I’ve been meeting with a couple of colleagues who both have adopted children from China. One also has an adopted son from Korea. Both of my colleagues are licensed professional counselors, and one specializes in working with families with adopted children. Their own children are in middle childhood. We’ve been discussing and making plans to develop adoption programming for adoptive parents in our area targeting the Fall for some kind of event. Interestingly, in fiscal year 2012, Arizona had an estimated 105 adoptions from abroad (U.S. Department of State). We’ve also talked about our own individual stories and experiences in adoption, me obviously from an adoptee’s perspective, and my colleagues from the perspective of adoptive parents. We all agree that adoption is a fundamental, life-altering event for all triad members that can lead to both great joy and tremendous pain. I believe that most agencies do a great job of connecting families with children who need a family. However, not many prepare families for the unexpected issues that arise post-adoption—an adopted child not wanting to be touched or showing signs of reactive attachment disorder (RAD), or experiencing sensory issues, and how to cope with such issues.
My colleagues have spoken about the challenges of raising their own adopted children and how the effects of institutionalization and maternal separation have impacted them emotionally, psychologically and physically. Like many other adoptive parents, they feel that there is a lack of meaningful support and post-adoption services following adoption and that risk factors are not always properly understood or disclosed by adoption service providers to adoptive families. One of my colleagues talked of all the pictures of happy smiling adoptable Korean children displayed on the walls of her adoption agency. She felt that this elicited a picture that everything is wonderful and happy in adoption, a somewhat misleading picture. My other colleague felt that her agency did discuss the risk factors of international adoption, however, very often adoptive parents are so excited about adopting that they tune these issues out only later to discover the very complex nature of raising an internationally adopted child.
After our meeting the other day, my colleagues and I came to an agreement that we all had very different goals for developing adoption programming. We decided that before planning any big event, we should proceed with developing a post-adoption needs survey for adoptive parents to assess what the needs are, something already in the works. What do adoptive parents need? What kinds of services and programming would be most helpful? We also talked about hosting another screening of a film documentary, possibly The Invisible Red Thread, or Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You Mommy) on transracial adoption, an event that would require a little less planning, yet provide a forum for discussion and interaction. The needs surveys would also be available for families to complete. In January, we held a screening for the documentary, Somewhere Between, in Phoenix. Many adoptive families attended, but, unfortunately, some were unable to because the screening sold out. I am cautiously optimistic that another such screening would draw a crowd of adoptees and adoptive families. What I found exciting about our Somewhere Between screening was meeting adoptive families and adoptees in Arizona and building a sense of community.
If you live in Arizona, I would love to hear from you about a forthcoming screening of either The Invisible Red Thread or Wo Ai Ni Mommy (which was aired on PBS in 2010 as part of a documentary series on transracial adoption). Let me know what your thoughts are regarding post-adoption services, support groups, community building or anything else on international adoption. If you aren’t in Arizona, still please feel free to comment. You can comment on this post, or reach me directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.