In my previous blog, I shared that adopted children often come to us with a lot of gaps in their stories; however, as I also mentioned, this should not dissuade someone from pursuing adoption. With this in mind, I want to share her what I call the “three T’s” that prospective parents need to be aware of when considering domestic adoption:
TRANSICNCE: It is not uncommon for children to have multiple foster home placements prior to their adoption. (I once knew of a young man who had been in nearly 30 foster homes from the time he was five years old until he was adopted at age 15). Unless you are adopting privately, or doing an open adoption, it is important to understand how constant moving around affects a child. Their “mental suitcase” is always only partially unpacked, with the anticipation of another likely move on the horizon. One this child is in your home—his or her “forever home”—you will need to exercise a lot of patience and grace for that child, especially in the first year. In their book The Connected Child, Dr. Kuryn Purvis and Dr. David Cross talk about the importance of a child arriving at a state of “felt safety.” This is the type of safety that a child feels on a deep emotional level—a type of safety that only comes with time.
TRUST: For a child in the foster system, transience translates into trust issues. You can’t feel safe in trusting a caregiver if you are only with them a few months. Helping your newly adopted child to trust you and his/her surroundings is not necessarily complicated, but neither is it easy. It requires an enormous amount of patience and grace along with loving and firm boundaries and a predictable schedule. It requires a lot of “I love you’s” despite the possibility of that child and displaying defiance and anger. Trust can be built—but we must help our child to grow in trust by the day-in, day-out consistency in our behavior and responses.
TRAUMA: Previous transience and lack of trust are often integral in childhood trauma. Children in the foster care system (from which the majority of children are adopted domestically) have often experienced multiple traumatic losses. One or both of their birth parents may be incarcerated. One or both may have died. One or both may be addicted. Divorce, domestic abuse and poverty are other factors. Prospective adoptive parents should also realize that there may even be some trauma involved in the child coming into their home as their own, for the child leaving behind things familiar to go into yet another uncertain world. Prior to adopting, I encourage parents to thoroughly educate themselves on the effects of trauma on children in the system. Receiving pre-adoptive counseling as well as attending a workshop such as Hope for the Journey are also critically important.
Thanks again for reading, and I welcome your comments and feedback!