The Money Grab

 

 

 

As an adoption professional working in private adoption, I am often confronted with what I call “The Money Grab” accusation.  Often, well-meaning people make grand sweeping statements about the cost of adoption, such as:

“If you are a Christian organization, then why don’t you do this for free?”

“Why does private adoption cost so much, when it’s free to adopt from the state?”

“Charging this much money for a child is unethical!”

“It just feels like a money grab to me.”

“What is the agency really doing that costs so much, when people adopt independently, it doesn’t cost them nearly as much?”

It is important to me that people are properly educated on all aspects of adoption, including the cost.  Allow me to respond to a few of these statements above.

For most adoption agencies, the biggest cost is staff salaries.  As a nonprofit, our staff are not paid high salaries, but they must be paid for their work.  There is so much that is done by our staff behind the scenes prior to the birth mother ever matching with a family. Although it is possible to do an independent adoption, in those scenarios, it is the adoptive family communicating with birth mother inquiries, paying for advertising, using their time to visit pregnancy resource centers, and talking to birth mothers that may contact them 24/7 and then screening each one to determine if she is legit or scamming, if she is a good match for their family, what the costs would be to support her during her pregnancy, etc.  I once had a family who was inquiring with us that was doing this very thing.  Just before deciding to apply with us, they had a birth mother contact them.  They put their application on hold while they vetted the situation and called us often for advice.  Ultimately, after flying to meet the birth mother and evaluate the situation, they decided not to move forward with the match.  When they called to finalize their application, he told me how stressful the whole experience was and that he would pay us “any amount of money” to avoid having to do that again.  (Of course, he was being facetious but I think his experience was very common).

Many families with our own agency do their own outreach and connecting with birth mothers, and while we encourage families to put their profiles on social media to gather more coverage, we always ask that the birth mothers contact our pregnancy counselors in order to connect with the adoptive family.  The reason we do this is so that we can cut down on financial and emotional scams that sometimes come along with being in contact with a birth mother for the first time.  It allows us to start the counseling with her immediately, and bring the family in when the time is right.

In addition, adoption from foster care is not free.  This is a myth.  While it may only cost the adoptive family 0 to a few thousand dollars to adopt from foster care, tax payers have already paid for all of the other steps in the process.  Did you know that the average cost to care for a child in state custody is $60,000 per year?  Certainly, foster parents are not receiving that amount of money.  The majority of this cost is to pay state employees.  Even after the child is adopted, the state continues to pay a monthly subsidy for the child. And of course, that money comes from taxpayers. So, the truth is that private adoption is MUCH cheaper but because the money is paid by the adopter rather than tax payers, it is often seen as “unethical”.

Regarding Christians stepping up to address this issue, many have!  There are so many organizations out there now that offer grants, funding, and no interest loans.  Most of these organizations are Christian organizations who recognize that we need to support adoption and adoptive families but not expect that professionals working in the adoption community should be working without pay.  While I’m sure that you have heard people say they can’t afford to adopt, one of the first things we tell people when they come to us is that they can afford to adopt.  We have seen families pay for their entire adoption through grant funding or crowd funding.  The idea that adoption is not affordable for some is simply not true but most people do not know that these options exist.  Our agency even has a person on staff who will meet with families if needed to go over all of these options and help them with their applications for funding.

Of course there are people out there who overcharge and see adoption as a money making business and that is sad.  I typically see this more often in for profit organizations or adoption attorneys, though I want to be clear that not all for profit agencies or attorneys view adoption this way, and I am sure that there are some nonprofit organizations also operating with poor business practices.  For many of these organizations, if the birth mother changes her mind, usually the family loses all of the money they have paid and have to start over.  I agree with you that this should not be the case.  Nightlight handles most birth mother expenses through our agency fees and families do not have to pay all the fees again if a birth mother does not place.  This is our attempt to mitigate cost for adoptive families.

