The Importance of Post Adoption Support and Counseling
This article was originally posted on www.GoodTherapy.org, where I am a topic-expert for foster/adoption issues.
For prospective adoptive parent, the adoption process is a whirlwind of paperwork and social workers. It’s exhausting, physically and mentally. It’s expensive. Adoptive parents fight hard for what so many parents come by so easily: a child. Many adoptive parents I know have spent hours and hours researching adoption. Domestic vs. international vs. foster care. Embryo adoption. Surrogacy. Then it’s on to choosing just the right agency. Parents have to figure out the rules of that agency, and possibly of that country. They have to locate their financial records and birth certificates, then make what seems like a million copies. The next step is to take classes about adoption and parenting. On to preparing for and participating in a home study- where you have to prove to a stranger that you are deserving of parenthood. Don’t forget researching how to write the perfect prospective parent profile and then actually creating that profile. And then it’s wait…wait…wait. The months, sometimes years, between deciding to pursue adoption and actually bringing a child home is stressful and sometimes agonizing. It is absolutely no surprise to me that once the threshold of “parenthood” is crossed, parents close their door social workers, therapists, and case workers.
Unfortunately, bringing that infant or child into your home is EXACTLY when the real support needs to begin. New mommies who give birth have a fairly easy time finding support. Mommy play groups are plentiful, and often times formed from women who met in birthing class (or breastfeeding class or any of those pregnancy classes that adoptive moms miss out on). Post Partum Depression is now easily recognized and no longer shameful or a secret. So where can new adoptive moms and dads turn to for support?
- Your agency or social worker. I know that by the time your baby is born, you and your social workers have become quite close and you are ready to shut out those professionals. Let me encourage you not to let the door slam so hard or fast. Your adoption social worker can sometimes fulfill the role that an OB fulfills to many new mommies- particularly when it comes to answering questions and noticing post-adoption depression.
- Adoption support groups in your area. Spend some time before you become parents scoping out adoptive parent support groups in your area. There are several in the Austin area and I would imagine that most major metropolitan areas have similar resources.
- Internet message boards. Many, many new parents find solace and comfort with other parents across the nation (and world!) who are struggling with and celebrating the EXACT SAME THINGS you are. Adoption.com is just one place to find adoption message boards. There are also many different Yahoo! groups that are focused on adoptive parenting.
- Therapist or counselor who specializes in adoption. Even parents of newborns or young toddlers many benefit from a few sessions with a counselor well versed in adoption. It’s not uncommon for new parents to experience some symptoms of post-adoption depression. Having a good therapist skilled in adoption is even more important if you are parenting an older child with a history of trauma.
- Parent Training. Parenting isn’t always intuitive, especially after you were up five times last night for a bottle or diaper change, or when the newest addition to your family is a gorgeous five-year-old who doesn’t speak your language or look like anyone else in your family. Consider finding a good, attachment-promoting parent coach or educator to help you lay the foundation for a secure attachment with your infant or to figure out how to discipline your eight-year-old who has spent the last five years in foster homes.
2010 was full of headlines that made it clear that post-adoption support is vital if our desired outcome is a happy, successful adoption. Adoptive parenting can be hard. It is unique, challenging, and beautiful in ways that are completely different than parenting biological children. I encourage all the prospective adoptive families I work with to strongly consider lining up post-adoption support long before they bring their child home.
How easy is it to find post-adoption support services in your community?
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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin and Bastrop Texas specializing in adoption and attachment counseling.