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Well-Adjusted…

30 Mar

By TAO

River by TAO - 2014While the idea of adoptees being studied has always bothered me, there was something else, I couldn’t name it, but it centered around the term well-adjusted, and how it was used by some within the adoption industry.  Then I saw this on twitter a while back, the NCFA Adoption Advocate publication #69 on Mental Health Professionals Education and Adoptees.  I’ve revised this post many times, and I leave it to you to decide if it makes sense, or not.

The article is what made the penny drop.  It started off in detail how little training mental health professionals receive on adoption, then covered the studies on adopted children being well-adjusted, then on a study showing how biased mental health professionals already were to adopted children.  It concluded with agreeing with the call for more education about adoption for mental health professionals.

In one paragraph of the article, they dismiss any notion that an adoptee may get not so great parents because any problems are usually pre-adoption risks.  They do give a nod to a challenge facing adoptees, but it is solely limited to one age, not at many points throughout life.  The nod though, is barely a nod, because they make it sound just so damn easy as a hormonal teenager to do that – in addition to everything else a teen has to do:

“When adopted adolescents experience adjustment problems, they are usually attributed either to pre-adoption risks or challenges to identity development. Some adopted adolescents do face additional challenges in addition to the normal developmental questions about identity that all teenagers face (such as: “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “What do I believe?”). Adopted youth have to find a way to incorporate being adopted into these answers.”

While focusing on the well-adjusted meme in adoption they only speak to adoptees who are children, side-stepping the fact we become adults:

“In summary, studies published in the past thirteen years have generally found that adopted children are similar to non-adopted children in terms of adjustment issues and behavioral risks.”

Or further down in Implications for practice:

Current adoption research reveals few differences between adopted children and non-adopted children, particularly when the adoptee was placed prior to age four and has a healthy relationship with his or her adoptive parents. Clinicians should thus be wary of making assumptions when an adopted individual or adoptive parent approaches them for counseling, and should be aware of research indicating outcomes for adopted youth. Clinicians should also be aware of recent empirical research highlighting the strengths of adoptive families and the benefits for children.

It was this combination of confirming the lack of training on adoption of mental health professionals, combined with adoptees are really just fine, followed by there is already a bias about adoptees having problems in the mental health professional world, and they should know how well we do.  That combination made me realize that I hadn’t really taken to the time to understand what made a person well-adjusted.  So I went to the dictionary to find the definition for well-adjusted and well-being.  Merriam-Webster defines well-being as “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous“.  Well-adjusted as “able to deal with other people in a normal or healthy way“.  The Cambridge British Dictionary defines well-adjusted as “describes a person who is reasonable and has good judgment and whose behaviour is not difficult or strange“.

None of the definitions above, is anywhere close to what I would need to know to assume an adoptee is just fine with being adopted, and has dealt with any feelings they may have that stem from that, such as; grief, feelings of loss, fear of rejection, trouble defining their identity, trust issues, or acceptance of the lack of knowledge about where you came from, or even knowing why you weren’t kept.  Those challenges are what studies should be looking at.  How do adoptees deal with them, what life events may trigger those feelings, what resources are available if they need help, what works.  The definition well-adjusted, just defines how we each live and deal with life on a day-to-day basis.  If you applied that definition to any other situational loss, or life experience, and called it a day, then there would be a lot of people with unresolved grief, and identity issues from; infertility, death, divorce, chronic illness, domestic abuse, victims of other crimes, etc., who may need a pathway to resolving issues that surface from time to time specific to the event, but otherwise would be considered well-adjusted too.

The studies that conclude we are just as well-adjusted as kept children, are not looking at the life-long adoptee experience – which is what a mental health professional may indeed be seeing in their practice, an adoptee that needs help to work through one, or more, of the core issues surrounding not being kept in your family of birth, and the resulting feelings that occur from that decision/event.  Well-adjusted people seek out mental health professional help to deal with personal feelings, and challenges.  You can’t mix outcome studies comparing group X, to group Y, with the personal challenges that stem from being adopted.  I would suggest that it is perfectly normal for adoptees to be over-represented in mental health settings, because they may have unique challenges to work through, in addition to all the other things life throws our way too – like infertility, death, divorce, chronic illness, domestic abuse, victim of other crimes, to just name a few.

I do want to note again that the article does agree with more education on adoption for mental health professionals, I just don’t like how they use comparison studies to prove we really are okay, and avoids any in-depth discussion of what added challenges may be faced.  That is what has always bothered me about how the studies were done, and what they have been used for.

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12 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child

 

Tags: , , , , ,

12 responses to “Well-Adjusted…

  1. iwishiwasadopted

    March 30, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I’m well adjusted, on the outside. The inside is another story. The general public does not care. Once the sale is made it’s our job to be a good product. I never felt quite human, now or as a child, but I can follow a script.

