When we are born, it is in our DNA to trust others. Inherently, the first person we trust is usually our birth mothers. We depend on them to provide us with everything we need to live. It is only when the basic needs we rely on are not fulfilled that trust issues develop. For children who are adopted from foster care, the line of trust has been broken.
In the United States, approximately 120,000 children are adopted annually. Of that number, more than one-third are adopted from foster care. For parents adopting children who were previously in foster care, challenges that were initially unknown will most likely begin to surface over the years.
Children adopted from foster care were victims of abuse and neglect. Behind beautiful smiles and bright faces are stories of pain from children whose needs have not been met. They don’t understand why the very people that should have loved them didn’t.
As a child, these thoughts can linger unconsciously and, unless addressed, can fester and become serious issues in the future.
Long-term trust issues in children adopted from foster care are not exclusive to any particular region. Just like the need for foster care, trust issues cross borders and state lines.
There are some glaring causes that contribute to these long-term trust issues.
Long-Term Trust Issues of Adopted Children: Causes
A litany of reasons, like early separation from birth mothers, can cause emotional trauma in adopted children. Being in foster care for a long period of time without a stable emotional maternal relationship is also thought to cause trust issues later in life. The difficulty to trust stems from feelings of being rejected. Being in foster care or group homes can also contribute to feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth.
According to an article on MentalHelp.net, “There can also be significant concerns about feeling abandoned and ‘abandonable,’ and ‘not good enough,’ coupled with specific hurt feelings over the birthmother’s choice to ‘reject’ the child to ‘give me away’ or ‘not wanting me enough.’”
Studies show, as discussed in an article entitled, “Adopted Children with Anger and Mistrust,” that children who endured a heightened amount of adversity are at high risk of psychological conflicts regardless of a loving and stable environment.
Other long-term psychological effects after adoption can include:
• Feelings of grief due to losing one’s relationship and cultural connections with one’s birth family
• A struggle with identity development because of a lack of family history
• Guilt from being torn between one’s new family and biological family
Unfortunately, these adopted children are at risk for mental illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse because of their experiences. The more severe the experience, the greater the risk of facing psychological issues in the future.
Adoptive parents don’t always understand that emotional conflicts can arise in the future with their adopted children. Early trauma can resurface and appear in a variety of forms such as anger, anxiety and mistrust.
Long-Term Trust Issues of Adopted Children: Resources
So what can be done when long-term trust issues of adopted children come to the forefront? There are a variety of ways to address this concern.
Forgiveness therapy is a holistic approach that involves uncovering and resolving anger with the child’s birth parents and/or caretakers. It suggests that, without resolving these issues, anger and mistrust can be misdirected towards the ones he loves.
Effectively confronting the root cause of trust issues of adopted children will have an encouraging impact on the symptoms as well. Positive reinforcement helps heal issues of low self-esteem, anxiety and other residuals of abuse and neglect. Depending on the level of psychological issues that are present, however, it may be in the best interest of the child and family to pursue professional counseling.
In New Jersey, there is a directory of post-adoption services that is available for adoptive families.
For more information, contact Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS).