Your adopted child may face some emotional and developmental issues that are not common in non-adopted children. This is the case whether your child was placed at birth or was in extended foster care. It also is true whether or not your child is from a different race, culturally heritage, or country. Needing outside help at some point after adoption is common and many adoptive families seek post-adoption assistance.
Post-adoption services are frequently needed, although often not until years after the adoption has been finalized. Post adoption services can help a family with a wide range of issues such as explaining adoption to the child, helping with adoption-related developmental problems and helping with identity issues in adolescence and young adulthood.
Loss, grief and anger are experienced at some point by most adoptees. These feelings may appear, disappear, and then return at different times in the child's development. Trust and attachment are two other areas that can be problematic especially for children who are placed from foster care or children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or institutionalization prior to joining their adoptive families. Identity issues are faced by every child but can be especially problematic for adopted children and for transracial and transcultural adoptees.
Certain dates and experiences may trigger adoption related issues. This is especially true of birthdays, holidays, pregnancy within the family or of a family friend, the adoption or birth of a "sibling", and contacts from the birth mother or birth father. School problems and school related issues can arise around classroom assignments (such as traditional "family tree" assignments or basic genetic lessons), peer interactions, and insensitivity on the part of school personnel.
To help deal with the problems mentioned above, the traditional types of post-adoption services include the following:
Individual and group therapy and counseling: The timely help from a skilled counselor or therapist can often prevent an initial problem from becoming more serious. It can also help a family and adoptee to understand what problems are the result of everyday life and what problems may be related specifically to adoption issues. For some help in selecting an adoption counselor, please view the link Therapist Selection.
Adoption support groups are available to help both the adoptive parents and the child. These adoption support groups exist in most states and offer a wide range of information and services.
Education through adoption seminars and conferences as well as adoption books and adoption magazines can be helpful.
Overnight camps and retreats including heritage camps can be a good way for the family and child to interact and share with others who have experienced some of the same adoption issues and concerns.
Respite care offers parents and the child a temporary break. Respite care can be provided in-home (where the respite professional comes to your home) or can be at a facility where you take your child for a specific period of time.
Inpatient care at a hospital or residential treatment center is usually a last resort. Hospitalization may be necessary for children who become suicidal or dangerous to themselves or others. Residential care can help with those adoptees who can best be treated with the firm limits and structured environment that a residential treatment center provides.
Common issues for which adoptive families and their child look for help are discussed in more detail on the links Adoption and Child Development Issues and Explaining Adoption as well as Adoption Emotional Issues. Additionally, the Child Welfare Information Gateway discusses many of these issues in the article Post Adoption Services.
Finding Post-Adoption Help
You may want to start by contacting the adoption agency or adoption attorney that helped with the adoption and ask for their help and ideas. You can also contact other adoption agencies in your state of residence and ask about their help and resources.
Many post-adoption services are available through state and local adoption support groups your state child welfare agency, local mental health center, state adoption contact, or the stateDepartment of Education or Department of Health.
Outpatient psychotherapy is a common form of professional help that adoptive families use. Local Community Mental Health Centers have professions who may be able to help. You can also contact your state Psychological Association or Psychiatric Association, or Association of Social Workers to get the names of an adoption specialist.
It is important to locate a therapist who understands and is sensitive to the unique dynamics of the adoptive family and who will neither underestimate nor overestimate the fact that a child has been adopted. Adoptive families who have worked with therapists emphasize the importance of finding a therapist with adoption experience. However, the training of therapists usually does not include specifics about the unique dynamics of adoption.
For additional help with adoption therapy, please contact Dr. Vince Berger, a PhD Psychologist and adoption specialist.
Visit the links Adoption Emotional Issues and Explaining Adoption as well as Adoption and Child Development Issues. And please visit our home page to read about our commitment to assist adoptive parents like you as well as pregnant women and birth parents.
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