s/o The "other" side of Adoption: When the baby grows up
The Darker Side of the Adoption Story
This month’s theme has to do with the effects of adoption on the adoptee and the adoption issues that most people in the adoption community don’t want to talk about. Sadly, adoptee issues are real, and the tragedy comes when adoptive parents do not understand what they are really facing as they make the all-important decision to adopt a child.
Like everyone else, I enjoy the hardcover adoption magazines full of adorable images, arts and crafts, and “my baby is the cutest” photo contests. But every time I look at one of those magazines, I have to think to myself,
“Please tell the other side of the adoption story.”
Adoption can be full of happiness and joy, but it can also be full of loss, grief, and in some cases indescribable anger and dangerous behavior.
Common Psychological and Emotional Effects of Adoption
Some common issues observed in adoptees are:
- Self-esteem issues
- Reactive attachment disorder (RAD)
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Identity development
- General feelings of grief, loss, and rejection
Statistics on Adopted Children and Adults Show Adoption Always Affects the Adoptee
Many research studies have shown that adoptees and birth mothers suffer more from depression, and that there is a higher rate of suicide among these populations. Because adoption issues often show up during the teen years, unresolved issues can manifest themselves in dramatic and destructive ways that adoptive parents may not be prepared for.
There are a handful of disciplinary correctional schools, residential treatment centers, and adoption ‘camps’ that are designed to deal with adopted teenagers whos parents have decided that they don’t know how to handle the behavioral problems of their adopted child. These adoptee camps take in adopted children with all kinds of issues: substance and drug abuse, sexual misconduct, violence and anger towards parents, siblings, pets, or even themselves, the list can go on. There is even a camp referred to as “The Last Chance Ranch,” that specializes in teens from Russia. Sadly, some of these teens are actually re-relinquished to the camp by their adoptive parents.
Despite the fact that adoptees make up less than 2% of the US population, they represent 25-35% of teens in these correctional camps and institutions-
I find that statistic so incredibly sad and alarming.
Resources to Help Adoptive Parents Understand the Psychological and Emotional Effects of Adoption on their Children
There are many resources available today, that did not exist years ago. There have been many wonderful books written about the impact of adoption, three of my favorites are,
- The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier
- Lost and Found by Betty Jean Lifton
- Raising Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen.
There are also adoption therapists who specialize in helping adoptees heal and overcome their psychological and emotional issues. Here is a very important point to remember: there are many therapists who attempt to help adoptees, but unfortunately have no real understanding of adoptee issues. I was fortunate to find a child therapist who was herself adopted, and she was enormously helpful throughout all of my years of raising my three adopted children. The therapist does not need to be a member of the adoption triad, but they need to have some special training about these crucial child development issues.
This month’s edition of the magazine will talk about all of these adoption issues and more, including adoptee suicide. It will also feature a very special 24 minute video of a young man who suffered from severe attachment issues, and talks about it in a truly real and compelling way, I promise you will be mesmerized by his story, and the hope he gives all of us.
So… Do Adoptees Have More Problems?
Every adoptee has a completely unique and separate experience but I think one of our anonymous Message in a Bottle submissions best summed up a great answer for general adoption questions…
“Adoption isn’t all unicorns and rainbows.”
Thank you to whomever submitted this message! To submit a Message in a Bottle of your own, use this form.