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  2. eagoodlife

    March 30, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Yet again adults make the mistake that it is nothing to do with them! The adult factor in adoption i.e how good the parenting is of adoptees seems to be an as yet unmined field. Adoptive parenting is specialised, requires skill beyond that of parenting other kids and so often is thought to be just another parenting job. Yet again so called experts – yes I did note one was an adoptee – make the mistake of thinking adoption relates only to childhood. Many of the tasks of coming to terms with adoption lie well into the adult years, sometimes many decades away from childhood. I despair when I see how little advanced the thinking is on adoption, the practices of adoption and the skills needed to assist adoptees and also adopters who are so often forgotten when they need support. So many of the difficulties of adoption would be prevented by better selection of parents, better training, better support and after care. Many more would be prevented by truth in adoption, open records and the destruction of the adoption industry. If only children who really couldn’t be raised by their biological parents were adopted by carefully selected adopters we would see a very different picture in 20 years time! Great post TAO!

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  3. eagoodlife

    March 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    “Great post here by TAO raising some good questions. This was my comment –
    Yet again adults make the mistake that it is nothing to do with them! The adult factor in adoption i.e how good the parenting is of adoptees seems to be an as yet unmined field. Adoptive parenting is specialised, requires skill beyond that of parenting other kids and so often is thought to be just another parenting job. Yet again so called experts – yes I did note one was an adoptee – make the mistake of thinking adoption relates only to childhood. Many of the tasks of coming to terms with adoption lie well into the adult years, sometimes many decades away from childhood. I despair when I see how little advanced the thinking is on adoption, the practices of adoption and the skills needed to assist adoptees and also adopters who are so often forgotten when they need support. So many of the difficulties of adoption would be prevented by better selection of parents, better training, better support and after care. Many more would be prevented by truth in adoption, open records and the destruction of the adoption industry. If only children who really couldn’t be raised by their biological parents were adopted by carefully selected adopters we would see a very different picture in 20 years time! Great post TAO!”

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  4. giantpetunia

    March 31, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Great post Tao!

    From the report: “In summary, studies published in the past thirteen years have generally found that adopted children are similar to non-adopted children in terms of adjustment issues and behavioral risks.”

    Yes, they are similar if you dismiss the actual data because MHPs and doctors have preconceived ideas about adoptees and never ask an adopted person in a safe environment how they really feel about being adopted then YES, If you ignore facts then adoptee are similar to non-adopted.
    Seriously, how can they be so obtuse?

    If you look at this data then I guess Adoptive Parents are also biased against adoptees. OR just maybe adoptees aren’t the same as non-adoptees???

    Adoption USA : National Survey of Adoptive Parents, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    Adopted children social and emotional well-being Adopted All Children
    Ever diagnosed with depression (age 2+) 9 % 4 %
    Ever diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (age 6+) 26 % 10 %
    Ever diagnosed with behavior conduct problems (age 2+) 15 % 4 %
    Problems with social behaviors (ages 6+) 14 % 9 %
    Exhibits positive social behaviors (ages 6+) 88 % 94 %
    Source:
    http://www.statisticbrain.com/adoption-statistics/

    Even if we assume that a doctor or mental health provider was biased and made a diagnoses of depression, ADD/ADHD solely on the fact that the child was adopted. It was the adoptive parent that took the child in to be diagnosed in the first place. The Dr. or MHP didn’t walk up to the parent and say “My word what an active child! He is adopted? Oh, he must be ADHD.”

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  5. Jo Holbrook

    March 31, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Are any of these people that are creating these stats adopted? When they are then I will listen to them. I am adopted and NOBODY that is not will ever understand. Outward appearance of an adopted child is what we develop because that is the only thing people are looking for, the Outward appearance. The battle is internal, the battle is identity, identifying and belonging. Others don’t get that because they belong somewhere. Add interracial adoption such as mine, I am bi racial and my adopted parents are white…more identity issues, but I am outgoing and look to be good so that is the perception. My famous statement “you will never know unless it happens to you”

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  6. Beth

    April 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I’m so tired of the auto DX of ADHD for adopted people( and so many non-adopted as well.) Or people who are active in an ADHD way. I think it is perfectly normal for some people.

    It’s not always so much the kid that supposedly has the issue – it’s their environment that isn’t conducive to them. I’ve conducted this ‘experiment’ with many kids DX’d with ADD, ADHD, RAD – “BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS”. I hate that term, especially when severe is attached to the front of it.. Who is the judge of which behaviors are a problem???? And a problem for who????

    The kids/teens did fine in our ADHD conducive and active environment. Not all of them were people who had been adopted. Lots of people have the throttle wide open most of the time, including me! It’s only a problem when those not as active (boring people ha ha) want them to sit still and be quiet! Who wouldn’t bounce off the walls? Who really has the problem? Some people will never be domesticated in that way, it’s when we insist we all act the same that the problems creep in.

