Adoption Counseling & Therapy

Brittany Stilwell

LPC-Intern

Brittany grew up restless in a small town in East Texas. Never a country girl, she thrived on weekend trips to the city and exciting ventures to new places. If you asked her at three-years-old what she wanted to be when she grew up, she’d tell you “supoman” (That’s “Superman” for those of you who don’t speak babytalk). While flying... Read More

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Is Adoption Or Foster Care Counseling Right For Us?

Adoption is a process of growth for many families; but also, a time for grieving.

For many adoptive parents, the decision to adopt follows a lengthy and emotionally devastating battle with infertility. For birthmothers, the grieving process is a lifelong battle of letting go. And for adoptees, the perceived abandonment of being “given up” for adoption can sting well into adulthood—despite the depth of genuine affection that adoptees feel for their adoptive parents.

However, while the adoption process is tinged with grief, the sense of loss shouldn’t overshadow the hope that adoption brings to many families: Approximately 130,000 children are adopted in the United States each year, delivering unconditional love to many children who previously resided in unstable home environments, the foster care system, or foreign nations.

Unfortunately, conquering the “red tape” of the adoption paperwork is merely one of many preliminary challenges that adoptive parents and their adoptees will face. From tackling problematic behaviors at home or school, to instilling a lifelong sense of belonging in your child, our Lifeologie team understands that family connectedness isn’t an automatic—but rather—a gradual journey, which your family embarks upon the moment that you say “I do” to the adoption process.

Detailed below are 7 relevant counseling issues that are commonly explored by adoptive parents, adopted children, and their birthmothers during the pre- and post- adoption process:

7 Important Therapy Topics Relevant to Adoption & Foster Care

Preparing for Adoption: Discussing the possibility of adoption with your partner, or exploring the legal parameters of a single parent adoption; Selecting an adoption agency (whether public, private, domestic, or international) or an adoption attorney; Prepping for home studies and acing the high-pressure paperwork; Picking out your little (or not so little) squirt; Bracing yourself to become a first-time parent (!!!) or preparing your biological children for a new brother or sister

Birthmother Grief: Making the decision to place your biological child for adoption; Having your child removed from your custody by Child Protective Services; Confronting grief or regret; Deciding the degree of “openness” for your child’s adoption; Meeting with your biological child for the first time and forging a healthy, on-going relationship
Issues for Special Adoptive/Adoptee Populations

  • Transracial, or Transcultural Adoption: Supporting your child to develop positive perceptions of his/her racial and cultural identity; Nurturing acceptance despite your visible parent-child-sibling racial differences; Constructively confronting prejudice, racial discrimination, the barrage of awkward questions, and unabashed public-staring that come along with the territory of being a transracial family
  • International Adoption: Instructing your child about their cultural or racial background; Assisting your child to master a second, non-native language; Encountering medical or developmental complications as a result of disparities in international prenatal or postnatal care
  • Intellectually/Developmentally Disabled (IDD) Adoptees: Adopting a child with IDD (e.g. Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or more+) and ensuring the best developmental outcomes for your child; Assisting your child to overcome behavioral, academic, or socialization hurdles; Balancing fulfilling your child’s needs… with your essential need for self-care
  • LGBTQ+ Parents: Contending with discrimination or legal barriers during the adoption process; Facing the disapproval of family members or strangers who disagree with LGBTQ+ adoption; Fortifying your child against bullying and harassment at school for having same-sex parents
  • Kinship Adoptions: Choosing to adopt a relative’s child; Supporting your newly adopted child through the grieving process (if recently orphaned) or through abuse and neglect recovery (where applicable); Navigating unpleasant encounters with your child’s birthmother or resentful family members; Protecting your child from interactions with an abusive birthparent

 

Abuse Issues: Many adopted children experience physical/sexual/emotional abuse or neglect prior to their adoption, either by birthparents or through inappropriate foster home placements. Counseling services for abuse recovery can encourage your child to initiate the healing process from abuse/neglect; repair damaged trust in adult or authority figures; and conquer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (distressing symptoms of agitation, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and aggression that sometimes accompany abuse)

Behavioral Issues: Resulting from increased exposure to abuse/neglect, adopted children also experience elevated incidences of certain behavioral difficulties. Common attachment and behavioral issues addressed in therapy include:

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (infants/young children): Lack of interest or failure to form a healthy attachment to adoptive caretakers; usually results from neglect in early infancy
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (children/adolescents): Age-inappropriate anger, rule-breaking, swearing, or flouting of authority
  • Conduct Disorder (children/adolescents/teens): Juvenile delinquency; Patterns of violent or cruel behavior (e.g. torturing animals, bullying, inciting fights, rape), truancy, substance use, shoplifting, vandalism, running away, etc.

 

Identity & Belonging Issues: Assisting your child to explore his or her biological roots; Ensuring your child that his or her interest in birthparents and birth circumstances isn’t a betrayal of your love; Overcoming related sensations of rejection, abandonment, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem in adoptive children; Enabling your child to succeed socially and bracing your child to confront bullying or uncomfortable questions about being adopted

Aging Out Issues: Children who “age” out of the foster system at 18 are more likely to experience adverse outcomes in adulthood, including incarceration, homelessness, unemployment, substance use, or assault. Similarly, children who linger in the system until adolescence or more likely to encounter unfavorable outcomes than children who are adopted at a younger age. Beat the odds for your child or yourself (for former foster kids older than 18) and cope with the added layer of rejection that comes along with aging out or being an older adoptee.

How Can Counseling & Therapy for Adoption & Foster Care Help Me or My Family?

By now, you’ve probably guessed it: Adoption is one of the most complex therapy topics that any family or individual can tackle. Luckily, you don’t have to solve all of the intricate problems that birthmothers, adoptive parents, or adoptees encounter on your own. Our counselors are here to smooth out your journey. Your therapist may recommend:

  • Play Therapy (adoptees ages 3-10): Using structured playtime to encourage your child to discuss difficult issues (including adoption adjustment, identity and belonging, racial and cultural identity development, abuse and neglect, or behavioral challenges)
  • Filial Therapy (adoptive parents of adoptees ages 3-10): Teaches parents the principles of play therapy to enact at home with children, facilitating the development of healthy parent-child attachments
  • Talk/Activity Therapy (adoptees ages 11-18): Age-appropriate discussion and use of activities (for example, expressive arts as therapy) to address the same issues targeted in play therapy
  • Talk/Group Therapy (adoptees ages 18+): …because your lifelong journey of conquering a history of abuse/neglect, finding your sense of belonging in the world, and connecting with your racial/cultural identity doesn’t end at 18
  • Grief & Loss Counseling: For birthmothers who place their children for adoption; for adoptive parents who struggle with disappointment about infertility; for children or older adoptees who mourn the loss of connection with their biological parents or who age out of the foster care system and mourn the loss of never finding a family
  • Alternative Therapies (for all): Equine therapy, psychotherapeutic yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and art therapy as a form of self-soothing, stress management, or family bonding

The Lifeologie Difference

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