February 8, 2008

Attachment disorder and other scary things about adoption

attachmentdisorderTwo days ago I blogged about A4everFamily.org, a website put together by adoptive families to provide information about bonding and attachment in adoption. The post elicited this comment:

after reading A4everFamily.org site I am scared. we are looking forward to adopting from an orphanage in Uganda (hopefully being able to pick up our child by early summer). what I’ve read here tonight is sobering.

In my experience, this is most people's reaction to reading about difficulties faced by adoptive families, and it's not a bad reaction - as a starting point.

To continue the discussion, Dorothy Bode wrote a wonderful reflection on the struggles and joys that she has experienced as an adoptive mother. (Dorothy's post is accompanied by an adorable photo of one of her daughters: you shouldn't miss it.)

I want to add a few more thoughts on preparing for adoption, specifically, on educating yourself about the risks and potential difficulties. First, it's okay to be scared about adopting. I think most parents are frightened before giving birth to their first biological child (and sometimes the second and third!). Adding another person to your family will always come with risks, whether you're adopting or giving birth: health risks, bonding risks -- if you can think of a problem, it's probably possible, because when we deal with other people, we can't stay in complete control. (If you have to stay in complete control all the time, please don't adopt.)

Second, the more you know ahead of time, the less you'll be destabilized by the problems you eventually face. No one faces all the problems that are possible, and most people face very few of them. But probably everyone faces some, and the best way to be prepared is to be reasonably well educated about the possibilities and go in "with your eyes wide open" (this is the name of a very good course on inter-country adoption at adoptionlearningpartners.org). If you're aware of the kinds of struggles faced by adoptive families (and non-adoptive families for that matter), you can discuss them now as a couple -- and with any children old enough to understand. Thinking ahead won't solve the problems in advance -- but your footing will be a little stronger as you confront the situations that eventually arise.

Third, the folks who run "frightening" websites like A4everFamily.org are mostly adoptive parents themselves. Notice that these families don't have any regrets about adopting, even when their families have had severe trials. What they wish is that they'd been better prepared ahead of time. Read some of Dorothy's posts on this blog and you'll hear a voice that rings with joy, even when she talks about heart-wrenching difficulties.

Finally, be willing to take risks for the Kingdom of God. It is sinful negligence not to count the cost (see Luke 14:25-33, which provides an interesting counterpoint -- though not a contradiction -- to my comments here). But it's a terrible loss if, out of fear, you refuse the joy set before you.

0 comments on “Attachment disorder and other scary things about adoption”

  1. Speaking as an adoptee... it should and must be said that not only should one read what other adoptive parents have said and are writing... one should read what adoptees have said and are writing about their adoptions.

    Identity, history... how their relinquishments came about... was it peaceful? Was my mother coerced? How did her family feel about my being given over to some one they didn't know? What were they like? What was their society like and how did it feel about sending me and the other children like me into another country?

    The child always (god willing) grows up! And that child, now adult, will hold their parents, their society accountable for their histories and the choices that were made in their interests.

    It is more than joy that is set before every adopting parent.. it is responsibility... and an entrance into the mysteries of this existence and the depths of human life and suffering... into maturity...

    this in a way different than the path for a parent who gives birth... who also has to walk towards maturity. Adoption parenting must be more intentional and with greater preparation. There are resources available.

    1. You need to ask the agency how that is heldnad. Even then I wouldn't trust them. I know that pre-birth matching gets a lot of bashing here but in that case the baby is typically taken home by the adoptive parents directly from the hospital. It completely avoids any interim foster care by strangers who will not be a permanent face in child's life.This can all be done anonymously if you wish without exchanging names. If the agency or adoptive parents can't go with that then find some who will. If this is what you want then you should demand it. If you truly are committed to placing your baby for adoption then you need to know that you hold ALL of the power up until you actually sign a relinquishment. Don't let anyone, including the agency convince you otherwise. Ask for your own attorney to assist you in getting things done according to your wishes. You have more rights than you probably have been lead to believe.

    2. Are you sure you want a closed adptoion? It is, of course your decision, just be certain You want it closed. Whether it is open or closed, it doesn't affect How it is handled. Closed adptoion means your information is not available and neither is that if the adoptive family's.If you just don't want access, you can still allow the option of an Open adptoion. My sons birth mother isn't actively involved but I encourage it if she wants. We have an Open adptoion however she chooses not to enforce that option. Her and I do speak often but just doesn't choose visitation.You will get slammed on here for sure. Just stay strong and try to research as much as you can with the facts.I hired the attorney, as all adoptive parents should, for my son's natural parents. I would be happy to pass that info along to you.

  2. I am a mommy to a daughter adopted from China who was diagnosed with a moderate anxious attachment, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. It has been quite a journey into the realm of attachment and parenting the post-institutional child, or the child who began life in a less than optimal environment.

    Being a believer I know God called us to this little girl and I know we were meant to be a family with a child who has special needs, and knowing that has helped on those tougher days. I would not change having my daughter in my life.

    She makes me a better person. She was God's catalyst for more growth in my Christian walk than anything beforehand. Her life story has taught me so much about the love and mercy of the Lord as well as the effects of sin upon people. She is my delight and I am so very thankful He chose me to be her mother.

    However, and this is my note of caution, as you mentioned in your review of this wonderful website. I wish I had been better prepared to help her early on. We spent three frustrating years trying to figure out what was going on with our daughter, as well as how to help her. I regret not knowing the things I know now. But, even our lack of education or understanding has led us to doing God's work for those children now coming home, which says that the Lord will use all things for good.

    Adoption and adopted kids ROCK!

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