Loss is a very important aspect of adoption
Loss and its implications both for the child and the prospective adoptive parents is a very important aspect and is explored on various levels.
Adopted children have, by nature, suffered loss. They are no longer with their parents, they may have moved home several times, had numerous carers, they may have been abused or neglected. All these experiences will have long terms affects on them. You, as a prospective adoptive parent, not only need to be aware of this, you also need to be aware that some of your history may have an affect on your potential parenting.
The adoption agency will look into the dimensions of your family history and functioning, which they consider carrying the greatest weight in your assessment. The areas of loss are areas that will be especially explored.
All families will experience some difficulties from time to time, for a whole variety of reasons. These reasons could be a death of a loved one, illness in the family, breakdown of a significant relationship, sudden loss of employment etc. Some adults are not fully prepared for the complexities and upheavals of life and bringing up a child will add a daily stress which some will find too much.
Support from family, friends and services goes a long way for families to cope with difficult circumstances. Strong networks have been referred to as a ‘buffered system’ where members are unlikely to seek or require additional services. In some cases this ‘buffer’ may not exist or insufficient to ensure the wellbeing of the child and in this case the family will seek additional support be it day care centres or health, education and social services.
Children who have suffered loss, as our adopted children have, will require consistent emotional warmth from their prospective parents. If they have attachment issues it may take months and even years for them to reciprocate with love and care – obviously each child is individual and their circumstances are individual. But you need to be aware and have an understanding of the possible emotional needs of your adopted child, as well as understanding your capacity to provide for the child’s needs.
Time, care, patience, constructive parenting, and understanding go a long way to building trust with traumatised and maltreated children. If you have had a difficult childhood and have some unresolved issues, these may be thrown up when dealing with an adopted child.
If you had asked me before I was a parent, if I was an angry person, I would have laughed at you and said, ‘Of course not’. But since I have become a parent to a beautiful but challenging child, I’d have to reply that I am extremely angry and have to continuous look within myself to my reactions. There are obviously issues from the past that I did not realise that I was carrying, and these have a tendency to rise every time I am challenged. I have to regulate myself before I can regulate and calm my son.
These areas will be looked at in your assessment. You need to show that you are resilient, you are able to be reflective, are thoughtful about children’s needs and compassionate. In this way your child will make good progress.
If you are unable to focus on the needs of your child, because of your unhappy past, this may impinge on your potential child’s progress and your suitability to adopt.
The ideal is that potential adoptive parents have resolved states of mind and are thus able to promote good emotional development of the child. If both parents are like this, then there is the possibility of a very good outcome for the child.
In my own experience, I do not think that this is something that can be assessed before hand. One does not know the extent of the issues of the adopted child, until they are back home and you are dealing with them on a one to one basis. Also different issues raise different issues so almost impossible to ascertain.
The general consensus is that social workers need to be aware of the significance of your experience of loss and trauma and the degree to which you have resolved your feelings and come to terms with your own experiences and how you have moved on.
This is very important and it is important that before you begin, or at least during, the Homestudy, you look into ongoing issues in your life as they may have an impact on your adoption process.
John B had ongoing money issues with his ex wife of 16 years. They were both standing on ‘matters of principle’ and neither would give in. At this stage it had become a running joke and was a gag that everyone knew about and laughed about. It was to John B completely insignificant. But the social worker did not see it that way. They saw it as someone who is unable to resolve issues, who was not resilient and did not have a healthy mental attitude. He and his wife were refused permission to adopt.