For more information on the costs of adoption and where the money goes, please see these other Nightlight blogs:

https://nightlight.org/2018/08/the-cost-an-analogy-for-adoption-part1/

https://nightlight.org/2018/08/the-cost-an-analogy-for-adoption-part-2/

https://nightlight.org/2019/11/why-isnt-adoption-free/

https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/blog/2018/09/where-does-all-the-money-go

For ideas on funding your adoption, please see the blog and financial resources page linked below:

https://nightlight.org/2018/05/funding-your-adoption-it-is-possible/

https://nightlight.org/page/2/?s=adoption+funding

 

written by Lisa Prather , LMSW | Vice President of Operations

Where does all the money go?

The National Council for Adoption answers this question, in a blog post.

Written by Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D.

I was speaking on a panel about intercountry adoption recently at a conference, and during the Q&A time an adoptive mom in the audience asked, “where does all the money go?”

She was wondering in particular about how much money adoption agencies make, and the compensation of personnel. She had heard that “there’s no money in intercountry adoption” but she was skeptical. Her skepticism is understandable, since, in her words: “I spend forty thousand dollars…where did it all go?”

Click here to read the article

Tackling the Holidays as a Birth Parent

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the holidays can be filled with fun times spent with family and friends, they can also be a very difficult time for birthparents, especially if you placed your child for adoption around the holidays. In these seasons, it can be hard to find healthy ways to cope with those feelings. While everyone’s experience is unique, the following strategies may help if you find yourself feeling down this holiday season.

 

Reach Out to Your Child’s Adoptive Family

For many birthparents, hearing from their child’s adoptive family can bring encouragement and peace in difficult times. Send a card or a holiday gift to your child’s adoptive family. Consider making a gift or sharing some of your family holiday traditions with them. Ask your child’s adoptive family if they could send you a photo of your child around Christmas or share a bit about their holiday plans. If you have a closed adoption, you could write a letter to your child that you can keep in a journal or place under your Christmas tree as a way to honor them.

 

Express Your Feelings with Others Who Support You

Identify family or friends that you can talk to about the difficult feelings that may arise during holiday seasons. Reach out to one of Nightlight’s pregnancy counselors in your state and talk about things with her. Connecting with other birthparents is a great way to process your shared experiences and learn what has helped others cope. If you are a birthmother who placed a child through Nightlight, reach out to your pregnancy counselor about joining our private Facebook group for birthmoms!

 

Find Ways to Honor your Child

Whether you have an open or closed adoption, there are many things you can do to honor your child during the holiday season. Try creating an ornament with a picture of your child or your child’s birthday. You can hang this on the Christmas tree as a remembrance of your child during the holidays. Some birthparents light a candle in honor of their child. Giving back is another way to honor your child and help with sadness during the holidays. Look into different organizations where you might be able to volunteer during the holidays. Volunteering could be even more meaningful if you find an organization that reminds you of your child or serves people that have had similar experiences as you.

 

Take Care of Yourself

Make sure you continue to take care of yourself physically and emotionally even in difficult seasons. Spending time outside and getting physical activity have been shown to benefit mental health. Make sure you get plenty of rest and find things that refresh you. Consider taking a weekend away by yourself or with a friend. Try reading a book, learning a new skill or hobby, or setting goals for the next year.

 

Remember that you are not alone if you are grieving this holiday season. Find healthy ways to express your emotions and talk about them with others. It is our prayer that you would be filled with love and comfort this holiday season.

 

written by Lindsay Belus | Pregnancy Counselor

Adoption Issues: What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?

 

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 as a response to the crisis affecting Native and Alaskan American children who were separated from their families, communities and cultural heritage.  To best understand why this law was necessary, it is important to know the practices leading up to the passage of this federal law.

In United States history, there have been a few specific events that contributed to the destruction of Native American heritage and culture, in addition to the general widespread racism that existed as a whole.

