Basic Types of Adoptees & Their Issues
It may go without saying, yet we must state the obvious: becoming available for adoption means that something bad has happened. A parent died, a caregiver proved unsuitable for meeting basic needs, the child was found by the authorities to have been starved/abused/neglected/living in squalor, or any of a host of other horrific issues.
There are five different types of adoptees to which you may be referred, or any number of possible sub-groups of combinations of the five elements. They are, in order from bad to worse, should you wish to even try to quantify this by the level of care or intervention which will be required (again, we are generalizing in order to simplify the categories):
Surrendered/Abandoned – This is the voluntary relinquishment of a baby or child, proving that someone sees their own limitations and has a plan for the child. Probably the best-case scenario. The child might have institutional delays, so take a look at the neglect category, but in general, they can spring back from being surrendered for adoption, though that is a simplification.
Untaught – It could be an older child, a toddler, or school-aged. They lack basic information or skills which may be considered appropriate for their age. Though an orphanage might label the child as “slow”, it is simply a case of not having been taught or exposed to anything ranging from proper speaking, to reading, writing or basic numbers and math. It could be a case of lack of stimulation. Being “behind” is often not a great concern since adoptees can most likely catch-up. Possibly. Hopefully. However, unless the adoptive parents understand the causes behind the delays, remediation may not be possible.
Brain-damaged – Potentially stemming from fetal alcohol exposure, trauma to the unborn infant, or other causes. The brain was perhaps “pickled” from early alcohol exposure in utero. The child may present as being lazy or difficult, but instead, it could be simple brain damage. They may never live on their own, may be prone to risky or impulsive behaviors or no social or physical boundaries, which might lead to arrest. This is an uphill battle since is it irreversible, apart from an act of God or constant training and repetition of the most basic self-care and daily skills. Keep in mind that brain damage is not always initially apparent to untrained, outside observers and it can range on a sliding scale from mild to severe.
Unloved/Neglected/Abused – This is a tricky one as many brain experts assert that early, massive neglect, stress or violence may have effects worse than regular brain damage. These are children who are seized by authorities, rather than surrendered. Read “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog” to get insights into debilitating pasts from the records of a child psychiatrist and how, yes, healing is still a possibility via things like surroundings, affection, language, and touch. There is hope. Yet, sometimes, the adoptee finds it difficult to receive love or to trust again. To think that an adoptive parent can swoop in and save a child from their past is often wishful thinking. It just doesn’t always work that way, no matter how good are one’s intentions.
Genetically-damaged – Often born to malnourished individuals who may smoke, drink, or do drugs, an adoptee’s brain may be environmentally or genetically damaged. That’s not their fault. Depending on whether or not a birth parent’s medical records are known, the adoptive parent may not be cognizant of the damage, either. Frequently, a birth parent without access to medical care may use substances to self-medicate for mental disorders, masking the underlying conditions. In the child there may be physical characteristics of brain damage in the upper lip, palm of the hand, size of the head, etc., but not always.
In all of the above cases, raising a loving, fairly well-adjusted child is possible to some degree. As they say in adoption, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Good outcomes are definitely possible. It may take all of your time or retirement fund to arrive to your intended destination, along with a whole lot of 24/7 monitoring and prayer, but it can be done.
And if it doesn’t turn out as well as you had hoped and dreamed, don’t beat yourself up as the adoptive family. You did your best and had good intentions. Children who are broken are not like dolls that can easily be put back together, but it does happen, friends, it does happen.