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The Seven Core Issues of Adoption

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
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One thing most people don’t know is that the issues around adoption apply to three groups of people: the adoptive children, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents. These three groups are know as the adoptive triad. Each of the issues below are present for all three groups. While every child, adoptive family, and birth family is different, researchers have identified the following group of challenges common to almost all adoptive triads.

The Seven Core Issues of Adoption

1. Loss

The truth at the core of adoption is that there is no adoption without loss. The birth parents lose their child – sometimes voluntarily, and sometimes not – and the adopted child loses their birth parents. Loss is at the heart of virtually all emotional and psychological issues adopted teens face.

2. Rejection.

Most adoptees see their placement in adoption as total rejection by their birth parents. Birth parents often feel rejected by society because of their choice, and adoptive parents often feel rejected when their adopted child voices a desire to seek out their birth parents.

3. Guilt/Shame

Adoptees internalize the rejection they perceive at having been put up for adoption by assuming there’s something fundamentally flawed, wrong, or unlovable about them.

4. Grief

After a significant loss, humans grieve: that’s how we’re wired. Although most non-infant adoptees feel relief and gratitude when adopted, they may also feel intense grief at the loss of their birth parents.

5. Identity

Adoptees wrestle with these fundamental human questions – Who Am I? Where Do I Belong? Who Are My People? – on a level most of us can’t comprehend. For some adoptees, the intensity and depth of these questions interferes with the development of an integrated sense of self.

6. Intimacy

Loss, rejection, shame, grief, identity-questioning can accumulate and compound in the mind of an adoptee and can lead to difficulty developing intimate relationships

7. Control/Mastery

Loss of birth parents is the ultimate loss of control: kids adopted as infants had no say in the matter, and kids adopted later in life typically have little to no input, either.

If your teen struggles with issues related to adoption, we can help.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

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