Devastation of Native American Communities

One of the first boarding schools called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School opened in 1879. It served as a model to the nearly 150 such schools which opened in the following decades. These boarding schools were government funded and served as forced assimilation. They forced the children to cut their hair, use Anglo-American names, didn’t allow them to speak their native languages, prohibited them from eating traditional Native American foods, and forced them to dress in Anglo-American clothing. They effectively separated these children from their home, families, community and culture. If the children survived the deplorable conditions at many of the boarding schools, many of them had difficulty returning to their tribes. It devastated Native American communities.

Indian Adoption Project

In the decades after WWII, hundreds of Native American children were removed from their communities and placed with white families through adoption or foster care. The dominate belief was that Native American children were better of being raised by white families.  From 1958-1967, 395 Native American children through a program called the Indian Adoption Project. The goal was to assimilate children into white culture. It aspired to systematically place an entire population of children across lines of culture, nation, and race. Ironically, this was a practice that, at the time, was generally discouraged within the adoption community. During that time, it was standard practice to match adoptees with adoptive parents who shared their race. Transracial and International adoption was uncommon at that time.

Response to Egregious Removal Practices

Leading up to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, research showed that 25-35% of all Native American children were removed from their families and placed into white foster or adoptive homes. Of these children 85% were placed outside of their community even when they had a fit and willing relative available to care for them. This rate is much higher than compared to non-Native American children who were placed in foster and adoptive homes. The passage of this federal law was vitally needed to address the longstanding and egregious removal practices which specifically targeted Native American children. ICWA sets forth federal requirements that apply to state custody and adoption hearings involving a Native American child who is a member or eligible for membership of a federally recognized tribe. Currently, there are 573 Federally recognized tribes in the United States.

 

written by Regina Smith LSCW | Pregnancy Counselor & Home Study Provider

Adoptive Family to Adoption Social Worker: My Story

I grew up in a family where my mom, dad, and stepmom were all social workers. They worked with children and families and it was their job to provide better lives to others. Throughout my entire life, my family had instilled basic values of compassion, empathy, and benevolence. When I was in middle school, my dad and stepmom decided to enroll in a program of fostering to adopt. We took newborn babies into our home and cared for them as our own. Unfortunately, none of those placements ended in a permanent adoption that my parents were hoping for. They knew our family was not complete yet, so they made the joyful decision to adopt internationally from the Philippines

 

I remember being fourteen years old and taking part in the home study process. I answered the social worker’s questions to the best of my ability, and enjoyed talking to her about my family. I remember the social worker inspecting our house, my room, and our yard, all while asking my parents about the adoption process. I remember the deep conversations with my dad and stepmom about getting a new brother or sister and I was ecstatic for our family’s newest addition. Time continued to pass and weeks turned into months as my family anxiously awaited the paperwork to be completed. Sometimes, the wait seemed like it would last forever, and that a placement would never happen. Whenever I felt anxious about it, they encouraged me that the time would come, and that we just had to be patient. Then out of the blue when we were least expecting it, my parents got “the call”. I had a new baby brother! They booked plane tickets to the Philippines that night and left as soon as they could.

 

A couple of weeks later, I met my brother Joshua. He was a year and a half old, and as precious as I could imagine. However, because he grew up in an orphanage overseas, he was not used to the environment and new stimuli in my home of Hawaii. There was a period of adjustment for him as he got used to my family and this new place that he had never been. Joshua had never really been outside before, so he was not used to grass, trees, and nature. He was frightened during bath times since he had only received those on rare occasions. Although there were some challenges to overcome, Joshua loved the attention and love that my parents gave him, and seemed to bond quickly with them. He had never experienced such care and consideration before since he often had to compete with the other children in the orphanage. My family’s consistent love, recognition, and affection helped baby Joshua to thrive, as he grew from shy, uncommunicative, and resistant to boisterous, giggly, and friendly. With the help of a speech therapist, play therapy, and support groups for my parents; my family was able to conquer that hurdle of transition and adjustment to this new life. It wasn’t always easy—that’s for sure, but it was definitely worth it. This process and journey of adoption led me to grow a deep passion for the field. I knew that this was what I wanted to do in my future as well.

