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Most adopted children thrive, but children adopted after the first few months of life have disruptions in parenting that can have long-term effects on their development and well-being, according to the 2011 report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being:
About 2.5 percent of children in the United States are adopted.
21.5 percent of adopted children are of a different race than their adoptive parent. This varies by state, from 8.4 percent in West Virginia to 42.5 percent in Alaska.
29 percent of adopted children have health problems, compared with 12 percent of all children.
The most common health conditions were learning disabilities such as ADHD.
The annual number of adoptions has doubled to 50,000 a year since the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families act, a law providing adoption incentive payments and expanded health coverage.
Pitfalls of Adoption
Kids were made to be in a family. No family is perfect, and I donít think I have ever met a perfect parent, have you? About the time parents near ďperfection,Ē their children are all gone and living on their own. Though adoption is never perfect, I do think that parents who are considering adoption need to be perfectly prepared and informed before they take this big step.
Adoption is riddled with acts of love by all involved. And once understood and fully appreciated by the adopted child (usually in their 20ís), they will understand Godís desire to adopt each of us to be a part of His family. As pure and undefiled as this act is, the act of adoption can still have difficulties and struggles, just as God often experiences struggles and sometimes rejection by His children.
It may seem from my following thoughts and warnings that Iím against adoption, but the opposite is true. In fact, I sit on the board of directors of an international adoption agency and some time ago I regularly worked with adoption agencies as the CEO of the National Association of Christian Child and Family Agencies. But I have to balance my own zeal for adoption with my experience of dealing with hundreds of parents who have contacted me over the years after running into an emotional firestorm when their adopted child reached the teen years.
Most of my experience has to do with the adopted kids who have come to live with us at Heartlight -- kids who were struggling with serious behavioral issues. In fact, about one third of all the teens who have ever come to live with us in our residential counseling program have been adopted. Thatís a pretty high ratio, since we donít target helping adopted children in our program. Iím sure that none of the parents thought that they would have to send their child away one day, nor anticipate that things would go wrong. But things did go wrong Ö to the point that the child could no longer live at home. Thatís big. Itís bigger than just big. I would call it a crisis. It is a situation that no parent would hope for when adopt, but it is something to be prepared for.
I have had parents tell me that they wish someone would have asked them some deeper questions before they made the decision to adopt. And others who say that they wished they would have listened when someone did try to forewarn them about the possible future emotional struggles or mental and behavioral effects of alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy by the childís birth mother. Some have even shared how they wish someone would have stopped their adoption from happening.
So whose fault is it when something does go wrong? The adopted infant who, at the very least, had no say in the adoption? Or the older child when adopted, who out of a longing to have a family agreed to all conditions presented to him or her? Or the parents, who out of the goodness of their heart decided to bring a precious child into their family? Or the adoption agency that feels a call from God to help children and families by bringing them both together to fulfill one of Godís greatest plans? Or God Himself who created a world that has over 50 million orphans in it?
You can figure all you want. But thereís only one thing that you have control over. As a parent, you can check your motives, see if adoption is right for you, and be prepared for everything that lies ahead. All things being equal among teens, the adopted child has more of a proclivity to struggle.
In fact, some adoptions cause quite a bit of pain and grief in the lives of moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and other relatives. But just because thereís conflict, it doesnít mean that the adoption wasnít meant to be. I believe that God uses all things, especially conflict and struggle, to work together for the good and bring about a good end.
Your understanding of Godís faithfulness to you, should you find yourself in the midst of struggles in an adoption, will make all the difference in the world as you begin to understand what is happening around you. This understanding will usually determine how you respond, what you expect, and how you see the bigger picture of adoption in the life of your family, rather than just writing off something that was (and still is) so well intended, as just a mistake.
God has a plan. And if He has a plan for some people to adopt, He might also have a plan for some not to. I have met many people that have adopted. I have met many more that I hope will adopt. And I have met people who perhaps should not have adopted. Granted, itís not my call. But it is my observation that some people have been motivated by wrong things, moved by emotion or a missionary purpose rather than logic and reason, and have made decisions about adoption that were not good choices for them.
How do I know? Theyíve told me, and these are the comments that I have heard:
Why didnít someone question what we were doing?
I think we got caught up in the excitement about adoption and really didnít think about all the implications.
I never wanted this child, I was just being supportive of my wifeís idea.
This really isnít what we thought it was going to be.
This child is destroying our marriage and ruining our familyÖwhat a mistake.
How could something that at one time felt so rightÖnow feel so wrong?
And because I hear kids who have been adopted say this:
I always thought the biggest mistake was me being bornÖ.but I now think it was that someone allowed my parents to adopt me.
Itís almost as if I went from one bad situation to another bad situation, except people expect me to be thankful.
Iíd rather go back to [country].
I donít think my parents were supposed to have kids
Every one said that this was going to be so goodÖwhat happened?
Somethingís missing, and I donít know what it is.
A little chilling isnít it? Iím sure that the parents who adopted never thought they would hear those words come out of their mouths. And Iím sure that those who were adopted (whether they were older or younger) would ever think that they would want a different situation or family. But in my experience, for the most part, even the worst adoptions tend to resolve themselves when the child turns a bit older; when their brain is fully wired. The transitional adolescent years are when most kids rebel (if they are going to rebel at all), and adopted kids often have physical or emotional scars that can make this time of confusion many times worse.
