Adoption Stress Issues

People tell me that international adoption is easy. I would like to know what Post-Adoption issues should I be aware of that may have an impact on my family?

In my experience, a majority of the cases of international adoption that I follow have a happy ending. But, as with any story, there are cases where international adoption may be more than what the family had bargained for.

My pediatric practice is unique because I see families from all walks of life, but my international adoption panel is a special part of my clinical practice. These families are often well-educated, financially stable, and career motivated people. These families are also older and often times lack the experience of raising a child.

Adoption stress can plague anyone involved in international adoption. The process starts before the adoption process begins and long before the internationally adopted child even arrives into your home. Issues with infertility, parental age, and the desire to have a child are just the beginning stages of adoption stress.
During the adoption process, difficulties encountered can exaggerate the tension felt by parents. The adoption process itself is a drawn out procedure that can take months to years before to complete.

The adoption process is often unpredictable. It can become a long and emotionally draining journey for parents. The financial cost, lifestyle adjustments and the piles of paperwork of adoption only adds to the tension. Unexpected challenges may arise during the process. Adoption referrals may be withdrawn after you attached to the child or the country from which you are adopting may suddenly close. A prime example of severe adoption stress was created for families when Romania closed its doors to International Adoptions. When this occurred, hundreds of families were caught in the pipe, and their children were condemned to living in an institutional care environment despite the fact that there was a loving family somewhere in the world that had already developed a bond with them. Parents have invested a great deal of emotional energy into these children. I know of one particular case of a woman who even to this date visits her child in Romania every six months and cares for her from afar. Like this cases, there are still many families waiting to bring these children into their forever homes.

Another cause for Adoption stress is when a family looses their referral. I have seen cases in which the during the pre-adoption medical records evaluation, the child was assigned as a very low risk for adoption classification. By the time the family contacted their adoption agency in order to accept the referral, the child was placed with another family domestically because the excellent health conditions of the child.
The opposite type of such a referral would be the high risk adoption. This too can create a significant amount of stress. Because of medical uncertainties and the potential that the child may have serious medical problems, families may refuse this type of referral. Families have related to me that the feeling and emotions that they encounter after refusing an adoption referral are one of guilt, confusion and the feelings one may encounter with mourning the loss of a child. In all the above mentioned scenarios, families were forced to deal with a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil, and the child has not even arrived to the United States yet.

The post-adoption period can be the final chapter of the adoption stress story. It has the potential to catapult the stressors experienced in the pre-adoption period spinning out of control, especially if the adoptive child has a serious emotional or medical problem.

Mandatory physician visits, extensive laboratory investigations and sub-specialty referral can transform what is supposed to be a happy time to one of extreme tension. This often happens when the Adoption physician discovers underlying medical conditions that went undiagnosed, especially if the condition is life altering, such as HIV infection. Fortunately many of the diagnosis uncovered in the post adoption period are not as serious as is HIV infection, but even a mild case of Giardia Intestinal infestation can cause undue stress for the adoptive mother and father.

As with the multitude of doctor’s visits, the numerous post placement visits by the social workers can add tension in the family unit. More questions, people looking at your family under a microscope, wondering if you are a good enough parents for this child. Every Adoptive parent must go through all of these necessary steps, and that is when everything works out perfectly. Imagine what happens to these families when things are not ok.
It is at this point when the adoption stress has reached its peak and now it can transform itself into a full blown anxiety or depressive syndrome for the adoptive parent. For some parents, these feeling are difficult to accept because they occur at a time when one is expected to experience joy and happiness and not sadness and despair. After working so hard to achieve the adoption, parents may be reluctant to confess their negative or ambivalent feelings to their spouses especially if the adoption idea was theirs to begin with. Ignoring these feelings and this delicate situation is never a good idea. The problems will not go away; they will progressively worsen over time.
As you can see, Adoption Stress can affect almost anybody involved in International Adoption. It can affect families with problem adoptions as well as near perfect adoptions. In order to prevent dis-accord between the husband, wife, and other members of the family unit, families need to become educated. If one feels that the adoption is not as they planned, or that it is more that they signed up for, seek counseling immediately. All adoptive parents should be prepared to experience some degree of post adoption stress.
I often hear from families make the following statement “I only want to adopt a normal healthy child”. I can understand their wishes, and I know that there is a parent for every type of child. Adoptive families however need to understand that they are not immune from future medical issues. Even in cases of biological children, no one can tell you that the child will be healthy. As a parent, all that you can do is provide support, love and a warm family environment to raise your child. They will grow and develop despite our wishes and or plans. There is no perfect road map to raising children, both biological and adoptive. Medical, social and emotional problems can affect anyone. Parents need to be prepared to recognize problems and seek professional help when needed. This is the job of a parent.

The unique part of being a adoptive parent is that you can sometimes choose not to raise a child that has a serious medical or emotional condition, where as in biological parent this is not an option.

Written by George Rogu M.D. CPE of Adoptiondoctors.com