Adoption brings unique sets of challenges for adoptive parents, adopted people, and parents who have placed children for adoption. These challenges change and shift throughout the life cycle.
But adoption is always about loss. Adopted people have lost a genetic tie that the rest of the world takes for granted, and that very deep loss can impact self-image and relationships throughout the life cycle. The loss for adoptees is complicated by the fact that it is so often not seen as a loss but as a gain (“you’re so lucky to have been adopted! You should be grateful!”)
Parents (particularly mothers) who place children for adoption often grieve the loss of these children for the rest of their lives. Their loss is complicated by invisibility – they often have never met another person in the same situation, and no one else can really understand what they’ve gone through. (For women in this situation I cannot say enough about the On Your Feet Foundation. It is dedicated to providing resources to women who have placed children for adoption, and perhaps the most valuable resource they provide is contact with other women in the same situation.)
Adoptive parents must grieve their own infertility and the dream of a biological child. Then they must parent a child whose grief may show up in unexpected ways, and process the depth of that grief in order to parent. They also may have to learn to cope with the aftermath of trauma from a child’s experiences prior to placement.
My work with adoption stems from a deep respect for all members of the adoption triad, a familiarity with both quantitative research on adoptees and adoptive families and memoirs and clinical work, and an activist perspective that insists that adoptive families have unique challenges and strengths that must not be ignored.