 

Fast forward to now, and I am currently getting my Master’s degree in Social Work while interning at Nightlight Christian Adoptions. I am so unbelievably blessed and grateful to be able to learn what adoption looks like on this side of things. Getting to serve birth mothers, adoptive families, and adopted children has been incredible as I get to give back to others. When families may be having a difficult time during the waiting period, I can relate with them and help them process their thoughts and emotions through it all since I have been in their shoes. If a family is having a difficult post-placement period while trying to transition and adjust to their newest addition, I can help walk them through those challenges since I have been there before as well. Sharing the same experience of adopting a child internationally has truly helped me to empathize with my clients better, and be able to see things from multiple perspectives. My family had a wonderful experience and great caseworkers through our adoption journey, and I am honored to have a chance to share the same with Nightlight clients as well.

 

If you are an adoptive family, whether international or domestic, and are in the “waiting period”- don’t hesitate to reach out to your caseworker and utilize your agency for additional support, as this period can be a trying and difficult time for your family.

written by Lindsey Nishimiya

Lindsey was our agency’s MSW intern fall 2018-spring 2019. She graduated with her masters in social work and is now an LMSW working in Waxahachie, Texas as a Child and Family Specialist for Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services

Why Isn’t Adoption Free?

Our staff at Nightlight often are asked, “Why isn’t adoption free? As wonderful as that would be, in order for an agency to process an adoption in such a way that all parties involved are assured ethical treatment, adequate training, and proper legal oversight (not to mention the cost of licensing, liability insurance, international accreditation, and ongoing professional staff training) fees are inevitable.

 

Accreditation Costs: The costs of accreditation have risen every year and many agencies have been forced to close due to the high costs, unfortunately some of those costs are passed on to the families.  Adoptive families are best served by trained and qualified staff who meet state and international requirements in the areas of education and professional licensure.  The services that families receive are getting better and better because of the education the staff is receiving and adoptive parenting training that has been developed.

 

Post Adoption Services: With an adoption agency our services do not necessarily end with an adoption finalization.  Even after the adoption we continue our support for the adoption triad.  It is always a good idea to review the fee schedule of the program that you are interested in and to discuss those fees in detail with your provider.

 

Frequently Asked Questions: A couple more common questions prospective parents have regarding adoption fees would be–

 

“Are adoption fees refundable?” Adoption fees are not typically refundable due to the fact that an agency is working on your behalf through every stage. Agencies do have exceptions for situations where a family has a disruption or a family decides to switch programs. Every agency has different policies regarding these things, so it would be helpful to discuss this questions in detail with the program coordinator.

 

 “How much does an adoption cost?”  That will vary among programs and agencies. International adoption tends to be higher in fees as international travel can be expensive, and each country varies in the required number of trips for an adoption.

 

Reducing Costs: There are some things that families can consider in order to help reduce the cost of their adoption.  Some employers offer adoption benefits; you should check with your HR department.  There are various financial institutions that offer adoption loans.  Families can apply for adoption grants; we have a list of adoption grant providers on our website.  Families can take advantage of the adoption tax credit; you should consult with your tax advisor for further information.  In addition to domestic and international adoption programs families may choose to adopt a waiting child or foster a child, as those options often offer a reduced financial obligation.

 

For more information, you are welcome to schedule a call with our inquiry specialist by calling 502-423- 5780 or by emailing info@nightlight.org. We also have a great webinar that may answer more of these questions!

 

Written by Lara Kelso | MA, PLPC | Domestic Program Manager

What Does A Healthy Open Adoption Look Like?

Open adoption looks different for every family. The relationship between an adoptive family and birth family is a special relationship, in which you are connected by the child. Each adoptive family and birth family is unique and therefore, the relationships are unique. There are a few things that adoptive parents should keep in mind when thinking about what makes a healthy open adoption, regardless of what your particular relationship looks like.

