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Sunday, 14 September 2008

Adoption Issues: Ages & Stages

For two days last week, all the staff from my team attended a workshop on attachment. The education was geared toward our work with adolescents, but it was also pertinent for me given our adoption plans. The facilitator happens to be focusing her private practice mainly on adopted children at the moment, so she referred to adoption quite a bit. It was interesting hearing comments and questions from some of my team members, based on their perspectives on adoption. I do wonder, in my field, if there is more concern about adopting, partly because we tend to see and work with adopted people and their families when things are not going well. Not that my colleagues are necessarily unsupportive of adoption, but there seem to be lots of folks who express some respect for people who adopt while saying they would never do it themselves, or who really feel that it is much wiser to adopt only young infants. Certainly from an attachment standpoint, it is much better for children to be adopted as young infants, and I do believe this should always be the goal when the need for adoption is identified early enough. But I still believe firmly in adoption whenever it is necessary, knowing that the alternative for children is to grow up in group living environments. The research seems pretty clear that a nuclear family life yields better results than group living environments, even when children are adopted past infancy. Of course, loving group living environments are necessary as well, when there are more children than available adoptive families, and I strongly support any efforts to promote nurturing group living environments that provide the best possible experience for children. For parents adopting past early infancy, I feel it is essential to be well-educated and prepared to work actively at building healthy attachments with their children, and to recognize issues should they arise (not saying that ALL adoptive parents shouldn't be attuned to attachment needs, but that the issue becomes perhaps more important when adopting at older ages). Adoptive parents do need to realize the layers of complexity present in building parent-child relationships with their children, and helping their children develop the security and relational capacity to have healthy relationships with others throughout their lives. Parenting, including adoptive parenting, should never be entered naively...While I do hope that our family life reflects strong attachments, I also know it may not always be easy. But that's ok, because we are choosing this path, and are convinced of its "rightness" for us.

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