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Adoption-Telling the Child about Rape, Incest and Other Birth Circumstances
Adoption: Telling the Child about Rape, Incest and Other Birth Circumstances - 10 CEUs

Section 11
Stages of Development

CEU Question 11 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Adoption
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed The Life-book Technique.  This has included Recreating Life History, Giving Information About the Birth Family, Giving Reasons for Placement, Providing Photos, Recording the Child’s Feelings and Giving the Child Information About Development.

On the next three tracks, we will discuss how to explain information about the birth family at various stages of development.

Do you have a client who struggles with explaining adoption when they have very little information about the child? 

On this track, we will discuss sharing with the adopted child about abandonment.  This will include Preschool Age, Early Elementary Age, From a Single Mother, From a Large Family, Middle School Age, Preteen and the "Homeland Tour" Technique.  As you listen, think of your client.  How does he or she cope with this lack of information regarding abandonment?

For many thousands of children adopted internationally and some domestically, abandonment is the only word that describes their history.  The children are often found without a name, or any kind of identifying information.  How does a family relate that information to a growing child?

Debbie and Boyd were adoptive parents to Min, age 2.  Debbie stated, "We know so little about Min's story...We don't know anything about his birth family, his background or even the exact day of his birth!  Min was found on the steps of a police station in a little town in Korea.  The police estimated that he was only a few days old.  A note was taped to his blanket which read, 'I am young and alone.  I cannot care for him.'  Someday we will have to tell him this, but we don't have much information to help us out.  How do we do it?"

I stated, "Sharing Min's story will likely be a process in making sure Min understands the full picture of the events surrounding his adoption, rather than just relating facts of the event.  Whatever happened in Min's life that led to his adoptive placement, one way to begin talking to him about his abandonment is simply by saying early on, 'Your birth parents couldn't take care of you.  From that point on, you can build the story developmentally." 

The following is a list of Min’s six stages of development and the suggestions I gave to Debbie and Boyd regarding how to explain Min’s pre-adoption story based on his specific age of development and explaining single mother and large family circumstances.

6 Stages of Development

#1 Preschool Age
First, when explaining to Min about circumstances surrounding his adoption, as a preschooler, I suggested that Debbie and Boyd say, "Your birth mother couldn't take care of you and wanted you to be safe. She found a safe place to put you where safe adults would come and take care of you."  I stated, "You may want to be careful not to say that Min's birth parents could not take care of any children.  You could discover later on that Min's birth mother did have other children she was parenting."

#2 Early Elementary Age
Second, as Min approached early elementary age, I suggested that as Min requested information about his birth parents, Debbie and Boyd could explain, "We feel sad sometimes, and even mad sometimes, that we cannot give you any more information.  Do you ever have any sad or mad feelings about not knowing anything about your birth parents?  It is important that you understand that you are not responsible for the decision your parents made."

#3 From a Single Mother
Third, if it was discovered that Min was born to a single mother, I suggested that Debbie and Boyd explain, "Being a single mother in Korea is extremely difficult.  Single parents may have difficulty finding jobs and being able to provide for their children."

#4 From a Large Family
Fourth, if it was discovered that Min came from a large family that could not afford another mouth to feed, I suggested that Debbie and Boyd say, "Sometimes a family has too many children and is not able to provide for all of them.  When the newest baby arrives, as you did, your parents felt they had no other choice but to take you to people who could care for you."

#5 Middle School Age
Fifth, when Min approached middle school, I suggested that Debbie and Boyd begin to provide the rest of what little information they knew.  I suggested they say something like, "Although we do not have information directly about your birth parents, we can explore all about your country and learn to understand why birth parents had to make such difficult decisions.  When you think about your birth parents, what do you think about?  Are you ever sad or angry that you don't know anything about them?  What would you like us to do to help you?" 

I then suggested, "You can even begin to bring into the conversation the societal, economic and cultural aspects of the child's country that would force birth parents to make such a decision."

#6 Preteen
Sixth, as Min grew into his preteen years, I explained to Debbie and Boyd that they could continue using educational resources to fill in Min's cultural and ethnic background.  They could continue to ask the same questions they might have used in previous years, such as asking "are you ever sad or angry that you don't know anything about your birth parents?" but in greater depth.  I suggested that Debbie and Boyd consider locating a peer support group of other adopted preteens and teens that deals with open discussion regarding adoption issues.

Technique: Homeland Tour
Last, I suggested the "Homeland Tour" Technique to Debbie and Boyd.  In my experience, one of the most helpful experiences for internationally-adopted children has been the Homeland Tour, or a return to their country of origin, if the family can afford it.  Sometimes children have spent far more time with their birth families than initially reported.  Sometimes it is inaccurately documented how long an adopted child was with his or her birth family before being brought to an adoption agency.  As a result, some children have vague memories of their birth families, and locating some of those families may be possible. 

I have found that some adolescents who have experienced the Homeland Tour have been able to make real strides in understanding the why's of their adoption experiences.  In Min’s case, he would probably see people living in poverty who have to make real life decisions.  Oftentimes, after the adopted child’s return, they realize that they fit more into the culture of the country they grew up in, instead of the one in which they were born.

Do you have a Debbie or a Boyd whose adopted child was abandoned? 

On this track, we have discussed Sharing About Abandonment.  This has included Preschool Age, Early Elementary Age, From a Single Mother, From a Large Family, Middle School Age, Preteen and the "Homeland Tour" Technique.

On the next track, we will discuss Sharing About Abuse.  This will include Preschool Age, Early Elementary Age, Middle School Age and Preteen.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:

Grotevant, H. D., Wrobel, G. M., Fiorenzo, L., Lo, A. Y. H., & McRoy, R. G. (2019). Trajectories of birth family contact in domestic adoptions. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(1), 54–63.

Kim, A. Y., Kim, O. M., Hu, A. W., Oh, J. S., & Lee, R. M. (2020). Conceptualization and measurement of birth family thoughts for adolescents and adults adopted transnationally. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(5), 555–565.

Kranz, D. (2020). The impact of sexual and gender role orientation on heterosexuals’ judgments of parental competence and adoption suitability. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 7(3), 353–365.

Jaffari-Bimmel, N., Juffer, F., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Mooijaart, A. (2006). Social development from infancy to adolescence: Longitudinal and concurrent factors in an adoption sample. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1143–1153. 

Phillips, N. K. (1999). Adoption of a sibling: Reactions of biological children at different stages of development. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 69(1), 122–126.

Wiley, M. O. (2017). Adoption research, practice, and societal trends: Ten years of progress. American Psychologist, 72(9), 985–995.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 11
What are some reasons that the Homeland Tour Technique can be helpful? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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