 

  1. Establish Boundaries

It is important to make sure you establish a plan for openness and contact with your child’s birth family early in the relationship. If possible, you should do this before the child is even born. This will help to avoid hurtful situations in the future. You should both feel comfortable with the established plan and you should always keep your word in what you agree to, as long as it is best for the child.

Even with a solid plan, it is essential to remember that children grow up and people change. There are times where contact with birth family may ebb and flow. There may be times that you or the birth parents feel that they need a bit of time to step back from the current level of contact. This should never be viewed as a permanent change in the relationship and it is good to keep the lines of communication open so that the relationship can reopen later in the child’s life. As your child grows, you will need to take their desires into consideration and both parties should continue to respect the child’s wishes.

 

  1. Remember your role as the parent and embrace it

Regardless of what level of openness you have with your child’s birth family, you should always feel confident and comfortable in your role as the child’s parent. You are the person responsible for making decisions for them and ensuring their well-being. Do not let your insecurities get the best of you. This can be damaging to a relationship with your birth family.

 

  1. Don’t create a power struggle

            The dynamics between an adoptive and birth family can seem to create an invisible “power struggle.” Before your child is born, it can often feel like the birth mother holds the power. Once the child is placed, that power tends to shift and the adoptive family holds more of the power. This can be a negative burden placed on the relationship and you should always strive to ensure that no side feels powerless in this. Remember to never hold this power over your child’s birth family and to always keep your relationship respectful.

 

  1. Have acceptance of and grace for individuals different from yourself

Often times an adoptive family is coming from a different background than the birth family in terms of socioeconomic status, race, location, and other factors. Adoptive families should have grace and acceptance for people of different backgrounds than themselves. This is your child’s history and that should be embraced if they are to feel accepted in your home.

This can become especially important if you have adopted a child of a different race or ethnicity than yourself. As an adoptive family, you should be intentional about having individuals in your family’s life that are diverse, whether this be the church you attend, the doctor or dentist your child sees or the friends that are welcomed into your home. This can help your child feel more comfortable in their own skin. Find ways of celebrating the differences you may have with your child and allow them to see that you love their culture and embrace other people who look like them.

 

  1. Love your child’s birth family

Families need to have love and compassion for their child’s birth family. The birth family you have a relationship with will look different for every child. For some families this may only be the birth mother, others may include the birth father, and still others may include the extended family of the child. Whether this includes siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. you should always strive to love your child’s birth family and to nurture that love and connection within your child.

The child’s birth family will become like an extended part of your own family. You may have differences in opinions, but you will always have a special bond because of your child. When differences arise, one way that you can think about this dynamic is the “Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule” (Davenport, 2017). This means that when your child’s birth family does something that you don’t understand or may not agree with, you try to think of them as you would a grandmother that did something you do not like. You may feel frustrated, but it is important to treat them with respect and not say anything that would hurt feelings and damage relationships.

 

These are just a few suggestions for maintaining a healthy open relationship with your child’s birth family. There are many resources that can help you to better understand open adoption. The more you understand this concept, the easier it will be for you to decide what would be most comfortable for you. I recommend reading more about open adoption on our website HERE. I would also recommend reading The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption by Lori Holden.

 

References:

Davenport, D. (2017, September 2). My #1 Secret Tip for a Successful Open Adoption. Retrieved from https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/1-secret-tip-successful-open-adoption/

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Open Adoption. (2019, June 3). Retrieved from https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/top-ten-tips-successful-open-adoption/

Jordan, L. (n.d.). How Do I Establish Healthy Boundaries in My Open Adoption? Retrieved from https://adoption.org/establish-healthy-boundaries-open-adoption

 

written by Rebecca Tolson | | International Program Assistant & Inquiry Specialist

Ways to Teach Your Children Thankfulness

 

Have you wondered how to teach your young children to be grateful when we live in a world where people around us complain or think they deserve certain things? It is a challenge many parents face with a lack of confidence. Research has shown that if adults focus on three to five situations daily, they are thankful for, their mood improves, and over time they are happier overall. Teaching your child at a young age to have gratitude is one of the best gifts toward life-long positive mental health they can receive.

