7 Core Issues of Adoption

The parent and child in an adoptive family have an unshared genetic and social history that professionals must take into account when planning intervention strategies. The most helpful therapists and experts are those who understand the seven core issues of adoption and know that they resurface often in the lives of any member of the adoption triad. The following information has been adapted from the work of Deborah N. Silverstein and Sharon Kaplan. Although their work specifically relates to adoption, much of the information can also be applied to foster children.

  • Loss. Adopted children morn the loss of their birth parents, even when they are happy with their adoptive family. Their loss can feel more prominent at various developmental stages, but especially as a teenager or young adult.
  • Rejection. Adopted children often feel rejected by their birth parents and subsequently avoid situations where they might be rejected or provoke others to reject them to validate their negative self-perceptions.
  • Guilt/Shame. Adopted children often believe there is something intrinsically wrong with them and that they deserved to lose their birth parents, which causes them to feel guilt and shame.
  • Grief. There is no ritual to grieve the loss of a birth parent. Suppressed or delayed grief can cause depression, substance abuse, or aggressive behaviors.
  • Identity. Adopted children often feel incomplete and at a loss regarding their identity because of gaps in their genetic and family history.
  • Intimacy. Many adopted children, especially those with multiple placements or histories of abuse, have difficulty attaching to members of their new family. Early life experiences may affect an adopted child’s ability to form an intimate relationship.
  • Mastery and Control. Adopted children sometimes engage in power struggles with their adoptive parents or other authority figures in an attempt to master the loss of control they experienced in adoption.

Source: North American Council on Adoptable Children Fact Sheet

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