|Melanie Gilbert @melanieinboston|
It's National Adoption Month, a time to raise awareness about children and youth awaiting adoption from foster care. I appreciate the above graphic, which highlights the goal of moving children and youth in the U.S. foster care system into permanent families. Every year in the U.S. 25,000 young Americans “age out” of the public foster care system without attaining permanency. That's a problem that absolutely deserves our attention.
But I'd also like to call attention the the fact that, while adoption may be a valid goal for children and youth who are not able to safely remain with or return to their families of origin, adoption does not guarantee the end of struggles for former foster children. Such children and youth typically come into their new families with serious trauma histories. Often, the greater part of the healing journey occurs after adoption finalization.
Are adoptive parents being adequately prepared to walk beside their foster-adoptive children on the long and at times bumpy road to healing?
In the worst situations, adopted children not only leave all they have known, but all they have known was abuse, neglect and/or deprivation. This is why the core issues of adoption are grief and trauma and why finding a permanent family is a start, but not by itself a solution. Cultural differences, attachment and bonding challenges, and special needs add to the complexity of new families forming in the wake of that grief and trauma. With this in mind, it’s not hard to understand why families need support to ensure that adopted children can focus on healing and never again experience the loss of family....
Pre-adoption preparation and post-adoption supports such as respite care, counseling, therapy, support groups and parent education and training help parents meet the specific needs of their adopted children and can be the key to preserving adoptive families. Trauma-informed, attachment-focused, and adoption-competent services should be readily available for all adoptive families.