 

Model

Have you seen your child walk around talking nonsensible and holding a phone at an early age? And you laugh, realizing they are mimicking your behavior before they even understand full conversations? It is how modeling works. Children soak up your actions and words at such a fast speed because their brains are learning at a quick rate during their young years. They desire to be like you. One of the best and most important ways to teach thankfulness is to model it on purpose and often by expressing it through words (“I am so grateful I have the opportunity to spend time with you today”). Acts such as smiling, hugging, or being helpful help too!. Say it out loud often to various people and show random acts of kindness.

 Encourage

Create a ritual at the dinner table or bedtime where you say out loud three to five things you’re thankful for, and/or make a gratitude jar and fill it with notes about who or what you appreciate and share them. We live in a culture where we have plenty of material needs, and reminding them of being thankful for a bright moon and stars and enjoying time to play together fosters a consistent grateful attitude.

Reframe

Children need to know that when they face difficulties, they still have it pretty good. The next time they complain, model how to find the silver lining. If you have to wait in line at the grocery store, say, “at least we were able to get everything we needed for the whole week.” It is crucial to not preach this message, but genuinely say it as an example for them to see and learn naturally.  Practice seeing the positives with every setback and help your children find it.

Serve

Create situations that your children can observe and help you serve others who are less fortunate. Help the homeless by dropping off coats, serve at a soup kitchen, create gift boxes for children in other countries, and drop off food and clothes to shelters with other children.

 

written by Lisa Richardson, MSW,LISW-CP/Foster Care Advocate

How Can I Love My Child’s Birth Mother Through Her Grief?

 

“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now.”

“What a hard decision you are making.”

“Thank you for trusting us with your baby.”

“You are so brave.”

“I admire your strength.”

 

These are all statements that one might hear being said to a birth mother in the hospital or at placement. How many of us have stood in that moment and wished we had something better to say than the typical “thank you” or “I can’t imagine”? How many birth mothers have wished there was something that could be said that would make the whole situation hurt just a little bit less? As I have had the opportunity to walk alongside birth mothers throughout their pregnancy and placement experiences, I have learned that you can just never be fully prepared for how differently each and every birth mother will feel during the placement process. Some cry, others rejoice, some are disengaged, and others decide that adoption is no longer the choice they wish to make. No matter what emotions are being shown on the birth mother’s face, there is grief involved. This grief feeling may not hit immediately, but it will.

 

As adoptive families and adoption caseworkers, we have the incredible opportunity to support birth mothers through this grief. While all of the above statements are true and the birth mother is strong, brave, selfless, and worthy of admiration, what are some things we can remember about her and ways we can support her through her grieving? Remember that she just went through the 9-month experience of carrying your baby inside of her body and loved that baby enough to choose life. Remember that she just spent “X” number of hours giving birth to a baby that she is choosing not to bring home with her. Remember that this experience is painful and remember that she is incredible.

 

No one has all of the answers in regard to making the pain of adoption go away. No one can pinpoint exactly how each birth mother and adoptive family will feel and respond to the placement of a child, but here are some pieces of advice I would give to adoptive families during all phases of the adoption process:

 

  • Respect your birth mother’s wishes. She is trusting you to care for her child for the rest of his or her life, and while you have the tremendous joy and responsibility of being the baby’s parents, she will also ALWAYS be his or her parent too. The power of DNA is strong and respecting a birth mother’s tie to her child is necessary for both the child’s growth and the birth mother’s growth. Send the pictures that you promised, post or mail the update that you said you would write, make that visit happen even if it is not the most convenient for your schedule. Your birth mom/birth family is worth it!
  • Encourage her to seek support. If your birth mother has a wonderful support system or if she has no one, encourage her to continue healthily processing her emotions and feelings toward the placement of your baby.
  • Tell her you are thinking of her. Even if you do not have the most open of relationships, she wants to feel special, known and remembered (we all do!) so keep trying. Just because your birth mother is not comfortable with contact or gifts right now, that does not mean the door is closed forever. Send your letters and pictures to the agency for the day that she does decide she is ready to know your family and build a relationship with you and your child.
  • Build a genuine relationship with healthy boundaries. While this is easier said than done, be open and honest with each other about your desires for this relationship and do not promise more than you can provide. Set a schedule for picture updates, texting, visits, etc. This relationship is ongoing, so make a plan with your caseworker and your birth mom regarding how everyone’s voices can be heard and how you can ensure that all involved know what to expect for the days ahead.

