Wonder for a moment what it is like for a child to lose his or her first parents, even at birth. And then wonder more about what it is like when a child figures out that there are parents out there, their first mother and their first father, who are not part of their lives. Now today with more open adoption, these adoptees lose less in terms of information about themselves. Nevertheless, there is a loss. Adoptive parents will sometimes struggle with children who have difficulty adopting them as new parents. Counseling with birth parents and adoptive parents and adoptees has been my great interest over the past 25 years. When the agenda has to do with the challenges that people face with both the relinquishment and the adoption of their children, there has been little guidance that recognizes the sorrow and sometimes the anger in the heart of the relinquished child. So adoptive parents do not have post-adoption resources in sufficient supply. Often, each adoptive family creates its own map. And so helping people in this challenge of a unique family life – this is my great interest.
Relinquishment and Adoption, historically, were guided in a manner that would minimize shame. Both secrecy and denial were thought to be necessary values in creating adoptive families in years gone by. And unfortunately, this set the stage for the distress of many adult adoptees who, being adopted in the closed adoption network of the last century, have worked diligently to sort out their own personal identities. But they are at a disadvantage; pieces of the puzzle were still missing. Some have searched for many years to find their first parents. Doing the emotional homework that goes along with search and reunion is a vital part of becoming a whole person as an adoptee.
Relinquishment and Adoption, as practiced today, are guided by the values of openness and honesty and regular communication. So this is a very different experience for adoptive parents. Often they need resources, post-adoption assistance, in order to manage these challenges well. Discovering their relinquished and adopted children for who they really are and assisting them in the necessary sadness and mourning of the loss of their first parents are so important. In order to give care and guidance to these children who need their love, adoptive parents need some help. Sometimes their children protest with so much strength that they cannot allow the very love and care that would make them whole.
Here are seven books that might be good resources for everyone involved in the adoption circle.
- Nancy Verrier, The Primal Wound. Baltimore, Maryland; Gateway Press, 1993.
- Nancy Verrier, Coming Home to Self. Baltimore, Maryland; Gateway Press, 2003.
- Ronald Nydam, Adoptees Come of Age. St. Louis, Missouri, Westminster Press, 1999.
- Karyn Purvis et.el, The Connected Child. New York; McGraw-Hill, 2007.
- David Hughes, Building the Bonds of Attachment. New York; Jason Aronson, Inc., 2000.
- Jayne Schooler et. el., Wounded Children Healing Homes. NavPress, 2009.
- Betty Jean Lifton, Journey of the Adopted Self; a quest for wholeness. New York; Basic Books, 1994.