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Adopting Parents & Mental Health Service Support

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adoption process, adopting parents, process of adoption in Illinois, Illinois adoption, mental health counseling, Donaldson Adoption Institute, adopting families

The adoption process in the United States is cumbersome and it is meticulously designed due to the great emphasis placed on maintaining the best interests of the children. Potential adopting parents must endure thorough investigations into their personal and professional lives in order to be considered viable candidates to adopt. Often, that process alone can be very stressful. And yet, once the adopting parents are finally approved to adopt a child and bring the child into their home, a whole new host of issues may arise.

How are Adopting Parents Coping?

Adopting parents face the same challenges that biological parents face when preparing to embrace a new member into their family. Parents must financially prepare for the new child by putting away money in savings or cutting back on previous expenses. They must also prepare, both physically and emotionally, for the new child by safety-proofing the home and creating a designated space or room for the child to inhabit. However, adopting parents also face some unique challenges that many biological parents never experience, especially if the adopted child is no longer an infant when adopted.

Unique Challenges for Adopting Parents

When pondering adoption, we often think of a family adopting a newborn. However, many  of the adoptions in the United States are of children the age of adolescents or even teenagers who have spent much of their childhood in a foster home or have been constantly moved from one home to the next. These children often have difficulty adapting to the environment of a new adoptive home, and thus the adopting parents struggle to bring together their new family unit.

Counseling Services

While there are family therapists available, there are not a lot of therapists who specialize in mental health counseling for adopting parents. When there are, mental health counselors have generally not been trained to adequately understand or address the unique issues in which adopting parents must cope with in the adoption process. Some adopting parents have actually stated that therapists have done more harm than good because they were not adequately trained in the fields of attachment, trauma, and loss. And these are feelings that many children, who come from foster homes or shelters, experience when placed in an adopting family.

The Donaldson Adoption Institute recommends the following skills for therapists to address adoption issues. The “Need to Know” issues include:

  • Developing some form of certification for adoption clinical competence, so that adopting parents have faith in knowing that the therapists with whom they are working have the proper knowledge, skills, and understanding to address their unique challenges;

  • Expanding training programs across the country via webinars, online courses or other media by replicating already well-known evidence-based models;

  • Developing outreach programs to educate mental health providers on adoption competency. The outreach will teach them why they need competency and what benefits it will provide them;

  • Educating insurance providers about what adopting parents are going through in the adoption process and encouraging them to become a proponent for expanded mental health coverage; and

  • Advocating to the instructors of graduate training programs and post-graduate clinical training centers to make it mandatory to include more information about adoption and foster care in their programs.

It is the hope that with more education and increased training, mental health counselors will better address the distinctive issues through which adopting families experience while in the process of creating a loving and supportive environment for their adopted children.

Resources

If you are interested in adoption and have questions about the the adoption process in Illinois, contact an experienced family law attorney at 630-932-9100.

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