 

Enjoy your baby and enjoy building a relationship with their birth mother. You have embarked on one of the sweetest and difficult journeys a family can choose to take, and it will be worth it! It will not always be easy, and you will not always be comfortable, but listen to your birth mother, think about her, respect her, and love her- no matter what! She will grieve and you will grieve for her. Continue to pray for her every day and speak highly of the incredible woman that gave your baby life.

 

written by Phoebe Stanford | MSW intern

Learning the Attachment “Dance”

 

 

Attachment is the secure bond that is created initially between an infant and their caregiver. This attachment process will begin in utero with a child’s birthmother and then be formed again with other caregivers, specifically their adoptive parents. Children have the capacity to form several attachment relationships, the important thing is those are formed with adults who will remain consistently, and lovingly, in the child’s life. Even for children adopted in infancy, there is an element of loss that the child will feel when receiving new caregivers after their birthmother. In order to have healthy, intimate attachments later in life with family, friends, and spouses, an individual has to learn healthy attachment as a child.

 

This article discusses the styles, or ways, an infant attaches to a parent as well as the ways that a parent attaches to their child. Attachment is often called a dance, corresponding movements and counter-movements between both the child and parent. Both have to participate and move in order to make this a real dance. When the child is securely attached and the parent is securely attached, this dance moves as it is supposed to. Often times because of our own difficult childhoods and the experiences your child has had with caregivers in his life, one or both parties may not have the ability to attach in a healthy and secure way. Below is an outline of secure and insecure attachments and how those impact us as adults.

Attachment Styles – Children

There are four identified attachment styles in children that predict the way they attach to their caregiver. In observational experiments in children age 18 months, called The Strange Experiment, these four styles are demonstrated and can be matched with a corresponding attachment style in their caregiver. We will first examine the four styles in children to understand these attachment styles and how that impacts the child as an adult and their attachment style.

Secure

A child who is securely attached has a caregiver that consistently responds to the needs/cries of their child. This child regularly has their physical and emotional needs met and they are confident when they have a need (hungry, upset, tired, diaper change), crying will result in their needs being met.

Anxious – Avoidant

A child with anxious-avoidant attachment has a caregiver who does not respond when the infant is upset. The parent may shush their child to stop crying without meeting their needs (the reason for the crying in the first place). This child learns not to cry to get needs met and that they have to meet their needs themselves.

Anxious-Ambivalent

A child with anxious-ambivalent attachment has a caregiver who inconsistently responds when the infant is upset. This parent sometimes responds to the cries and needs of their child and other times does not. This can be for a variety of reasons, but some may be mental health issues or substance abuse in the parent. When the parent is in a good place, they respond well to their child, but they do not respond well when they are in a bad place. This child cries and is difficult to soothe in an effort to stay in the caregiver’s direct attention.

Disorganized

A child with disorganized attachment has a caregiver who is frightening/traumatic. This typically happens in situations where a child is in an abusive home. The person who is supposed to be their source of comfort when they have a need or are upset is also the person that is hurting them. The child has no clear strategy when upset and you will see very erratic behavior from them when they are upset.

