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Adoptive Families Need Support
Lishoné Bowsky

Being adopted has its benefits. You are no longer in foster care, which means that you are no longer moving from one place to the next. It also means that you now have a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of. In foster care, in other people's houses, often you don't stay there long enough to piss and if you do, you might get foster parents who don't want you to piss in their bathroom.

If you're lucky, when you're adopted it means that you have found yourself a nice home with nice people who care about you and your well-being and adopted you because they love you.

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But even with the most loving families, being adopted often leaves a child left to deal with feelings of loss, abandonment and rejection-feelings felt not just in childhood but during your teenage years as well.

"Adopted children sometimes have more of a difficult adolescence, when they're trying to figure out who they're going to be," said Maris Blechner, one of the founders of Family Focus, an agency that gets older children and children with special needs adopted.

'He's Driving Me Crazy'

Because they're often dealing with more confusion and hurt than other kids, when they hit their teens, kids who are adopted sometimes act out, get in trouble and fight with their parents. Sometimes things get very tense. Parents even send their kids to military school sometimes, or to live with relatives, Blechner said.

Adoptive families often need support to cope with the difficult times-like individual and group counseling. But "in New York state, there's a big missing part, a giant gaping hole in post-adoption services," said Blechner. "One agency does some, others don't."

Unlike a lot of agencies, Blechner says her agency tells their families who adopt, "We will be there for you for the rest of your life." Sometimes that help can be with the small things-like if they move and their subsidy checks stop coming (parents of kids who are adopted often receive checks just like foster parents do) or if they can't get a copy of the birth certificate.

Or it can be with the big emotional issues-like the case of one woman who recently called about her 15-year-old son who was getting into lots of trouble.

"Help me," she said. "He's driving me crazy. I must have done something wrong."

image by Rosa Perin

People from Blechner's agency are now meeting with the woman, talking her through some of her difficulties, and helping her and her son find counselors to talk to.

Concerns in Common

Looking back at my own adoption, I realize that my family's support system wasn't as strong as it could have been, especially during my teenage years, when I was trying to find myself and starting to rebel. I was involved in lots of activities in and out of school, which surrounded me with people. But I felt like those people judged me and saw me as an outsider because I was adopted.

Maybe my adoption could have been better had I attended a group for kids who had been adopted. I would have felt that we all had being adopted in common.

Blechner agrees with me. She said it can help for adopted kids to talk to other adopted kids.

"Teens deserve to be able to sit down with other adoptive kids without adults around," she added. This way they can say whatever it is they feel without having to worry about hurting their parents' feelings and feeling guilty about it later on. And they can see that the feelings they might have about adoption-like that they don't really belong or that they're unlovable-aren't strange and that other adoptive teens have them too.

A Lifetime Committment

Blechner also said adoptive parents need support.

"Raising adoptive kids is not the same [as raising biological children]. It requires more sensitivity, special understanding, flexibility. You may need to be more open to the outside world and [seek out] places to go for help."

But according to Blechner, help is exactly what there's not enough of in too many places. Too many agencies say, "Here's your kid, now you're on your own."

When parents are given a child to adopt, it is a lifetime commitment. Now that they've passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act [see page 8 for details], and more kids may be getting adopted, the agencies that help these parents adopt should be committed to giving them the support they need, as well.

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