I have had a hard time writing this and to me it comes across as choppy but it is now the second day and it still isn’t right - it is what it is…
Adoption is supposed to be in the best interests of the child, when the child cannot stay in their family for whatever reason. Yet the domestic infant adoption segment of adoption does not seem to focus on family preservation first and adoption if that cannot happen, rather it focuses on people wishing to be parents and finding babies for those individuals. If adoptees through domestic infant adoption have more problems than non-adopted have as the study below indicates, there needs to be a discussion on fundamental changes to the current practices – in the best interests of the child.
What would happen though if the domestic infant adoption industry fully informed expectant mothers on the challenges and realities for the child? What would happen if a study like this one The Mental Health of US Adolescents Adopted in Infancy was talked about honestly and thoroughly in churches, and at adoption agencies, to prospective adoptive parents (would they proceed), and specifically with expectant mothers (would they still choose adoption)?
Take the time to read the actual study because it shows so much more than what I have highlighted which is just the conclusion and parts of the discussion.
Conclusions: Moderate mean differences in quantitative indicators of mental health can lead to substantial differences in disorder prevalence. Although most adopted adolescents are psychologically healthy, they may be at elevated risk for some externalizing disorders, especially among those domestically placed.
[...] Despite the popularity of adoption, there is a persistent concern that adopted children may be at heightened risk for mental health or adjustment problems. Previous research has shown that adopted children with a history of prenatal substance exposure relatively late in their adoptive homes are at heightened risk of social, intellectual, and emotional problems. Nevertheless, existing research has not resolved the extent to which those adoptees with a good preplacement history and an early age at placement are at increased risk for clinically relevant mental health problems.
This study focused on adolescents (age 11 to 21) that compares a) non-adopted, b) international adoptees (Korea), and c) domestic infant adoptees, and took the combined results from three different perspectives: teacher, parent, and child. A study that shows the domestic infant adoptees have statistically significant concerns regarding mental health challenges. It is a start at an honest conversation, despite my reservations about adoption studies, it appears to be one that wasn’t designed to show everything is fine and dandy. Granted it only shows us a snap-shot view of one time period of life when the reality is that being adopted is for life, and at different stages there are different challenges and feelings to face.
There are multiple implications of our results. First, most individuals adopted as infants are well-adjusted and psychologically healthy. Nevertheless, there exists a subset of adoptees who may be at increased risk for externalizing problems and disorders. The odds of being diagnosed as having ADHD and ODD were approximately twice as high in adoptees compared with nonadoptees. This excess of clinically meaningful behavioral problems in adopted adolescents has significance for researchers who examine the effect adoption has on individual functioning, for adoption agencies and their workers who counsel and advise members of the adoption triad, and for physicians who are dealing with an overrepresentation of adoptees in their clinical practices.
To address the first statement – you can be well-adjusted and psychologically healthy and still have deep feelings and challenges in regards to how adoption impacts you in ways non-adopted will never have. That you don’t need to have ever been diagnosed as having one of more of the disorders listed, to have felt the deep loss that comes with adoption.
The study then proposes several of the prevailing excuses regarding why adoptees are over-represented including the adoptive parent is more aware, or the genetic make up of the birth family that may make up part of the reason, but of course that cannot be the only two reasons – they avoided the elephant in the room called adoption. The study/discussion fails to address the fundamental differences between the non-adopted and the adopted as alluded to in the paragraph above. We were not kept, instead separated at birth from our mothers, and surrendered which then can create problems of self-worth and identity issues. We grew up in a home where our genetic structure and all that it entails is different, and there is no roadmap to make us feel normal or like all the others. There is also, although seldom talked about, the fact that for many, we are the replacement children our parents could not have which for some parents does cause problems in expectations and parenting. That is what the discussion should have incorporated – the fact that everything related to being adopted can/could also be one of, if not a primary cause of the statistically relevant over-representation.
What wasn’t covered in-depth in the study was the internalizing done by an adoptee. To me that is perhaps the most important factor of all because to act out, you must have first internalized, and if you never acted out so others noticed, then you have no concerns apparently - of course who am I to say this as a non-professional.
We need to have hard discussions on what direction society should be taking in regards to domestic infant adoption, and being honest that what adult adoptees are saying is real and needs to be taken seriously, instead of brushed off as adoption is different now than when we were adopted. Apparently it isn’t, and the conversation about family preservation being the first line of defense, rather than adoption should be happening, but in order to do that the profit and the desires of the prospective adoptive parents need to take a back seat.
The final question is why is this the first time I have seen this study talked about within the adoption community when it is already four years old? I don’t think I missed it, and if it wasn’t talked about, what does that say about the industry as a whole regarding transparency, integrity, and honesty. I did find the study talked about in adoption circles in Quebec, France, even Japan, the Washington Post, CNN, and other news outlets, but no US adoption agencies or the NCFA came up in my search.
Below is the link to the Washington Post article about this study back in 2008, and I wanted to note that both in the study and the article they speak to the 120,000 adoptions each year, but fail to break down that the domestic infant adoption portion is somewhere between 10,000 – 20,000 – a very small portion.