November is national adoption month, and it only seems fitting to share that adoption and foster care have always been close to my heart. My passion for adoption and foster care started because I was adopted as an infant. My parents also fostered children during my teen years. Prior to having biological children, my husband and I were treatment level foster parents. We later adopted our daughter, internationally. In addition, I have had the great privilege of working very closely with international adoptees through counseling who were preparing to transition into their adoptive families.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2015), we can “assume that all children who have been adopted or fostered have experienced trauma.” In my work and personal experience with foster care and adoption, I have found this statement to be very true. In fact, a favorite quote of mine that I use to explain this to clients is this: “The joy and the tragedy coexist. That is the paradox of adoption, and we are all caught up in it.” In other words, you cannot have the joy of adoption without first having the tragedy of the child losing their first family and their heritage. Whether the situation they are coming from is a positive environment or not, it is still a loss for them.
In my experience, so many adoptive/foster families want to provide a stable, loving home for the child in their care. Unfortunately, love is not enough. It is a great starting place, but it is not the only answer. As adoptive/foster parents, we must also come to understand that the trauma exists; then it becomes our responsibility to learn about the effects of that trauma on our child(ren) and to become a part of the healing and recovery process.
Adoptuskids.org provides great insights into trauma and how we, as the parents, can help our children heal from the trauma they have experienced. A part of that healing often includes work with a therapist. I am always happy to work with families formed through foster care and/or adoption to help navigate the healing process.
Elysabeth is a therapist with Samaritan Counseling Center. As an adoptee, adoptive parent and former foster parent, she has a passion for working with families formed through foster care and/or adoption that have experienced attachment issues, trauma, mental and/or behavioral health concerns. She additionally enjoys working with couples on strengthening their relationships and with parents to help improve their parent/child relationships. She also has specific experience working with men and women who have faced domestic violence charges. Elysabeth sees clients ages 6-86 with a variety of mental health concerns in our Menasha and New London locations.