Blunt pre-adoption conversations can be crucial because many of the children being adopted out of foster care and from abroad are psychologically troubled. Mental health services for adoptive families are widely viewed as inadequate — too little funding and too few professionals trained in adoption-related trauma.
Among the organizations trying to fill the void is the Center for Adoption Support and Education in Burtonsville, Md.
“I see many well-meaning, loving, educated parents who come in at their wit’s end,” said the center’s CEO, therapist Debbie Riley. “They’re left on their own to fend for themselves.”
Riley said many families need long-term mental health care for an adoptive child — care that might be unavailable in their community or result in costly bills not covered by insurance.
Adoption advocates say it’s shortsighted to skimp on post-adoption support.
“You have children who have already faced so many adversities,” said Nicole Dobbins of Voice for Adoption. “When their needs are not being met, those unaddressed issues are costing our society so much more on the back end. It’s frustrating when we don’t want to put the money up front.”
Dobbins’ organization was part of a coalition issuing an appeal to Congress and state officials in September. Its statement said in part:
“Parents who adopt must understand they are making a lifelong commitment to a child. But forcing families to struggle without support, trying to raise children they feel unable to parent, is also unacceptable and harmful to children.”
Among the coalition’s recommendations:
— Establish a reliable, comprehensive federal funding source for post-adoption services.
— Ensure that these services offer support from professionals trained to work with traumatized children.
— Reconsider policies that sometimes require parents to give up custody before a child can receive state-funded services.