For a couple of months now I’ve wanted to write a post on adoption that is focused on a different aspect than my previous National Adoption Day ones – a post that acknowledges, beyond a passing mention, the complexity and, sometimes, pain that adoptive parents and adoptees may undergo post-placement. That post is still in progress and, even when it’s done, I don’t expect it to come anywhere near to encompassing all of the points endemic to the issue I have in mind.

Until that post is complete, I encourage individuals whose stories
contain some element of adoption – whether as members of adoptive families themselves, as professionals in regular contact with adoptive families, or even just as friends and family of someone(s) with adoption ties – to read this article from adoptive parent Pernell Plath Meier. It’s a lengthy read, and explicitly directed to social workers involved in domestic (United States) adoptions, but I, as well as a few users in the comments, agree that its message is as important for others, like school administrators and therapists, who are in contact with adoptive families and their children.

Adoption is praised, but how well is it understood? Meier highlights her experiences with social workers over the years as she fostered and adopted her children, listing in sixteen points how “even caring and well-meaning social workers can be unintentionally damaging” as their compassion for a child “creates tunnel-vision that ignores deep concerns about the child and how their behavior can impact their families, their communities and the child’s own well-being.”

Adoption is beautiful, but adoption is not only beautiful. Adoption is a journey and, until you’re on it, you don’t know exactly what obstacles will rise in your path, what changes you’ll have to make to your neatly-plotted route, what storms will disrupt your trekking, or how your new companions will act. Then, as Meier describes, once you’ve come to terms with all those uncertainties, you don’t know what the gatekeepers on the many roads – school, healthcare, courts – will do to help or further complicate them.

Detached

Social workers have been an ever-present part of my family. Over the course of 13 years, we have parented 7 children from foster care, 5 of whom we adopted. In that time, we have had countless social workers in and out of our lives. Some have been rock-stars and stepped-up for our family and kids, advocated and pulled strings. Others have been toxic and blatantly destructive to our well-being. And the vast majority have fallen somewhere in the middle – neither appreciably helpful, nor actively working against us. Though these workers were generally decent people with their hearts in the right place, I’ve been struck by how much even caring and well-meaning social workers can be unintentionally damaging. If you consider yourself one of the good ones, you may be surprised to find some of your own actions reflected in the words below. Social workers do not have to…

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