Many adoptive parents who dream about growing their family through adoption often envision happy, smiling faces and lots of hugs. They imagine opening their arms and hearts to a child in desperate need of love and care. Just like a fairy tale! Where everything is wonderful. Rose-colored glasses perfect. At the first mention of anything outside that image — particularly the prevalence of mental health issues in adoption, they pump the brakes. Adopt a child who isn’t right in the head? How could we? No, we want a normal child!
The thing is — mental health issues are more common than anyone thinks. Large stigmas and myths surrounding them have more times than not shoved the subject under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind and all that jazz. But that’s not how life works. It’s essential that all adoptive parents understand that mental health issues are not a reason to break off their adoption agreement. Adoption Choices of New York is here to help you do just that.
Myth: Adoption is traumatic and causes mental health issues.
Fact: Not quite. Somewhere along the line, the notion of trauma in adoption provoked questions regarding the validity of adoption as a whole. The thought became: If adoption is so traumatic, then why do it? This is problematic for a few reasons. One, the adoption process itself isn’t traumatic. Two, each and every adoption journey is unique. Three, adoption doesn’t single-handedly cause mental health issues.
Is it true that trauma exists within adoption? Yes and no. Some babies and birth mothers naturally feel grief and a wide range of emotions at separation. However, others show more resilience and don’t have as strong of a reaction. It really all depends on the baby and birth mother. In regards to adoption causing mental health issues, this is also a farce. While the greater cause is unknown, we know that mental health issues are brought on by many different factors. So, no, adoption itself cannot cause your son or daughter to develop a mental health condition.
Myth: A child with a mental health issue is damaged for life.
Fact: Incorrect. The existence of a mental health issue and the potential for future happiness have no correlation whatsoever. One does not affect the other. By recognizing the signs and symptoms early, you can help your son or daughter find the treatment they need to improve their quality of life. This, in turn, will help them develop healthy coping strategies and help them manage their symptoms long term. Mental health issues do not damage your child for life. It may make things more challenging, but your child can still thrive and grow up to be a healthy, happy and independent adult.
Myth: Children can grow out of mental health issues.
Fact: Unfortunately, no. There is no amount of willpower that can wish it away either. That’s not how mental health conditions work. As much as those who suffer with the symptoms wish that were possible. Rather, you can teach your child how to manage what they are experiencing. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental health illness, your child can develop the skills and life experience to thrive in spite of their symptoms. Having them meet with their doctor and finding a counselor can also be beneficial. Your child can still live a happy life even with a mental health issue.
Myth: A child with a mental health issue isn’t normal.
Fact: False. By the way, what is “normal” anyway? As aforementioned, the exact causes of mental health issues have yet to be discovered. What we do know is that they can be brought on by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Other factors may include but are not limited to: chemical imbalances in the brain or abnormal functioning nerve cells. Genetics, infections, injuries or brain defects have also been linked to mental health issues.
Does that make your child abnormal? No. What makes them “normal” or not is determined by their behavior and abilities. For instance, how well they function at home or at school. How they interact with the family or with their friends. If you notice anything uncharacteristic happening outside of that, you can ask their doctor for a mental health screening. Be careful how quickly you jump to conclusions. Mental health issues, particularly interwoven into adoption, can be tricky to navigate.
Myth: If your child has a mental health condition, there’s something wrong with them.
Fact: This is another grossly over-exaggerated myth about mental health issues and adoption, and it’s definitely not true. Many adoptive parents are fearful that if their child has a mental health issue that there is something wrong with them. That it means their son or daughter is forever scarred from being adopted, or that they will uncontrollable outbursts. But no.
Whether or not your child develops a mental health condition doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with them. Symptoms of anxiety or depression are not signs of weakness, nor is the medication they take to manage how they feel. Stomachaches and headaches are not purposely conjured up to get attention.
Mental Health Issues and Adoption
Genetics may play a large role in mental health issues and adoption, but it’s important to remember that every adoptee is unique. Each child receives a different combination of genes from their parents. In other words, if your child’s birth mother suffers from a mental health condition, it doesn’t mean that your child will. The best thing to do is to learn about which conditions they could potentially develop, what the symptoms could look like, and to have a preparation plan in place just in case.
But, above all, don’t let the existence of a mental health issues change your mind about adoption. That would be silly. Ask yourself this: if you had a child — adopted or not — who happened to develop anxiety, depression or another form of mental health condition, would that change how you love them?
Adoption Choices of New York
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
Heyworth, Kelley King. “What to Do If You Think Your Child Could Have a Mental Health Disorder.” Parents, www.parents.com/health/mental/what-to-do-if-you-think-your-child-could-have-a-mental-health-disorder/.
Koplewicz, Harold S., and Child Mind Institute. “7 Myths About Child Mental Health.” Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/article/7-myths-about-child-mental-health/.
Riben, Mirah. “Adoption-Related Trauma and Moral Injury.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/adoption-related-trauma-a_b_10492058.
Schuster, Sarah. “18 Mental Illness Myths People Believed Before They Were Diagnosed.” Scary Mommy, 7 Jan. 2017, www.scarymommy.com/misconceptions-people-had-about-mental-illnesses-before-they-were-diagnosed/.