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By Eileen Beirich M.A., M.F.T.
Adoption and its issues touch many lives. Sometimes a person doesn't
know how, or if, conflicts in their life may be connected to relinquishment
and adoption. SEVEN CORE ISSUES IN ADOPTION described by Silverstein and
Kaplan (c 1986) affect the adoptee, the birth parent/s and the adoptive
parent/s. Those seven core issues are: LOSS, REJECTION, GUILT/SHAME, GRIEF,
IDENTITY, INTIMACY and CONTROL. If any of the following items cause feelings
of sadness, fearfulness, hopelessness or anger to arise in you, talking
to a therapist that is familiar with adoption issues may prove helpful
The adoptee may fear abandonment in many relationships. Issues about holding
on and letting go may by apparent. Self-esteem can be difficult to maintain
and can lead to isolation from old and new relationships. Adoptive parents
often have not grieved enough about their losses, such as infertility
or miscarriage. The birth parents may not be able to stop thinking about
the lost child.
The adoptee may blame her/himself for the fact that their parents didn't
want them and feel unworthy of the adoption. Adoptive parents may feel
like they no longer fit into their families who do not have fertility
problems. Birth parents may reject him/herself as irresponsible and unworthy
because he/she permitted the adoption.
The adoptee may believe she/he deserves misfortune because of shame of
being different. Adoptive parents can feel shame about childlessness and
believe it is a punishment. Birth parent can feel shame/guilt for placing
child in adoption. They can also feel shame for being a party to guilty
Adoptee may not have grieved enough the loss of their birth family and
that can cause depression and acting out. Adoptive parents may need to
grieve the loss of the perfect child, they expected to have. Birth parents
can delay grieving for years resulting in conflicts with relationships
in their present family.
The adoptee may behave in extreme ways, over-adaptive or rebellious, in
order to determine if they belong. Adoptive parents might develop a sense
of lower self esteem, as they are not "blood" related to their adoptee.
Birth parents can develop a sense of diminished self-esteem that can effect
present parenting of subsequent children.
The adoptee might find it fearful to get close to someone. Past experience
has so many losses in it. Bonding can be poor which can lead to poor intimacy
in relationships of childhood and adulthood, especially marriage. Adoptive
parents, with unresolved grief over losses, can experience marital difficulties.
They may avoid true connection with the adoptee to avoid further loss.
Birth parents can find that they also have intimacy issues, which relate
The adoptee realizes that adoption alters their life course. They had
no part in the adoption decision. They can experience feelings of helplessness
or powerlessness in day to day relationships. Adoptive parents can feel
that they will not be effective in generating a life plan when they have
not been able to generate their own children. Birth parents often see
the relinquishment/adoption as out of their control. This can make it
difficult for them to actualize a self-direction.
While these issues need to be acknowledged and addressed during and
after the adoption process, they don't diminish the positive effects of
adoption. Adoption is the best alternative for children who can't be raised
by their birth parents and for parents who want to provide a loving home
for children. The opportunity it affords children to grow up in a loving
home with parents who care for them far outweighs the difficulties that
may arise from the process.
Dr. Beirich is a psychotherapist in practice in Los Angeles.
She is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network.
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