Musings and Personal

Adoption Trauma, pt. 1

The other day, I read and participated in a Twitter conversation about adoption trauma.

Here’s the background of the conversation:

A person retweeted a blog post from the Twitter page of Adoption and Fostering which posed the question Is adoption trauma? The author then listed reasons as to why the answer is yes.

The person who retweeted this article disagreed. He works as a developmental psychologist with children affected by abuse and neglect, who enter the foster care system. His assertion was that adoption heals trauma.

Of course, this is a highly emotional subject and as you can imagine, some strong words were exchanged. I’m not writing this post to get into a debate or piss anyone off, but share my point of view.

Rather, this Twitter exchange got me thinking about adoption and trauma, so much so that I’ll probably post more thoughts on this subject.

But before going any further, we need to define trauma:


According to the English Oxford Dictionary trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

As a foster-adopt mother, I get a bad taste in my mouth when I hear someone say adoption is trauma. I am raising two girls, both of whom have experienced trauma through neglect, intrauterine drug exposure, and perhaps other adverse early childhood experiences. I spend each day trying to undo their subconscious reactions to the trauma they lived through.

But when someone says adoption/being adopted is a distressing experience, I don’t have that knee-jerk reaction. I am willing want to follow up with “Why do you say that?” or “What do you mean by that?”

I’m not advocating anyone change the words they use to describe their adoption experience, but rather we all try to understand the meaning behind the words.

After all, we’re all in this together.


13 thoughts on “Adoption Trauma, pt. 1

  1. Hello- I am an adoptee. And I do feel that adoption is trauma. Is it worse than abuse and neglect? No, they are the same. Adoption to me is the ultimate abuse. Adoption to me is the ultimate trauma. Whether you kids are traumatized by their parents or not? Those are their parents. And society, Adoption just leaves them that way. No education, no reform, no pep talks to help people see? That parents are important to kids. What have you really changed by adopting these kids? Have you taken away the shame of bad parents??? I fear not, you and the system only raise a red flag on them and those children you adopted. You have changed nothing for them, except their geography. There parents are still a mess? And how does that help a child? To take them is trauma. Even if your heart is right in wanting to help? This is not helping make their parents better? Now is it? Parents are important to kids, even messed up ones. And a world that can help those parents do better is a better world.


    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your opinion.

      Although I can’t speak for others’ experiences, I will speak for my own. My daughters’ parents were offered services through the county and did not utilize them. These services included parenting and anger management classes, psychological counseling, drug rehab (inpatient rehab as well as 12-step support groups) and family preservation support advocates. These services were extended twice and, according to the social worker, they had no interest in taking advantage.

      I do agree that a world that can help parents do better is a better world. But those parents have to want to be helped.

      I hope this sheds some light on my experiences as a foster-adopt mom. Like I said, everyone’s experience is different.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It depends on the individual. My son mourns the loss of the family he knew for the first sixteen years of his life but at the same time he has so many more oppurtunities now. But he spent a good two years in self pity spending all his thoughts on how traumatic his life has been. I told him, Yaro, you are too old for this. You need to grow up and make something of yourself instead of feeling sorry for yourself. This may sound very harsh but we are russian. And he took my advice like i knew he would. And he learned to be appreciative of all the experiences in his life. Was adoption traumatic in his life? Most likely. But allowing it to handicap your day to day life is optional. Excuse my bad english.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts and agree that it isn’t a black and white thing. By the way, your English is better than some people whose native language is English. 🙂


  3. My two experienced years of neglect and trauma before they were placed into foster care, and eventually with me. The moves into foster care and then with me will have been traumatic, but their lives before are still having a daily impact on our lives. It’s a really interesting subject, thanks for sharing. Via #FTTWR


      1. Yes, if the state is a closed state you have to petition the court for good cause (you know, a medical emergency type situation – and we all know how speedy courts are, not to mention having to search and what not – it’s so not a solution when you have a medical emergency by any stretch of the imagination – I’m talking almost a year before I made contact).

        I asked mom to petition for me as I was too sick to go there, she did, the judge approved because the doctors wanted info, and mine to go to my family. By then I could get there so mom and I went and paid for print outs of the court file, I paid a searcher to search…and I asked for my OBC which was given seeing as the court order unsealed it. I did find my aunt and other relatives after the paid searcher found the grave. My story is unique in that most petitions aren’t approved. I think because mom petitioned helped and the rural area and length of time my family has lived there.

        It all sucks. It is what it is…the life of an adoptee. I was too late, and if I’d had the info prior – it would have made a world of difference.

        And openness has nothing to do with whether the child can get their OBC – the law doesn’t make a distinction for open adoptions – if the state is closed, it’s closed.


        1. Gotcha. I find it strange that having an open adoption doesn’t change anything.

          My daughters were adopted through foster care. Don’t ask me how, but we ended up with their original birth certificates in addition to the ones with our names.

          BTW, I understand why they change the birth parents names to the adoptive parents, but my heart broke when we got the new certificates in the mail.

          Anyway, we have our daughters’ original birth certificates in a file along with all their other paperwork, and they will have access to it all when they get older. It was never a question in mine and my husband’s mind that these things belong to them.

          Thanks for taking the time to explain things to me.


  4. Thanks for popping by and sharing your thoughts.

    First off, I want to say that what happened to you and your birth mom is really messed up. I hope you and your birth mom have been able to reconnect.

    Yes, I suppose I do think about pre and post adoption, especially with my older daughter (was about three years old when she came to live with us). It isn’t something I’ve ever considered before so thanks for pointing that out.

    I hope to read more comments from your adoptee POV.


  5. I think some, perhaps many adoptees view ‘adoption’ differently than people in other positions. I also think people need to clearly define *what* type of adoption they are speaking of, i.e. DIA same race, DIA transracial, Foster adopt (broken down the same way), etc. Each type has many differences that make it impossible to be on the same page in all areas.

    For me, a domestic infant adoption (DIA) – adoptee, being adopted covers the entire sequence, from deciding pre-birth on adoption, to the birth, to relinquishment, to placement, to being adopted. It does because of the ‘but for’ that had to occur before the next sequential event could proceed to complete the sequence. But for the fact that the decision was made for adoption because I had a home to go to (I didn’t actually but my mother was told there was) she wouldn’t have signed away her rights and taken me home, but, because she did sign away her rights, a different home was found for me, placed, and then I was adopted. I view the entire sequence of events as an unbreakable chain of events that led to me being adopted, the but for. When I talk about being adopted, the impact it has had on me, I do not break down my mother signing away her rights, my being somewhere for a while, my going home as stand alone events – they are all one event that happened to me in a specific sequence called adoption.

    I see you break down the “before you” and the “post you” as distinct periods of time, events. Other AP’s do as well. Perhaps try seeing it through a different prism, the but for prism.

    Trauma works for adoptees, what else would you call loosing your entire family and needing another.

    Liked by 1 person

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