Adoption has become increasingly popular in the last decade; studies are performed on the psychological effects of adoption on children and their futures in adulthood. Even though it may seem like adoption does nothing to a child except give him or her a chance at a new life, some people may be surprised to hear that there are some harmful side effects. Adoptive parents need to realize how difficult adoption is for adoptees and that adopted children need special care and extra parenting. Adoption may seem like a way to save a child’s life, but sometimes it does more harm than good.
I wasn’t adopted until I was almost five years old. Unfortunately, it had taken that long for the state to realize that something was seriously wrong with my sister’s and my birth-mom. Even though she was constantly arrested for drugs and repeated misdemeanors, the courts never thought that maybe she wasn’t doing such a great job at parenting her infant and toddler daughters The authorities didn’t seem to care how unsafe, and unhealthy our homelife was. My sister and I were taken away and given back to her several times, even with the evidence of abuse and neglect. It wasn’t until doctors told Child Protective Services about unmistakable bruises, burns and starvation that we were finally placed up for adoption. Luckily, my sister and I were adopted by good people who cared for us and gave us everything we needed. When my youngest sister was born in the prison hospital, my adoptive parents traveled up to Salem to bring her home to us and ended up adopting her also. My adoptive parents raised us to be intelligent and well-mannered, women who are able to succeed in life. In her article, “The Effects of Adoption on Kids”, Carly Seifert says “Many adoptees were raised in families where parents were educated, loving and supportive and had homes that provided material advantages they may otherwise have not received” (Seifert)
Seifert writes adoption articles for “Montana Parent Magazine” and GlobalPost, an online national news site. “The Effects of Adoption on Kids” focuses on the benefits that adoption provides to children, even as they grow into adults. She quotes studies that prove that adopted children perform better in school and social situations than their non-adopted peers, and often live just as well, if not better, than non-adopted children. Seifert says that the only obviously negative effect that adopted children receive is grief from the biological mother not wanting them and confusion with their identity. If I hadn’t been adopted, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I probably would have followed the same path my birth mom did and spent my life doused in drugs and bad relationships. The way my birth mom was raising my sister and I was a horrible way for any child to spend his or her life. And because none of my birth family could take both of us in, adoption became the only solution possible. Thankfully, we were placed into a healthy, loving home. They had already raised two biological kids, so they understood children. Our adoptive parents focused on our educations and life skills. By the time I was 13, I knew how to cook, clean, raise children, and teach myself school. Because of my adoptive background, I know how to take care of myself and how to succeed in this world. However, not everything is perfect. Despite all the benefits of adoption, many adoptees do suffer psychological problems throughout life, especially during their teen and adult years.
Even though adoption worked out well for my sister and I, there were still problematic experiences, and crises in my adolescent and teen years. Even now, as an adult, I struggle with PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder. The smallest unexpected noise, someone coming up behind me, being grabbed for no reason, hearing or seeing people fight and argue… a lot of ordinary, everyday occurrences can throw me into a panic attack for no reason. A good story to illustrate this happened two years ago. I ran away from home because my adoptive parents and I were having family issues, mainly because I felt like I had no place in this world; I felt unwanted and undeserving of anyone’s love. One night I decided to try to make it on my own and I left. I was between Williams and Murphy when a cop pulled up and told me to come over to his car. When I refused, he stepped out of the car, walked over to me, and grabbed my upper arm. Immediately, I freaked out. I don’t remember what exactly happened because I blacked out, but I woke up in jail with bruises everywhere and several felony assaults on officers of the law. I may be perfectly fine one moment, but as soon as my PTSD is triggered, I black out and try to defend myself from what my mind thinks is a threat. I believe that if my past prior to the adoption had been addressed by my adoptive family, I wouldn’t have bottled-up everything to the point of exploding.
