Culture Take: An Adopted Child’s Environment

Over 400,000 youth are in the foster care system today. 65,000 of those children, alone, are in California. In this article, I’ll be stepping away from the sole foster care system itself and digging into what the actual adoptive environment is like for the child.

In California, unless the adopter is a stepparent or a family relative, adopting parents must be at least 10 years older than the child. The foster care system will conduct a home study and, using fingerprints, a criminal background investigation pending approval. This process is called a “Family Assessment” and can span over a period of six months to an entire year.

Now, if the adoption is approved, the adoptive parents are granted every legal right and responsibility as that of a birth family parent-child relationship.

In other cases, a Family Assessment is done before the adopting parent(s) have found their future child. If this is so when the assessment is completed, the adopters are labeled as “Prospective Adopters” and the adoption agency they are working with will begin to seek out said child.

An adopted child’s life is bittersweet. After their adoption, children unveiled to established care exhibit significant improvement, but as well as this, there is the shown lack of recovery in growth and developmental milestones. Doctors have come across these discoveries through various tests such as physical examinations, endocrine and bone age evaluations, and neurocognitive testing. These tests are performed throughout a period of two years post-adoption. Even later in life, as adopted children mature, their roots stir up feelings of loss, grief, anger, and anxiety. They may begin experiencing self-identity insecurities stemming from possible grief they feel towards their biological beginnings. This means their birth parents, birth language, and birth culture.

However, there are some sources of relief. Though they face unique challenges, around 20 percent of adoptees attend therapy today. Hundreds of adoption support organizations are available country-wide, if not worldwide, dedicated to helping the adoptee and adopter work through challenges like I spoke of previously using therapy primarily known as “Adoption Specific” Therapy.