Challenges in life are normal. Dealing with difficult situations in life helps us grow into capable, contributing members of society. But we can’t always deal with life’s trials by ourselves. As an adoptee, you may be dealing with issues that seem overwhelmingly sensitive. The good news is that help can be found in a variety of places, from reading books, articles and websites; to talking to family, friends and other adoptees; or through the assistance of professionals.
Asking for help –though it may be hard—is a sign of wisdom and strength! Finding a neutral, third party who can listen, understand, and provide sound guidance is especially important if you are struggling to:
- Understand and come to terms with your relinquishment and/or adoption.
- Talk to other people about adoption.
- Decide whether or not to search for information about or members of your birth family.
- Learn about social, emotional or mental health problems related to early childhood trauma.
- Understand Core Issues of adoption.
Sometimes the toughest part of getting help is deciding when to ask for it. Remember, it is never too soon to get assistance, and, doing it early can help you face life’s other challenges with greater confidence.
As an adoptee, you have specific needs and concerns that will help determine where you go to get help. Some of the best options are:
Parents: Talking to your parents, especially if you are a minor, is a good place to start. They may be able to share details about your birthparents, the reasons behind your adoption and help you make sense of some of the most difficult aspects of adoption.
Agencies: For some adoptees, the best source of help is the agency that handled their adoption. Many offer support groups for and with other adoptees, counseling services, background information from adoption files or even search services. The agency may be able to quickly connect you with the right organization, information or service to help you find what you are looking for. If you were adopted from a state foster care system, you may be eligible for free services through the state (your adoption worker can help you access these). There may be a fee for post-adoption services through an agency.
Internet: There are many sources of online support for adoptees. Some informational websites and web-based groups focus on specific needs of adoptees. With any online group or community, always be cautious when providing identifying information or details regarding your adoption—the information you share may compromise your privacy and even your identity.
Support from Other Adoptees: Support groups play a special role in helping us overcome life’s challenges. Finding like-minded people who have shared similar experiences will provide a welcoming place for you to talk about the joys and the challenges of adoptive family life. The agency that handled your adoption is often the best place to start when looking for a group.
Mental Health Professionals: Mental health professionals (psychologists, social workers, counselors, and therapists) offer help for complex issues that are beyond what a peer group can help resolve. Through their professional training and experience, mental health professionals can offer objective perspectives, insight, assessments and design a plan of action to help you thrive as an adoptee.
Not every issue that an adoptee faces is related to adoption. Doctors of psychology can help identify learning or neurological problems. However, it is wise to find a mental health professional who also understands adoption because they will be less likely to assume that your problems are adoption-related, or overlook how your development or pre-adoption trauma may affect you.
In, “Selecting and Working with an Adoption Therapist,” the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides an explanation of the different types of mental health professionals available to adoptees, the various therapeutic approaches they use, and questions to ask when choosing a mental health professional.
Churches: Many churches have counseling programs, care ministries or orphan care/adoption/foster care ministries. These churches may also offer support services as part of their outreach program.
Physicians: Some challenges faced by adoptees should be discussed with your physician. Adoptees with a prior history of abuse, neglect or prenatal exposure to toxins may have experienced significant changes in brain development that require medical treatment. A physician can also make assessments and provide referrals to appropriate specialists. Even better, there are doctors who specialize in understanding and treating the medical needs of adoptees. A directory from the American Academy of Pediatrics can be found underResources.