Lori Carangelo, president of Americans for Open Records, wrote an article on the negative side effects of adoptees for Adoption and the Opposing Viewpoints website. She asserts that the loss of an adoptee’s birth mom, and therefore the adoptee’s identity, causes problems in the person’s psyche that may result in antisocial behaviors and emotional imbalances, such as pyromania, pathological lying or stealing, and extreme rebellion. She quotes Dr. David Kirschner, who calls this disorder “Adopted Child Syndrome.” Carangelo explains that the reason for this disorder is because the adoptee no longer has any secure connection to the world, so he or she perceives everyone in the world as someone who cannot be trusted. She says, “Studies have shown that being adopted can affect many aspects of adoptees’ lives, from relationships to adoptive parents to bonds with their own children” (Carangelo). Karl Stenske, an adoptee himself, has written a thesis and essays on adoptive trauma. He wrote an article last year for “Adoption Voices,” a magazine that describes the consequences of taking an infant from his or her mother. He talks about the two types of adoptees — rebellious and compliant. The rebels may attempt to destroy their current family by running away or threatening their adoptive parents. The obedient child may strive for perfection socially and academically or just hide away and try to be noticeable. He points out a study performed in 2001, which showed the rate of attempted suicide among adopted and non-adopted teens. 7.6% of adopted teens had tried to kill themselves compared to 3 % of children who live with their biological family. He ends his article by explaining the reason for this mental disarray, and uses the example of a young girl taken from her birth mother. “She knows her mother, she knows her loss, sadness and hurt, she knows that those who hold her today may be gone tomorrow and that she will be the only one left to pick up the pieces that no one seems to think are broken” (Stenske). He’s right. Once that trust and security are gone, it’s extremely difficult to regain. With all these problems that adoptees may face throughout their life, how can adoptive parents help them live happy, secure lives?
There is a study done by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute titled “Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption.” While it does focus on interracial adoption, the article gives good ideas for stabilizing adoptees and helping them with their identities. The main thing parents can do for their non-biological kids is let them know that they are a part of the family, no different from the biological children. The study says that adoptees “reported that they experienced bias based on how they entered their families, in all settings of their lives — from classmates to employers to strangers” (Donaldson 5). The study also states that contact with birth family, not necessarily the mom, is the largest helpful factor in promoting positive identity formation. Not everyone in my birth family was a drug addict and abusive; I believe my life would have been much easier if I had had contact with those who were blood-related to me…it would have helped me with learning my identity. With all this information, what is my overall judgement on adoption?
When there is no other option, adoption should be considered. However, the adoptive parents should learn to understand and respect the adoptee’s eventual identity confusion and help him or her through the mental obstacles that may ensue. Adoption changed the path my life was headed down. There was no possible way I could stay with my birth family, as none of them were prepared to take care of me and my sisters, unless we were split up. I still suffer with knowing exactly who I am and wishing my birth mom had tried harder to keep me. No matter what my past like, however, I am ready to move on towards the future — something every adoptee must learn to do before they let their past define the rest of their lives.
Seifert, Carly. “The Effects of Adoption on Kids.” Global Post 2012. Web. December 5, 2013 http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/effects-adoption-kids-2166.html
Carangelo, Lori. “Adoption can be Harmful.” Opposing Viewpoints in Context 2006. Web. December 5, 2013 http://ezproxy.roguecc.edu:2071/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?failOverType=&query=&prodId=OVIC&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&limiter=&u=roguecc&currPage=&disableHighlighting=true&displayGroups=&sortBy=&source=&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&action=e&catId=&activityType=&scanId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010104258
Stenske, Karl. “The Psychology of Adoption Trauma and the Primal Wound: What Does a Baby Know?” Adoption Voices Online Nov. 13, 2012. Web. December 5, 2013 http://adoptionvoicesmagazine.com/adoptee-view/adoptee-view-what-can-a-tiny-baby-know/#.UqPyi1WzKph
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption.” Adoption Institute Online Nov. 2009. Web. December 5, 2013 http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2009_11_BeyondCultureCamp.pdf