down and hide his face when I talk about adoption. I ask him if he would like me to share anything about his story. He says NO,don't want to know. I don't want to push him to talk.I scense he is getting curious about it, but afraid to hear the truth. He had a tough start to his young life before joining our family. Could he be remembering preverbal feelings from his past.

Should I continue to encourage him to talk or wait until he is ready?

Thank you \Debbie

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 8:59 PM

 We have done fostering, been legal risk foster parents and adopted three children in our care.  We were DS1s 3rd home in the first year of his life and I have wondered if he has RAD. I have been told by other "professionals" that since he was a year old when he came to us that RAD is not possible. Is it possible? He has ADHD and ODD and there are many times when he acts like he does not want to belong to the family.

When we were told about DD (teenager), we and our agency caseworker were assured repeatedly by the state caseworker that there was not a violent bone in her body. I learned the hard way that there was, as she attacked me physically four times in the year following the adoption. I'd had opportunity to talk to the previous foster home and they had been informed of her violence by the state. The bio-family informed me that they had told the state about her violence and was surprised we were not told. When I inquired with the state about what would happen if a Child is the abuser, they replyed that the parents would be charged with abandonment.  Why is that? Why would the state caseworker lie about violence when they knew that was a no go on our part? We had two young children in the home that was in danger with her there.  The criminal courts placed her elsewhere, but why does the state caseworker lie to the prospective parents and the child?

by on Nov. 10, 2011 at 9:10 PM

We adopted 2 boys ( same bio Mom) 5 yrs ago from Russia.  They have done well we thought, the 11 yr old (brother is 9) has such anger issues over the last year or so.  Everytime we tell him no about something he yells at us, throws his glasses, calls us losers and says he hates us and we hate him.  We have never said any such thing to him so it is all his interpretation.  We strive to show him unconditional love but he does not want to seem to make any effort with school work or anything that doesn't go his way.   It is so hard to punish him continuosly with loss of priviliges as it is several times a week he blows up.  I am at a loss to figure out what is wrong.  He won't talk about it and when he sees the counselor that we have chosen, he chats and plays games and realizes he shouldn't treat his parents or brother how he does, but doesn't really want to change his attitude at all.  I am so afraid of his failure of school and emotional battles but don't really know what to do to help at this point.  We are committed as his parents forever so it will be his choice to make it a lifelong battle or not.  We told him that it is his choices that is getting himself in trouble but it our job to raise him as a kind and responsible man.

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