Adoption and Foster Care

Adoption and foster care may be necessary in some circumstances, such as when a child is removed from their family for safety reasons, or given for adoption in the hope that another family can provide a better life. For most children, being placed in foster care and then adopted by a loving family results in positive outcomes.

However, for some children, especially those adopted when they are older or from overseas, adjusting to a new family can be challenging. Research suggests that adopted children may be more vulnerable to emotional and behavioral difficulties. (1) This can be distressing for the child as well as for the foster or adoptive family.

If you are a foster or adoptive parent experiencing challenges or worry about a child’s wellbeing, consider enlisting the help of a therapist. With the appropriate support, most children adjust to life with their new families, develop supportive relationships, and live rich and fulfilling lives.

Adoption and foster care statistics

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (2), around 440,000 children in the United States were in foster care in 2017.

Adoption was planned for 27% of these children, and long term foster care for 2%. These children had spent an average of 20 months in foster care, although 6% of the children had been in foster care for 5 years or more.

The circumstances associated with the removal of the children from their families (with multiple factors involved for many children) were:

Many issues can create difficulties for children in foster care or adoptive families:

Children react in different ways when faced with stressful situations. Adoption and foster care can undoubtedly be stressful events with lifelong impacts. Many children will experience feelings like guilt, shame and rejection, as well as other challenges, such as:  

What to do if you experience issues around adoption or foster care

There are many steps you can take to look after yourself, your family, and the wellbeing of your adopted child. Consider a combination of the following:

Therapy types to consider

Many types of therapy could be considered for yourself and your child for challenges with adoption or foster care. The type you select will depend on what your main concern is. For example, are you primarily worried about addressing relationships, managing behavior problems, healing from trauma, or helping with mental health challenges? Therapy types include:

What to look for in a therapist for challenges associated with adoption or foster care

The best-fitting type of therapist depends on individual factors, symptoms, your location and finances. You’ll want to consider whether you are seeking therapy for yourself, your child, both, or with the whole family. Then consider the following therapist factors:

Qualifications

It is important to look for a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that the therapist you work with has undertaken the appropriate education and training.

Personal fit

As is the case when you are seeking therapy for any reason, it’s important to consider the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. The trusting working relationship with a therapist is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy.

Children who have experienced trauma or have experienced instability may feel unsafe and see the world as a more dangerous place. Therefore, it’s particularly important to look for a therapist with whom they feel comfortable.

Specialized training and experience

Look for a therapist who has specialized training and experience working with children as well as foster and adoptive families.

Talk in advance

The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Zencare can help you to find a therapist who is a good personal fit. You can browse the videos of our vetted therapists and book a free phone call. This can help you to figure out whether you feel comfortable discussing difficult issues with the therapist, and gives a sense of what the therapist’s approach is like.

Find the best therapists near you

Find therapists on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

Sources

  1. The Mental Health of U.S. Adolescents Adopted in Infancy
  2. Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)F 2017 data, AFCARS Report #25
  3. Children’s Bureau, “Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons” (PDF)
  4. Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Choosing Therapy for Adopted Children and Youth
  5. Quality Improvement Center for Adoption & Guardianship Support and Preservation, "Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy"
  6. Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Finding and Working With Adoption Competent Therapists” (PDF)