Post Adoption Support

Post Adoption Overview

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Many adopted teens are happy and well-adjusted. But families with adopted children face distinct challenges, particularly as adolescence approaches. Most parents agree that the teen years are the most challenging, and this can be especially true for adopted children who, like all teens, struggle to discover who they are and who they want to be.

Research shows that adopted teens are more likely than non-adoptees to struggle with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder and other behavioral issues. Some adopted teens act out because they lack the tools to manage strong emotions surrounding the loss of their birth parents. Others feel the need to “test” their adoptive parents’ commitment to them or to define themselves as separate individuals.

Causes of Adoption Issue

Adopted teens often have questions about who they are and where they came from. Although every adopted teen is unique, some of the most common causes of emotional and behavioral issues include:

  • Search for individual identity
  • Fear of rejection or abandonment
  • Strong feelings of grief and loss
  • Need for personal control
  • Longing to belong
  • Desire to connect with the past

Symptoms of Adoption Issue

It is common for teens to reflect on their unique situation as an adopted child and act out their frustrations and uncertainties through substance abuse, defiance and other behavioral issues. Many adopted children question their identity and value, suffer from low self-esteem, depression or anxiety, and experience intense feelings of grief and loss.

In severe cases, teens may suffer from reactive attachment disorder (RAD). Also called “attachment disorder,” children with RAD struggle to develop strong emotional attachments to others, often because of serious disruptions in their early relationships.

Signs that an adopted teen may be struggling include:

  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Lack of empathy or remorse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse
  • Defiance or rebelliousness
  • Lack of self-control
  • Learning problems
  • Poor grades or skipping school

Treatment For Adoption Issue

Adopted teens often have a lot of questions. While some simply need the support of family and friends, others may need professional guidance to process their emotions in constructive ways. Experts estimate that while only 2 percent of American children are adopted, they make up one-third of the teens in therapy.

There are a number of effective treatments for adoption issues:

  • Psychotherapy can provide an outlet for teens to talk to an objective outside party.
  • Animal-assisted therapies, such as equine therapy and canine therapy, can help adopted teens process feelings of grief and loss and build healthy attachments.
  • Family therapy can be a safe place for teens to talk to their parents in an open, supportive way.
  • Support groups for adopted teens can connect families to others who are experiencing similar challenges.
  • Residential programs that specialize in addressing anger, control, trust and abandonment issues can help teens work through the complex questions surrounding their adoption, and instill the coping skills they need to mature into healthy adults.

A number of CRC’s wilderness therapy programs and therapeutic boarding schools provide specialized curriculum designed to address the specific challenges faced by adopted children and their families. These programs feature adoption-focused group therapy, thematic workshops for processing the stages of grief and access to a nationwide adoption support network. Within the safety and structure of the boarding school environment, under the guidance of licensed therapists, adopted teens come to terms with their personal history and family relationships while receiving a first-class education.