Thursday, July 7, 2016

Trauma, trauma everywhere...

The other day I was looking for a particular blog that related to adoptive parent trauma; and, by simply putting in a couple of key words, I was presented with over two dozen blogs that are adoption related and have the word "trauma" in the heading. Each of these blogs focused on the emotional trauma of raising chronic conflict children & youth. I am sure if I could find two dozen in 30 seconds there must be hundreds more.

That spurred me to check out a few of the top adoption conferences that are going on this year and see how many are offering workshops that help parents deal with the trauma they develop from raising CCC&Ys.  I couldn't find any other than the one I'm speaking at in October. There are the usual (and excellent) workshops on how to parent traumatized children, and some that talk about how parents can maintain a healthy lifestyle - but not much on how to raise children with chronic mental health issues and none (that I could find) that overtly talk about the heart break, the exhaustion, the marriage breakdown, the financial devastation, the loss of friends, loss of family, loss of self worth, and occasional suicidal ideation that so many Hazardous Parents experience.

So, what is my point? Well, it seems to me that if adoptive parents are strongly identifying as being traumatized by the parenting experience, then what on Earth is it going to take to get the adoption industry to start dealing with that?

I am often asked to speak at adoption events but there is too often the boundary that I can only present on parenting strategies, not about parent trauma. So, I decline. I understand that there is a fear that if prospective parents understood how hard this life is, then they will run for the hills. But you know, I don't think that's the case. I think that most prospective parents wouldn't believe that they would end up as wounded as I was. I think they would believe that their commitment to the child ...and their willingness to learn new ways of parenting ... and their faith.... and their current support.... and their whatever would ensure that they had a very different experience.

I know that's exactly what I thought and nothing I heard would have changed my mind. They would still adopt, and I would still encourage them to do so. The difference that I would present to prospective parents is in what I believe they will need to use down the road. For example, I would encourage them to a) learn about mental health disorders in children and to b) learn that not all, in fact very few, behavioral challenges will resolve with attachment, and that c) that most therapists don't understand adoption dynamics or mental health disorders in children d) that their child will hate them throughout most of adolescence and may even try to overtly harm them e) that therapy to resolve the child's early trauma is important but it will not prevent the child from presenting chronic conflict.

So, I ask again, what does it take to get the adoption industry to change direction? How do parents get professionals to listen? I try to do that through my blog and any other means possible, but it isn't enough. We need to be strongly advocating for ourselves and our children. We all deserve to have our trauma acknowledged and treated. We deserve better than what we are getting.

And, its at this point in my blog when I want to state that yes, I love my children. No, I don't blame them. Yes, they are doing okay in life. I also want to state that I don't believe this is just an adoption issue, I believe that we are victims of society's failure to understand and respond to mental health challenges and that the denial found in the adoption industry is just a reflection of the larger societal problem.  But you know what, I'm not willing to be part of that denial. I'm not willing to stand by and see another generation of adoptive families get fractured and hurt by that denial. I hope you aren't either.

Remember, you (and your children) are entitled to a better day.


  1. No one could have dissuaded me from adopting either. I truly believed that our outcome would be positive due to our committment, love, faith and dedication to our kids. It never occurred to me that they would not attach or heal. I never even heard of attachment when I was taking foster/adopt classes. I always assumed that if I felt attachment towards the kids, they'd automatically feel it towards me. After all, they were practically babies when I got them so that was supposed to be the easy part. So far, I think four out of six have little to no attachment. Most hate me on some level - real or imagined. Some days it's just not enough to tell myself that they can't help it, or that their perspective is not ever going to be based on fact or logic, but on their trauma based feelings that are not in the slightest bit logical. My kids are growing up and I have never been this lonely in my life. The relationships sacrificed for them are not just going to come back. I try to meet new people and be positive (and NOT talk about our past traumas) but then one moment I slip up and say something that reveals the dysfunction we've lived and I get accused of being negative or in need of medication (I agree on both unfortunately) and that's the end of that. So, I feel like in order to have any casual acquaintances in my life I have to put on a mask and act fine and that is just exhausting!!

    As usual, you have spoken on this subject extremely eloquently!

    1. Lisa - you said "Some days it's just not enough to tell myself that they can't help it" and I think that's the part that the adoption professionals get stuck at - we all know that our kids aren't to blame and we all know that they don't have a choice in their behaviours; yet somehow adoption professionals have determined that because it isn't our kids' fault, then we, the parents, have to be okay. It seems like our pain could only be acknowledged if our kids were doing it on purpose. How crazy is that? The only things that's crazier in this dynamic is that the parents wouldn't experience so much pain if we had the appropriate and effective services for our children, our families, and ourselves. Its all so unnecessary - and yet, here we all are with our shared experiences of parental trauma. I understand the loneliness, and if you were here I would hug you, so I'm hugging you in my mind instead.

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