An Open Letter to Present and Future Adoptive Parents

As someone who has read a plethora of adoption blogs, books, and magazine articles, and as an older child adoptee, I find it very interesting what adoptive parents write about. Usually they begin by sharing with the reader about their own journey of wanting another child.  Some write about their desire to give a child a new and better life, others talk about their inability to birth a child, so they want to fulfill the need for a child by adopting. Included are phases such as “birthed in my heart” and “forever family.”  Many of these clichés, although meaningful, have been used over and over again by adoption agencies to market their services.

I would like to propose a different conversation related to adoption.  The first and foremost thought should be about the child.  I am not advocating child-centered parenting, but child focused empathy.  In the case of infant adoption ask yourself, “What does it feel like to listen to a mother’s voice for nine months, as a being is growing and developing,  and then the mother’s voice is silenced?”   Regardless of what you have been told, there is no such thing as a “blank slate.”  This is apparent when a child  has experienced alcohol or drug abuse by the mother.  This may impact the child for the rest of their life!   If you are adopting an older child, realize that they  have experienced and have definite memories of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. ( For more information on the effects of a child being abandoned by their birth mother, read “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier.   An excellent resource for more information on an intervention for these children,  explore Trust Based Relational Intervention at http://www.child.tcu.edu.)

For most children and families, adoption is a wonderful experience,  but remember that it is Plan B.  Going into the adoption process with this in mind will help the adoptive parent to have more compassion for their child. Compassion for the child is the place to begin when it comes to “the adoption effect” (see The Adoption Effect by Barbara Blomquist),  so narccisists need not apply.  There are already enough messed up children in this world.

OPEN

“Your mind is like a parachute; it only works when it is open.”
Anthony J. D’Angelo

The second letter of the acronym CORE is –  open.  Open refers to being open-mind about new information or possibly old information that you have dismissed.  The term also implies being “open” to possibilities.  In the context of CORE Family Resources, it is all about being open to the process of connecting, being open, relational, and as a result to be empowered and to empower others. 

Being open is what it takes for someone to acknowledge that they may not have all the answers when it comes to parenting, especially parenting foster/adopt children.  Parenting “children from hard places” requires a person to be compassionate, empathetic,  and love unconditionally.  Of course this should be the modus operandi for all parents!

The Contrasting World of Adoption and the need for Trust Based Relational Intervention

Adoption can be one of the most beautiful acts of kindness one human being can do for another. The adoptive parent / child relationship can become seamless.  However, it can also be a tragedy.  For an adoptive parent who is not prepared, it can be a nightmare, and even more tragic for the child.  It is astonishing how many adoptive parents really believe that love is all it takes, and will even vocalize this to others.  It takes more than love with a biological child, so why would it be any different for an adopted child?

There are so many variables for creating a connected family.  Adoption professionals do home studies including interviews, evaluate the parents, evaluate the biological children, conduct parent training,  yet parents and children still struggle to connect.  Factors like prenatal care, genetics, childhood trauma, loss and resiliency affect the child.  For adoptive parents it may be loss, their own childhood experience, and the lack of being open to the special needs of a child.  As biological children are different, adopted children are just as different.  To one adoptee, adoption is another day in the park, for others it is a constant reminder of the loss of their biological family.

The key to being prepared is to have the best resources available.  In my opinion, the most effective program that has been created is Trust Based Relational Intervention.  When I began researching this program, one important factor was immediately obvious.  TBRI is child centered.  Understanding, accepting, and meeting the needs of the child are tantamount to creating a healthy family.  The need to become a parent, or to bless the life of an orphan is important, however the priority should be to meet the needs of the child first.

TBRI was created by Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross from Texas Christian University.  It is researched based, compassionate, and empowering.  As an older child adoptee (one year or older at the time of adoption), if my parents used the philosophies and strategies of TBRI, it would have changed my life!  They did the best they could with the information (or lack of information) they had, but that is why I am such an advocate for TBRI.  There would not be so many angry adoptees (yes, there are thousands)  if TBRI had been available earlier.  However, that is why I am a champion for it today!