Attachment Styles – Adults

It is important to understand the attachment style that we developed as children because this will directly impact our attachment relationship with our children. The duty to attach is not placed solely on a child’s attachment to you, but it is also your ability to attach to them. In studies done on attachment styles, 81% of the time a mother’s Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) classification (listed below) predicted their classification as children. This shows a direct correlation with your childhood attachment style and your corresponding adult attachment style. When looking back through generations, 75% of the time the mother’s classification predicted their grandmother’s classification. Attachment styles can be passed down from caregiver to child to caregiver to child through a generation. You usually parent your children the way your parents parented you, good or bad. If that generational line of descendants are not securely attached, then they are passing on insecure attachment relationships to their children.

Secure

A secure adult is 1) able to give care, 2) able to receive care, 3) able to negotiate their needs, and 4) able to be autonomous. These skills are developed as infants/children in healthy attachment relationships with our caregivers. For example, if our cries were appropriately attended to, then we learned that when we speak a need, a loved one will meet that need and we can trust them to do so. If we learned that our needs are not met, then as adults we will not voice our needs or trust anyone will meet them if we do.

Avoidant – Dismissing

A dismissive adult is closed off emotionally. They are able to give physical care to a child (feed, clothe, bathe, etc.) but do not connect emotionally. They can be described as not a “huggy, touchy, or feely” person, as physical affection does not come naturally. These adults put energy/interest into objects/things rather than people.

Ambivalent – Entangled

An entangled adult can be described as intrusive with care and in relationships or they get emotionally close to someone very quickly. They do not have good and healthy boundaries in their relationships and can be seen as controlling or overbearing. They may carry anger or resentment toward their own parents that is unresolved as an adult.

Unresolved – Disorganized

A disorganized adult may engage in mental “checking out” behaviors/disassociation. They commonly have behavioral or emotional disorders or another mental health diagnosis. Their personal relationships are chaotic/confusing.

 

In the general population, among adults you will find that 60% are categorized as Secure, 18% Avoidant, 12% Ambivalent, and 10% Unresolved. Interestingly, among the foster/adoptive parent population, you will find that 15% are categorized as Secure, 40% Avoidant, 15% Ambivalent, and 30% Unresolved. There is a much higher percentage of Avoidant and Unresolved adults among foster/adoptive parents. Reasons for this could be that these adults grew up in homes where their parents did not connect/attach with them emotionally (Avoidant attachment style) or were abusive/unstable (Unresolved) and their attachment style corresponds to their parents (remember, 81% have the same attachment style as their parents.) These parents want to provide a different experience for a child that has been orphaned or placed for adoption, so they are drawn to serve and love this population of children. However, without intervention, these adoptive parents will struggle in attaching with their child, especially if their child has their own attachment insecurities, and perpetuate the cycle.

Intervention

Dr. Karyn Purvis says that we cannot take a child to a place of healing if we have not gone there ourselves. Even with children adopted at infancy, impacts of stress, substance use/abuse, or traumatic experiences in utero or during delivery will leave lasting impacts on a child in development and attachment. There are great resources to read and digest in the areas of child and adult attachment and impacts of trauma on the brain to children, especially in adoption. Three authors we highly recommend are:

 

If you would like to have an evaluation done of your adult attachment style, you can get an Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) completed by a trained and licensed counselor or psychologist. One professional we recommend is Jim Harlow (http://www.jimharlowlpc.com/) but there are other counselors around Texas that can complete this evaluation. There are online inventories you can do, but the best results will be received by an in-person interview.

 

We encourage you to seek a path to healing for yourself if you grew up with a difficult childhood or relationship with either of your parents. Any impacts or wounds from your childhood will have lasting results that will be brought up in you as you become a parent. A child knows exactly how to find the right buttons to push in you, especially if your child has any struggles. The best thing you can do for your child is to seek healing for yourself. Our staff are here to support you and your path to healing. Everyone has some negative impacts from their childhood and openly admitting these will not disqualify you from adoption. We know counseling is used by the Lord to make you the best individual, spouse, and parent you can be and we encourage you to seek this as needed while you are adopting.

 

written by Heather McAnear, LBSW | Inquiry Specialist | Post Adoption Connection Center Coordinator