People that adopt tend to show children lots of attention and read to them more. The biggest reason that people want to adopt children is infertility and data shows that most adopted children show positive behaviors and are in good health.
How does adoption affect a child?
Adopted children feel lost and will grieve that loss of their birth families, their culture, and their connections with their community. Feelings of grief can be especially intense when they are held inside and the child can not talk openly about their experiences. Teenage years can be even worse for adoptees still learning to manage their grief.
Adopted children feel abandoned. Telling them that their family did not want them or even that their family was “not good enough” is harmful to adoptees. How would anyone feel if they were told that they are not good enough? or that they are not wanted? How would anyone feel about being told that their own flesh and blood family is not good enough? It is devastating to say the least.
Doctors’ appointments can be very unsettling for adopted people. Adopted children most often cannot access their personal and medical history, Most states even keep the adoption records sealed from them so that they can never find out who they are or what their history is.
Children that are adopted by biological family members are showing the best outcomes probably because their lives are more stable and less disrupted.
Classrooms can create anxiety and dread for adopted children. Sometimes adoptees feel hurt about things that happen in school during class and also in conversations outside of the classroom. Teachers can help by being sensitive to the feelings and needs of adoptees.
Adopted children probably do not have access to their family tree to do a family tree assignment or know anyone that “looks like them” in their adoptive family. Biology assignments connected to family traits may be especially difficult for adoptees and so are other assignments in other classes.
Adopted children struggle with self-esteem and identity development issues. Adoptees will at times think about their biological family. They will wonder if they have brothers and sisters and what their “other family” is like.
Adoptees can also be victims of teasing and bullying at school where other children intentionally attempt to make the adoptee feel ashamed or inferior.
Some adoptees may not want to know about their birth families at all and just want to move on with their lives. It does not mean that the adoptee does not feel pain though, and it is important to help adopted children work through whatever feelings they have about being adopted.
Adopted children are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other behavioral disorders. About 80% of children in foster care are diagnosed with an emotional or mental disorder and are placed on psychotropic prescription drugs. About 60% of adopted children have some sort of special health need. Some adopted children do very well and excel in reading and math skills.
Worse case scenarios: Adopted Child Syndrome.
Adopted Child Syndrome is believed to be an underlying dissociative disorder whereas adoptees react to the traumatic effects of adoption with identified anti-social behaviors. Some facts that back up the theory include:
The FBI estimates that of the 500 serial killers in the United States that most are American-born and adopted. Some psychiatrists find this alarming because only 2% to 3 % of the population are adopted people.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, psychiatric institutions, juvenile criminal systems, and prison systems are filled with adopted children.
Adopted Child Syndrome can be used as a successful defense in some Death Penalty cases where the accused has been adopted.
Adoptees are more likely to commit parricide.
Adopted children usually have problems bonding and do not easily form attachments with others.
Violence, lying, stealing, and defying authority can become a problem with adoptees. Clinical studies of small groups show that it may be because the children feel confused about their genealogical roots especially when adoptive families keep the adoption a secret and do not openly discuss what the child has or is experiencing.
Oppositional defiant behavior can lead to antisocial behavior especially in adopted children whose adopted families do not talk openly about the adoption and keep it secret from the adopted person.
Runaways, Mental Health, and Homelessness
It is estimated that unaccompanied youth make up 50% of the homeless youth population and they are unsheltered. Many homeless children are runaways from foster and adoptive placements where they felt unhappy or were abused. Running away makes them more vulnerable to traffickers.
Adoptive parents and families that help adopted children work through their feelings and emotions about being adopted create better outcomes and healthier adoptees than do adoptive parents and families who build anger and rage by attempting to dissociate the adoptees from parts of themselves.
Adoptive families may find excerpts from psychology and law to help them better understand what is happening with their adopted children and what they can do to create the best outcomes.
“Adoption & Murder” (from Psychology and Law” p.274-280, 1997, Santiago Redondo and Vicente Garrido et al, NCJS 176632) addresses the failure of legal systems to help adopted children. “From a legal posture, an adopted child is simply the child of his adoptive parents. …the psychodynamics of adoption are easily overlooked in forensic mental health evaluations”.
“Adoption Forensics: The Connection Between Adoption and Murder”, (David Kirschner, PhD), “Of the 500 estimated serial killers in U.S. history, 16 percent were adopted as children. Adoptees, he found, were 15 times more likely to kill one or both of their adoptive parents than biological children.”
Biological family members are obviously devastated by adoption. Parents lives often spiral into further despair than they were when they lost a child or children through adoption. Removal is never easy for the children or the biological family. Services should almost always be offered to keep the family intact and make them stronger. Many parents lose their children due to substance abuse. Some recover, but they will always wonder where their children are and how they are doing. Some parents lose their children because of disabilities that make it hard or even impossible for them to care for children on their own. They will also experience tremendous grief from the loss of their children.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all to make adoptions not hurt, but there are some services and support groups that can help. Many addictions counselors advocate for parents and children that become addicted. Peer support groups are popping up across the country where adoptees, parents (both adoptive and biological), grandparents and other family members help by supporting each other in difficult times. There are also some social workers and psychiatrist that understand how adoption affects individuals. There are mental health hotlines open 24/7 where people can call with their concerns.
Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state. The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.