By Rita Soronen
President and CEO
As we work to raise awareness about adoption from foster care, we frequently share stories of amazing families formed through adoption. We do this to show that families built this way are just as viable as those formed biologically. By showing success, we encourage participation. Others who see a family brought together by foster care adoption may believe, “If they can do it, I can too!”
But we get so caught up in the remarkable stories we hear that we may occasionally overlook the reasons these children came into care, and the impact it has on their lives and the lives of the family members that have joined once an adoption has been finalized. When Nia Vardalos talked about her adoption during her nationwide book tour, adoptive moms made it loud and clear that raising an adopted son or daughter is not all roses and sunshine.
Children who experience or witness violence, face traumatic loss or grief, or live with extreme instability in foster care, also may experience painful mental or physical health effects. In fact, one study of foster care alumni showed that they experienced post-traumatic stress disorder at two times the rate of U.S. war veterans. Understanding the trauma a child has experienced, and the challenges families may encounter post-adoption, can help assure that families formed through the foster care system stay intact and thrive.
After the honeymoon of finalizing an adoption is over, families go through typical family situations – they have conflict, and children will test boundaries. It’s important to be realistic in expectations, and have a strong network of support. There are resources available to help families with transitional issues, post-adoption needs, and the unique challenges that may come with parenting children who have suffered trauma. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about specific concerns you may have.
These four resources can help with post-adoption needs:
- Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope with Trauma – The Foundation worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to produce their publication. Generously supported by Jockey Being Family, “Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope with Trauma” reaches the critically important audiences who provide frontline critical care for our children – pediatricians, mental health professionals and teachers. For more information, contact the American Academy of Pediatrics, and watch for updates on our free adoption resources page.
- Strengthening Your Forever Family: A Step-by-Step Guide to Post Adoption – The Foundation and Jockey Being Family collaborated to produce this step-by-step guide to post adoption that offers support and resources for families formed through adoption.
- Post-Adoption Services Work in Many Ways – The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) has several articles on post adoption on its website that illustrate a variety of model post-adoption services. The articles share ways parents can support and raise their children to happy and healthy adulthoods – from recreational and social activities to organized therapy.
- Finding and Using Post Adoption Services – The Children’s Bureau has developed this factsheet that can help families with a variety of post-adoption issues, and that shows how the needs of adopted children and youth change as they age and develop.
Children in foster care waiting to be adopted need permanency. It is the work of child welfare professionals to better prepare potential parents, and provide support and access to critical services after the adoption has been finalized.