Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pyscholgical Impacts of Adoption

I know that many conversations in the community revolve around attachment but what I am most concerned with is the child's feeling of abandonment. We often think about abandonment from the birth family but when I visited my children in Ethiopia there was something that struck me in way that I had not imagined. The children are living life in an orphanage but every few weeks one or more of their friends leave. When I went to the orphanage there were nine children between 4 - 8 years old. Since December, two have gone to Denmark, two have come home to the states, two more are preparing to go to Canada or Denmark, and another little boy will come here before my two come home. By the time I pick my children up there will only be one little boy left from the original group. This little boy is still there because the woman who was to adopt him changed her mind at the last minute. She changed her mind after he had already been told about her and what his new life would be. I was told that he is constantly asking, "What did I do wrong? Why doesn't my mama want me?" This was in reference to the would-have-been-adoptive mom.

Research has shown, "...when the mother/child entity is split, it causes an acute and lasting trauma in both mother and child. The repercussions are ominous and tenacious. Though they become buried deep inside, the repercussions follow both mother and child throughout the remainder of their lives."

Here is an excerpt from an article on how abandonment might affect our children:

The “chosen” child story also has negative affects on a child for other reasons. The child may feel that she has to be perfect to live up to her “chosen” status. Her role model adoptees include Superman and Jesus. This is a hard image for the average child to live up to. She may either become the compliant “perfect” child or she may act out and misbehave to test the commitment of the adoptive parents. Either way, often times she is not being herself, but rather acting a part. This acting can be very emotionally draining and confusing, and may last until the early adult years and beyond. When the adoptee can not live up to her perfect “chosen” status, it will contribute to the feeling of low self-esteem. This will be further exacerbated if the adoptive parents are not aware of the issue and their actions reinforce the adoptees beliefs, i.e., sending her away for residential treatment or openly wishing her to be more like themselves.

The adoptee is also aware of many ghosts that follow her through life. These ghosts include the person she would have been had she not been adopted, the ghost of the birth mother and birth father, and the ghost of the adoptive family’s child that would have been (Lifton, 1994, chap. 6). She may find herself trying to connect to her ghosts through her actions. Either being her image of her birth family, living her life according to her fantasy birth family, or acting as her vision of the adoptive parent’s natural child.

Read the full article.

Then there is the adoptee's perspective. Here is part of another article that you might want to read:

I am not the happy and grateful adoptee that you want me to be. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy and grateful for almost 45 years – or so I believed. Had you asked me then how I felt about being adopted, you might have heard something like, “Great! I am so grateful to my (adoptive) parents for all they did and, no, I am not interested in finding my ‘real’ family. My adoptive family is my ‘real’ family, thankyouverymuch, and they are a wonderful family. I’ve had a wonderful life. Of course, I am grateful to my natural mother for giving me life. Oh, you’re adopting? How wonderful!”

I enthusiastically expressed that view all those years because I needed to convince myself that my life was normal and right and that I was okay. I did it because everyone else wanted me to feel that way, too. And I thought I would die if I ever looked deeper.

You’ve seen adopted children who seem to be perfectly happy, too. They smile and have fun just like those whose families are intact. They act happy and, occasionally, they are.

Yes, adopted children smile and laugh. Did you stop smiling after you lost a loved one? Didn’t you still laugh when someone said something funny? Weren’t you still capable of having some fun?

Did you ever smile and act happy to hide your grief?

Of course you did. But even when you smiled, those close to you knew it didn’t mean you were happy. Those close to you accepted and expected your pain and sadness. They did not expect you to be happy about your loss. They gave you something most adoptees do not get: acknowledgment of, empathy for, and permission to express your grief.

Read the full article.


kristine said...

I have thought and read about this so much! I think it is the BIGGEST issue our children will face. Not the only issue but the one that will be the center to everything else.

I wish there was a standard that children were not told they had new parents until that was legally true. So much happens between the first referral and the successful court date. I also wish there were no such things as bringing orphans over to the US on little summer excursions hoping the families they stayed with or others that they met would adopt them. Sure it sometimes works out that way. But what happens when the child can no longer hold up the perfect child act at the end of the summer? And what of the children that are not placed? And the very idea that you can 'try on a child' in a sense is repulsive to me.

Parenthood, even biological, is a great mystery. A child needs to be a child unconditionally. They may feel gratitude at some point deep in adulthood for their parents, but that gratitude should come well after first feeling acceptance, comfort, safety, and unconditional love.

We are very lucky to be living in the internet age where so many adult adoptees are writing about their experiences.

Thanks for bringing this up! I believe it will be the area of our parenting that requires more support than anything else.

haze said...

Thanks for the links, Valarie.

Research has shown, "...when the mother/child entity is split, it causes an acute and lasting trauma in both mother and child. The repercussions are ominous and tenacious. Though they become buried deep inside, the repercussions follow both mother and child throughout the remainder of their lives."

There is some great reading on this, often referred to as 'the primal wound.' In fact, I need to revisit some of those articles and books. I can never forget that even an infant is not a 'blank slate' and my child will have permanent scars for the rest of her life that all my best attachment efforts won't be able to repair.

Angela said...

This information is very accurate. Thanks for sharing.

~Emily said...

I cant get that little guy out of my head. It makes my heart sad!

Every day, I reflect on what happens to my sweet girl and what impact it will have on her socially-emotionally. I believe that this is central to children's "being" and that with it everything falls into place.

I will be praying for this sweet child. I just want to hug him!

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]