    And I wonder if there are any reports of WHY adopted parents take their kids to the Doc for “behavior” problems? More often than the non-adopted, from what I can see. I find it too hard to believe that they are simply more concerned parents with more resources.

    I often think it’s them that are having a hard time being well-adjusted in the new family environment, not just the kid. It’s them that have a picture of how things “should be”. I think often they go to the Doc to get support and validation of their ‘dream of life’ picture, the “correct” picture. Everyone has to adapt themselves to what’s around them, can’t put it all on the kid, that’s when it gets messed up IMO.

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    • eagoodlife

      April 1, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Absolutely agree. Adults rarely want to give the time and attention kids need when they’re active, enthusiastic and inquisitive whether in a home or school setting. Years ago when I was in teaching these conditions were unknown, not undiagnosed just not present. Kids lives were different, they had more freedom, more time to dream, play outside and be independent when they were the age to deal with it. We expect too much of kids, ask them to lead restricted lives and want them to adapt to our lives not the other way round as it should be when we raise children or have them in our care. If you do not understand childhood and want kids to bend to your rules, habits and patterns there will be a cost. That cost has been clearly demonstrated. I’m with you Beth!!

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      • giantpetunia

        April 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm

        I have to wonder if adopted children are over represented with “labeled” Dx because they are different from their adoptive parents. I was adopted into a very book smart family. My older brother (biologically related to our parents) scored perfectly on every standardized test, and he was in the gifted and talented program at school. On the other hand, I am more creative and a problem solver. I usually test in the 95th (instead of 99th) percentile on standardized tests. 95th percentile was considered average and learning disabled in my adoptive family.

        I met my natural family about 6 months ago. My personality and learning style are very much like my father’s side of the family. All his raised children are creative and problem solvers. All were in gifted and talented programs growing up. My adoptive family thinks I’m average, but my natural family thinks I’m a genius. I definitely wonder how I would feel about myself today if someone thought I was a genius instead of learning disabled when I was growing up.

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        • eagoodlife

          April 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

          Yes, a very valid wonder giantpetunia!! I was certainly held back by my aparents who were creatives but socially disabled. It took me years to get over it and discover I could be confident, social and smart enough to go to University.

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  7. Beth

    April 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    These studies that look for the out come of – Adopted kids are similar to regular kids – “it’s safe to go get one!, and safe to give us money so you can have one!, Go ahead, it will be fine, similar even!!. “You can come give us more money if there are behavior problems, love and therapy cures all.” Biology isn’t relevant, not needed in a real family, love is what rules”

    Is that well-adjusted????????? Is it well adjusted to throw one under the bus to keep the other, when none need to go under the bus? To twist things and brainwash to try to make everyone feel better. I think not.
    Sounds like fear, even terror to me.
    It’s-The-Same-Syndrome. ITSS
    To me all of those ideas are band-aids to hide the ugly sore spot. Not actual medicine, more like poison!

    I hope someone has the foresight to plan to get in touch with those in studies like these when they are adults. That’s the study I want to see. Along with my list of questions for the parents. Age 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100. Very curious what the whole picture looks like to the “professionals”. Studies like that might really provide some interesting and helpful info. Just seeing all those age groups of adoptees (real people) listed for everyone to see may even help with the forever child sickness adoptees get to deal with. Who would be up for that sort of torture tho? I don’t know!

    I wish I had written more things down all through my life, just for myself, just to see the flower bloom.
    Then I might be better at helping others choose where to grow, what bug sprays to use, what added nutrients are needed (organic of course!) and possibly to be able to identify the damn plant before it gets established so you can provide the proper space and support it needs.

    Crap, can you tell it’s that time of year again, I have farm brain, it’s baaaaaack.
    And I have an old man hyper helper pacing behind me right now… and why we allow coffee in this place I am not sure! I guess to keep the body up with the mind. Thank goodness for people who can’t be still, we’d never be able to bounce between the million big and little totally different things that we have to do today! My husband (born slow & lazy! seriously) has one simple thing in his plans today, and is a bit overwhelmed with it. Me and my hyper buddy have two pages of list, arrrggg and apparently past ready to get back at it…

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  8. Beth

    April 2, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    “Years ago when I was in teaching these conditions were unknown, not undiagnosed just not present. Kids lives were different, they had more freedom, more time to dream, play outside and be independent when they were the age to deal with it. We expect too much of kids, ask them to lead restricted lives and want them to adapt to our lives not the other way round”

    eagoodlife, I am with you! If there is anything in life that I believe, it is that. Most kids are too clean today imo. Kids need dirt on them, room and freedom to run and explore.

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  9. Unsigned Masterpiece

    April 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I think adoption, the institution, needs studies like this to discount the voices of people who live with adoption, the reality. The first time I heard this was from a PHD adoptive parent at a conference. Despite everything that had been said by adoptees and first mothers at the conference in the days before her session, she got up and declared adoption a win, win, win. I thought she had spent too much time in the company of like-thinking people.

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