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November 2019Vol. 20, No. 9Seven Major Issues Facing Those Impacted by Adoption

An Adoptalk article explores the complex and intergenerational psychological and emotional issues faced by members of the adoption constellation, which includes adopted persons, birth/first parents, permanent parents, and extended family.

The article also provides an overview of the following seven core issues in adoption and permanency and how they may affect the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of each constellation member throughout their lives:

  • Loss—Feelings of loss are often felt with the loss of a family member; loss of family history, culture, lineage, and vital physical, genetic, mental health, and historical information; and loss of safety, love, and protection of one's birth/first parents.
  • Rejection—Feelings of rejection can cause increased sensitivity to any further rejection; subsequent losses being experienced as rejection; questions such as "Why me?" or "What did I do or not do to deserve this?"; children believing the crisis was their fault; and feeling judged, unwanted, different, less than, or not good enough.
  • Shame and guilt—Shame and guilt are often felt when attachments have been broken; relational trauma, violence, abuse, and neglect occur; stigmatizing words and labels are used; parents withhold important information from the child or youth; people are lied to, manipulated, or coerced; and professionals and systems of care criticize or demean (intentionally or unintentionally).
  • Grief—Grief is often experienced when the original separation occurs; during anniversaries of the loss or crisis; as a result of subsequent losses that require more adaptation; when someone says something that triggers the feelings of loss; when memories surface in connection to the crisis, loss, or person lost; when a child's or teen's understanding of adoption and their story unfolds; and when search and reunion occurs.
  • Identity—Identity issues can occur when youth are forming their identity; children feel insecure or angry and say things like "You're not my real mother/father;" search and reunion occur; personal or intrusive questions are asked; medical issues arise; people ask "Are those your real children?" or "Are those your real parents?"; people ask the birth/first parent "How many children do you have?"; and during birthdays, Mother's Day, and Father's Day.
  • Intimacy—Challenges to intimacy can occur after experiencing relational trauma, multiple moves, attachment disruptions, abuse, violence, and neglect; when an adoptee lacks genetic, ethnic, and racial mirroring; when they lose an intimate connection to a child they were parenting; and when they lose an intimate relationship with a partner and/or family members.
  • Mastery and control—Loss of mastery and control often occur when major life decisions about who will parent the child are made by courts, social workers, and others; parental rights are terminated; a child experiences multiple placements; and when a new birth certificate is issued with the child's new name and birth information.

To read the article, "Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency," visit