This 2-part series touches on some of the risks of adoption, exploring options and help available to adoptive families. Part 1 addressed expectations prior to adoption. Part 2 considers the avenues for getting help once the child comes home.
While adoptive parents may have read every book and heard every story, nothing can fully prepare them for the arrival of their child. Just as it is with the birth of a baby and the adjustments that those new parents endure, so it is with adoption.
Once the child is home, adoptive parents need to be proactive.
If there are struggles, this does not mean you are a failure as a parent. Neither should you blame the child. He or she is likely using defense mechanisms developed as a result of abuse, neglect, or other hardships.
But if you feel something is wrong, yet can’t quite put your finger on it, trust your instincts and look for help. Seek assistance early, before things get out of hand.
Kim Snow, a Georgia wife and mom, encourages families to speak up and not be afraid to ask for assistance. “There is so much help out there: counseling for the parent, therapy for the child, great books on the subject. I would do whatever you can to get help.”
Therapy and counseling are great avenues for help. There are professionals that are experienced specifically with adoptive families and know the ropes when it comes to the underlying issues they may be facing.
The child may need to see a professional that is skilled in attachment issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, or behavioral counseling. The parents likely need a listening ear, a trained person that can help them with ways to address their struggles.
There is also a growing number of adoptive parents that find themselves dealing with post-adoption depression syndrome (PADS). It could be that pre-adoption expectations or attachment or behavioral struggles with the new child send the parent into a state of depression. Therapy can also help with this.
Adoption agencies can typically refer parents to experienced counseling and therapy resources. Families may also seek advice or referrals from other adoptive families, from civic organizations, or from their church or other religious group.
n addition to counseling and therapy, parents might also want to connect with other adoptive families for support. This can be accomplished through in-person support groups, as well as message boards and chat rooms specifically designed for these families. Hearing how other families are successfully navigating similar situations might provide a struggling parent with new ideas and renewed hope.
If parents feel like they’ve reached the end of their rope, there are still options. Respite care is sometimes sought when a situation becomes especially serious, allowing the parent time to rest and regroup. And in the most extreme cases, when all other options have been exhausted, adoptive parents may seek disruption or dissolution of the adoption. While this is not be the storybook ending the family hoped for, it is a better option than sticking a note in your child’s backpack, and putting them on a translatlantic flight to be picked up by a stranger you hired on the internet.
Regardless of your adoption situation, know that there will be struggles. Understand how to get help. Realize you are not alone. And recognize that the solutions will not be instantaneous. When a parent is equipped with the right tools, their chances for success will increase.
Christa Sprouse and her husband adopted their son just 17 months ago. Sprouse admits that things are not always easy. “I have moments of being stumped and exhausted. But my son is my son. He is mine and I am his mommy.”