Last blog post, I discussed the increased rates of mental health services utilization and contributing factors for that within the adoptive population. This post, we will examine some of the core issues of adoption. The Seven Core Issues Framework provides a a great value for clinicians working with adoptive families and was introduced in 1982 and expanded in 2019 to include foster care, kinship placement and third party reproduction (information taken from C.A.S.E. TAC training, Module Three, Slide Eighteen). The Core Issues of Adoption framework is also valuable to adoptive families as well, as it provides an awareness and insight on how to address complex challenges that will arise. Let’s face it, adoption has impacted everyone’s life and life relationships. The framework of the Core Issues of Adoption allows all members to have a unifying lens in which they can communicate and better understand one another, which will help them to better address challenges and feelings they are experiencing.
The Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency include the following: loss, rejection, guilt and shame, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery/control. Loss is something that is present in all adoptions, and it must be grieved. Multiple members of the adoption experience grief, and in a society where adoption is mostly seen as a positive solution, it is hard and not always accepted to express or process the grief experienced. However, for successful and healthy development, it must be processed, and it will surface again and again at different developmental periods and transitions in various ways. Rejection is a force that multiple members of the adoptive party experiences as well, and many adoptees view their initial placement into the adoptive home as a rejection. Adoptive families and their extended families may anticipate rejection, provoke rejection through projections and displacement, and even defend against possible future rejections. Birth families also experience rejection in a host of different ways, and the social rejection and/or familial rejection that comes with choosing the path of adoption for your birth child can be unbearable for families. Guilt and shame, which many are familiar with as belonging in the psychosocial stages of development, is an issue that many members of the adoptive party can also experience. While guilt can sometimes be an emotion that produces positive change in individuals, in adoption it can often be a long going experience of the self and one’s being. Not only does it impact self-esteem and worth, but it also impacts the way that one is able to connect with others in the present and in the future. Identity is one of the seven core issues that I have seen be so powerful in the adoptive community; which sometimes I have seen this as positive, but mostly negative. We all experience issues with identity, especially as we move through developmental periods, but it is an issue that is complicated further by adoption. Having worked through previously mentioned issues will help with the adoptee’s identity, and sometimes further work needs to happen on a clinical level to address identity issues for those who have experienced being adopted. Intimacy, also another recognized element in the psychosocial stages of development, is an issue that can be further complicated by adoption as well. With a multiple losses, and adoptee can feel rejected and have the perception a fragmented self. An adoptee may learn to protect themselves from future painful losses by not allowing themselves a healthy attachment with others, or they may simply believe they are undeserving of an intimate relationship because of their low self-esteem. If these issues are not addressed, the future can be predicted with difficulty in relationships and when becoming a parent themselves, a pattern of unhealthy attachments to be passed on generationally. Matery/Control is an issue that I hear the most about from working with the adoptive parents, and it is something that they and the adoptive child will struggle with until they realize the enormity and complicated facets that drive the issue. Regardless of the adoption, all members had to give up control in some fashion, and as humans that is something we all try maintain or rebalance. This can set the tone for complications, but with the right opportunities to explore and integrate mastery/control, members of the adoption party can appropriately gain that sense of mastery/control.
If you are experiencing any of these adoption related issues and feel that you or your family would benefit from professional counseling services that are adoption competent, please reach out for more information.