November is Adoption Awareness month and the perfect time for us to look at the unique needs that families may have if adoption or permanency is part of their journey.
Adoption is a way for families to form and provide a permanent reality for children whose birth parents were not able to parent them. This experience means that a family is formed from a place of loss and this loss has the potential to inform the child and families experience through all the developmental stages. Children who are adopted have often experienced trauma either through the loss of their birth parent, experiencing abuse or neglect and other experiences in their early life. These experiences can have an impact on how they see themselves and the people in their lives.
Children who are adopted have all the same developmental stages and needs as other children and they can also have additional needs during those developmental stages based on their permanency story.
An adoption competent therapist can help the child and the family understand these needs and resolve them in a way that provides a solid base for the child and family to continue to grow with each other.
Adoption provides a unique experience to children and families and the therapist needs to be aware of the impact of these unique needs so that the therapeutic experience can honour the permanency journey and not complicate it.
Parenting children who have an adoption story can be a wonderful, beautiful experience and can also be an experience that brings with it worry and confusion—about what is happening with the child, what the child is trying to communicate with their behaviour, what the impact of their adoption story can be having on their current experience. Support for parents (through support groups, counselling or education sessions) can be beneficial in helping parents decode their child’s behavior and get support from someone who understands their experience.
An adoption competent therapist can also support a family in their journey of openness with the birth family. Openness can happen in many different ways (from letters or pictures being sent to birth family to ongoing face-to-face contact). In whatever form it happens, sometimes these relationships can bring up issues for any member of the family and support can be offered to build on the success and the importance of this contact.
Many activities and events are happening during Adoption Awareness month and provide a great opportunity for families to connect and learn about the services that are available to them in their parenting journey, including the adoption competent services that we offer at the Kanata Psychology and Counselling Centre.
-Written by Karen Moore MA, RSW Registered Social Worker