Being a parent is a very tough job, arguably tougher than any other job you’ll have in your life! That job can become exponentially tougher when life circumstances come in and you find yourself parenting a child that is not biologically your own.
Parenting under these circumstances typically happens through one of two ways
This journey is different for everyone. Some families choose to adopt a baby at or soon after birth, either through an open or closed adoption. Other families choose to adopt an older child or teenager. Still others may choose to adopt more than one child, whether that be a sibling group in need of placement, or multiple unrelated children adopted at different times. Some families also have biological children, and some do not, either by choice or because of fertility difficulties.
Adoption can be a wonderful experience and can help couples create a family they may not have been able to have otherwise. However, adoption can also be a very challenging, difficult, even scary process. Many children who are adopted were exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero, didn’t receive proper prenatal care, or experienced abuse or neglect. Additionally many children who have been adopted have significant medical or mental health needs, including attachment difficulties.
Trying to navigate through these issues can be very hard. Although some children and families do very well, many families are surprised about the level of involvement and challenge involved in parenting a child who has been adopted. As a result, some families even experience disappointment and guilt because their hopes and dreams regarding parenting are different from their expectations.
In the traditional foster care system, children are removed (sometimes permanently) from their parents/guardians due to substantiated claims of abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) or neglect (often due to parental substance abuse or mental health difficulties). Children who do not have an immediate or extended family member that can/is willing to take guardianship are placed in the foster care system.
Children in foster care are considered to be wards of the state, which means the state acts as their legal guardian. The goal for these children is to be placed into a foster home with a family or parents. However, if there is not a home available that meets the needs of a child, often they may end up in a group home or residential facility.
There are a large number of children who are able to be placed with a family member, whether that be a non-custodial parent, or an extended relative (aunt/uncle, grandparent, cousin, etc.). In some cases, children may also be placed with an adult sibling or even a non-relative such as a godparent or close family friend. While this may seem like the preferred/ideal scenario for children, this transition can be just as traumatic as one where they are placed in the home of a stranger (foster care family).
The removal of children from their parents is often abrupt and can be very painful. Most of the time, children do not want to be removed from their parents, even if they are being abused or neglected. As a result, they may exhibit a number of behavioral or emotional difficulties, even if they are now living in a safe, loving environment. They may become angry, aggressive, withdrawn, depressed, anxious, etc. This can be very confusing and frustrating for those who have stepped in as a temporary guardian and have opened their house and their hearts for these kids.
We Can Help!
At Hope Springs, we have providers who have received training and are specialized to meet the needs of families and children who have been adopted and/or have been through the foster care system. We can help by learning more about your child’s history and the issues that they are facing. We also work with children and adoptive or foster parents in psychotherapy so that the child feels safe and supported, and parents have ways to stabilize their home environment.
Two of Hope Springs’ providers who work with foster care and adoption issues are listed below
Christina Stai, Psy.D., has been with Hope Springs for 3 years. She previously worked for another 3 years in an emergency shelter for children and teenagers coming into or already a part of the foster care system. She has worked individually with children, as well as with their biological parents, foster/adoptive parents, and social workers, to help these families navigate and overcome the difficulties and challenges that often arise as a result of abuse, neglect, and removal from their parents. She has worked with children suffering from attachment difficulties, including Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), as well as those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Jennifer Luria, LISW has been a practicing social worker since she graduated from The University of Iowa School of Social Work in 2002. She currently works with children and families, using a variety of techniques, including PCIT, Play Therapy, Art, family therapy, and cognitive-behavioral strategies. Prior to working at Hope Springs, she was employed by Center for Disabilities & Development at the The University of Iowa Hospital.
Author: Christina StaiDr. Christina Stai is a licensed clinical psychologist in both California and Iowa. She specializes in young children and received her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from Azusa Pacific University, an APA accredited school near Los Angeles. She completed an APA accredited internship and APPIC accredited postdoctoral fellowship at a residential emergency shelter with abused and neglected foster youth. We are proud that she has joined Hope Springs.
1,529 total views, 1 views today