Children who become adopted have usually previously been orphaned or seriously abused prior to the adoption. Often, too, they will have spent time in an institution such as a children’s home. Also, they may have lived for temporary periods with various foster carers.
Because of such histories, most children who are adopted will have been extremely traumatized during their early lives and, therefore, arrive at their new adoptive parents’ home with serious emotional, psychological, and behavioral difficulties.
If, as alluded to above, these children have suffered significant abuse by their parents, they are likely to have developed psychological difficulties. The same is true of children who have become orphaned. But what about the children who have come from care homes or a series of foster parents? I look at how these experiences, too, may have caused them emotional difficulties.
Possible Adverse Effects On The Child Of Living In A Care Home:
These include :
– lack of funds/resources
– effects of staff leaving if a bond has developed between him/her and the child
– effects of friends leaving (eg due to age or moving to another institution)
– being bullied at school for being ‘different
– lack of consistency of care due to staff shift work and the employment of temporary staff from agencies
– inexperienced staff
– failure of staff/management to prevent bullying within the care home
– effects of having to leave the care home to be adopted; this can also be highly distressing if the child has built up strong emotional bonds with care home staff and/or care home child residents
– institutionalization, making it very hard for the child to cope outside of the care home environment
– the child may feel irrational shame
NB These are just examples; the above list is not exhaustive
Possible Adverse Effects Of The Child Having Previously Experienced Foster Care:
If the child comes to the adoptive home having experienced living with foster parents s/he may:
– have felt rejected and unwanted by the foster home/s s/he had lived in
– may have wanted to stay with the foster parents, causing a form of grief when s/he found out she had to leave
– inconsistency of care, if constantly moving from one foster family to another
– related to the above, inconsistency of schooling and friendship groups if moves from one foster home to another involve constantly changing geographical locations
– experiencing bullying at school for being ‘different’
Stress And Conflict:
Because the child who arrives at the homes of the people who intend to adopt him/her may well have been seriously emotionally damaged in ways such as those described above, there is often potential for significant conflict to develop between the intended adoptee and his/her intended adoptive parents. I explain why below:
In the new adoptive home, because of the previous stress the child has been under, perhaps causing damage to such brain areas as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, the child may act out his/her emotional disturbance.
In so doing, s/he may, for example, regress, spend long spells crying, self-harm, behave destructively, be prone to outbursts of extreme rage, withdraw or act violently. And, if the child is not very young, may start drinking, smoking, and taking drugs.
Indeed, if the brain’s development has been disrupted, s/he is likely to be neurologically immature leading to an inability to control his/her emotions or calm down easily when experiencing stress-related anger or anxiety.
Indeed, studies reveal that those who have been adopted have higher than average concentrations of cortisol (a hormone related to stress) in their bloodstreams. This makes such individuals particularly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, uncontrollable emotions, and fear.
The adoptive parents too, perhaps feeling they can’t cope, may also develop stress-related problems. With both the child and the adoptive parents under such stress, this situation can, sadly, lead to very high levels of conflict between the two parties.
It is essential, therefore, that both the adopted child and the adoptive parents have in place the best social/practical/medical/psychological support systems in place as possible. Indeed, the importance of this is difficult to overstate.
NHS RESOURCE :
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).