Adoption is beautiful but it doesn’t end in the courtroom. Years of waiting, heartache, loss and wondering precedes adoption day. There are countless hours of planning, preparation and paperwork, but when the day finally arrives, it’s over in the blink of an eye. We applaud adoptive parents, but we don’t realize that when the papers are signed, their journey is only just beginning.
The day I adopted my children was a truly joyful occasion and one of happiest days of my life. The courtroom was filled with family and friends crying, laughing and cheering as we celebrated officially becoming a forever family.
As I went to bed that night with a full and happy heart I was suddenly bombarded with an intense feeling of panic and anxiety. The adoption is over. No more planning. No more mountains of paperwork. No more home visits or court hearings. I expected this to be met with feelings of joy and relief. How could I be feeling so anxious on one of the happiest days of my life? I suddenly realized the home visits, constant check-ins, frequent appointments and outside advocacy for my children had been all I had known since they joined our family. Our “normal” way of life was suddenly changing, and it was terrifying.
During the adoption celebration, I could not help feeling as though people viewed the adoption as being the end of our family journey. The children now had their forever family. Adoption granted. Case Closed. My large network of support and resources was suddenly replaced with a few numbers I could try to call if I needed help in the future.
Throughout my own experience as a foster, and now adoptive parent, I am reminded that the impact of a child’s hard history does not just go away the day of the adoption. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), complex developmental trauma and disrupted attachment cycles have lasting consequences.
As families continue their journey after adoption, I would suggest the following:
- Let your network know you still need support. One of the most valuable and humbling lessons I have learned through my fostering and adoption journey is that people cannot help you if they don’t know you need it.
- Help each other. Offer to help those who have already adopted. Bring them over dinner or offer to babysit to give them a night off, and then ask them to do the same for you.
- Join a community of support: Your village may look different now that you are no longer fostering, but you still need a village. Parenting a child with complex developmental trauma can look different from traditional parenting approaches. Trauma is developmental, meaning that it shows up again and again in a child’s life. Connecting with peers will provide you with a source of strength as you continue your family journey.
- Embrace learning! Understanding how trauma impacts the brain will provide you with a foundation for understanding your child’s needs in the future.
- As adoptive parents, it is essential that we don’t forget our children’s past. When we forget our compassion wanes. Compassion helps us press on when trauma-related behaviors show up.
If you are an adoptive parent who could use some additional support, don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org today.