When rebellion comes to the surface, seemingly overnight, parents canít help but have an ďI deserve better than thisĒ attitude. After all, theyíve saved the child from a less privileged life. Theyíve given the child their love, their home, and so much more. Now the child slaps them in the face? That hurts! So, it can be a time when emotions run high. Thatís why it is so imperative for adoptive parents to know how to act and what to expect, and to most of all not take it personally. Itís not about you, itís about the teenís confusion and struggles. It requires a willingness to hang in there, even in the face of hatred and rejection. How severe or long that period is depends on the teen, but also somewhat how the parents respond to it.
Am I attempting to keep you from adopting? By no means. If the child isnít adopted, they may live their lives without the presence and structure of the family to give them guidance, wisdom, love, hugs, birthday celebrations, and everything else a family offers. But be prepared for what lies before you, and donít resort to thinking the adoption is a failure should the adopted child struggle through some pretty heavy issues in the teen years.
If you are considering adopting, pray about it, seek counsel, ask for honest answers to the difficult questions, and donít get caught up in it as the ďChristian thingĒ to do. By all means, donít rush into it. Talk to people whose adoptions have gone well, and those whose have not gone well. Ask questions. Listen wisely. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us: Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. My point is this. Ask many people about the adoption process that if that is what you are considering.
If adoption is right for you, then pursue it with abandon. But if itís not, donít hesitate to say so, and know that God has another plan for you, for the child, and for your familyís life. Make sure each spouse and any remaining children in the family are fully on board, not just going along with it. Make sure that what youíre doing is the right thing to do Ö. FOR YOU, FOR YOUR FAMILY and FOR YOUR MARRIAGE. Because if itís the wrong thing to do, the child and your family will both pay a great price (and Iím not just talking about money).
If youíve already adopted, embrace that which is before you and know that God has not abandoned you if things arenít working the way you want them to. I guarantee that He is involved. Remember, any issue that does arise, can be worked through, dealt with, and resolved. You can get on the other side, whether that is a change in your childís behavior and issues, your issues that you brought into the adoption, or the way that you view those issues that have landed on your doorstep. Itís merely a new test, a new challenge, and a new opportunity for change, in the lives of all involved. There is hope. There are answers. So, if you are at that point, please donít hesitate to call me. I can help you through these issues.
If you have an adoption story youíd like to share with me and possibly our readers, please email me at email@example.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, national radio host, and the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling opportunity for struggling adolescents, where he lives with 50 high-schoolers. For more information, call 903-668-2173.
Adoption is a good thing,
but itís not for everybody.
If I can get those who wouldnít be good adoptive parents to choose not to adopt, then I have done a good thing by sharing these concerns. If they choose to go ahead and adopt, then I have also done a good thing by making them aware that issues might arise that they should be prepared to handle.
-- Mark Gregston
Adoption Information ~ The purpose of this site is to allow the free exchange of ideas regarding adoption and families.
Adoption Triad Outreach ~ Support and education for those who are seeding information, healing, support, and truth in their adoption experiences.
Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children ~ ATTACh is an international coalition of parents, professionals, and others working to increase awareness about attachment and its critical importance to human development.
Attach-China International ~ Educates parents of internationally adopted children about post-adoption issues, especially those related to Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Comparisons of Adopted and Non-Adopted Adolescents in a Large, Nationally Represented Sample (pdf) ~ Adopted children are overrepresented in psychological therapy and residential treatment programs. This could be because more adopted children have problems, because adoptive parents are more likely to take their adopted children for treatment, or both.
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute ~ Information and research on adoption issues and questions.
In Some Adoptions, Love Doesn't Conquer All ~ Although all children who are adopted will have some degree of attachment problems, most international and domestic adoptions turn out well. This New York Times article focuses on those adoptions that are problematic and the need for both pre-adoption support and post-adoptive services.
Institute for Adoption Information ~ Adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, adoption professionals and others who are united to enhance the understanding of adoption and who advocate for balanced, accurate coverage of adoption in news and entertainment media.
National Foster Care & Adoption Directory ~ Offers adoption and foster care resources by state, including support groups.
North American Council on Adoptable Children ~ Parent support, research, and advocacy in the US and Canada.
Skills for Bonding ~ Making human connections takes a good dose of grace, truth and time. Here are some skills that will start you on the long road to making changes that heal.
by Mark Gregston
by Nancy Verrier
by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz
by Gary Chapman
This book contains very practical guidance on how to express the teen's primary love language, how to teach them appropriate responsibility, and how to properly handle both parental and teen anger. It is a tangible resource for stemming the tide of violence, immorality, and despair engulfing many teens today.
by John Townsend
To help teenagers grow into healthy adults, parents and youth workers need to teach them how to take responsibility for their behavior, their values, and their lives. Dr. Townsend shows parents how to bring control to an out-of-control family life, how to set limits and still be loving parents, how to define legitimate boundaries for the family, how to instill in teens a godly character. He gives important keys for establishing healthy boundaries ó the bedrock of good relationships, maturity, safety, and growth for teens and the adults in their lives. The book offers help in raising your teens to take responsibility for their actions, attitudes, and emotions.
© Focus Adolescent Services