How can overwhelmed adoptive families get the help and support they need?

Adopting an older child can bring great stress to a family when the child has significant behavioral problems, developmental issues and/or attachment problems. In some cases a child’s behavior is so difficult that a family will need to seek significant professional support and services. Parents confronting serious challenges should first communicate with their mental health professional(s) about the daily challenges and stresses they are confronting. The therapist may recommend family therapy and/or he may recommend a new course of treatment for the child or a referral to a psychiatrist if he isn’t already seeing one. The family should try to get a diagnosis for the child so they can move forward with appropriate treatment. If the situation does not improve with treatment parents may have to consider respite care to allow them to take breaks from the daily stress of raising a behaviorally disturbed child. They might also opt to send their child into residential treatment or to a therapeutic boarding school. Whatever plan they develop, parents should maintain a steadfast commitment to the child. Even if the child cannot live at home they should always consider themselves their child’s permanent family. Transferring custody of their child to a new family without agency involvement or legally dissolving the adoption should never be considered. The vast majority of adopted children will do well in their new homes but about ten percent of older adopted children will have significant behavioral problems. The parents and families of these children deserve the unflagging support and empathy of other parents, teachers, extended family and mental health professionals.

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