The spring season provides new beginnings and opportunities, especially for those on their adoption journey. These new beginnings can be exciting and provide positive intergenerational mental health effects for everyone in the adoption triad as new families are created. However, throughout the lifelong adoption journey, those within the adoption constellation (hopeful parent, adoptee, or expectant parent) likely experience overwhelming battles with their mental health.
Ahead of National Mental Health Awareness Month in May, conversations about adoption cannot be had without addressing mental health. In any journey, each person has their own perspective and can experience adoption differently; however, some key trends associated with adoption and mental health are worth mentioning.
Adoption experts Roszia and Maxon (2019) identified the commonly known and accepted Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency as loss, rejection, shame/guilt, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery/control. As such, the adoption process starts with loss and moves to the other issues in different ways, dependent upon each individual and their role in the adoption constellation.
While the decision to place a child for adoption is made with the child’s best interest in mind, it is important to recognize when mental health concerns are present and seek help from a professional. For expectant parents (specifically birth mothers), the adoption journey could start with not only the loss of her child, but also the loss of her self-esteem, trust and idea of her own motherhood.
From the time of relinquishments, an adoptee experiences their traumatic “Primal Wound” (Verrier, 1993) after being separated from their birth mother. While every adoptee will process this experience differently, this subconscious memory and primal experience may affect the child emotionally throughout life. Adoptees may experience difficulty trusting others, a loss in their genetic, medical, and cultural history, and difficulty establishing an identity and knowing where they came from.
Even adoptive parents often suffer due to the lack of control over their family-building efforts, dealing with health issues like infertility and the loss of a child or perceived child. Not having a complete medical history for their child and/or marital concerns can be affected as a result of infertility.
While everyone in the adoption triad has a unique experience, those affected move through these identified Core Issues and are hopefully able to process their grief healthily and attain mastery over their lives.
With the help of professionals, those affected by adoption can work toward mastery and control. This will involve self-awareness, gaining knowledge, practice, and then mastery (Roszia and Maxon, 2019).
At the beginning of the adoption process, agencies like Loving Hearts Adoption Services emphasize mental health awareness and can provide hopeful and expectant families, as well as adoptees, the support and resources they need to navigate the lifelong journey of adoption.
Further information about the lifelong adoption journey is available by calling 702.385.3351 or visiting lovingheartsadoption.org.
Alexandra Hoops is Director of Adoptions at Loving Hearts Adoption Services, a child-placing agency in the state of Nevada.
By Alexandra Hoops, Director of Adoptions, Loving Hearts Adoption Services