Fall 2003 Issue
The following is reprinted with permission from Marlou Russell, Ph.D. & firstname.lastname@example.org
by Marlou Russell, Ph.D.
Adoptive parents, hoping to instill a sense of security in their child, will say that they are now a “forever family.” On the surface, this sounds comforting and reassuring. Who wouldn’t want a “forever family?” It conveys the commitment and continuity that adoptees need. However, is it realistic to expect adoptees to embrace the “forever family” concept?
I’m not fond of the term “forever family.” Maybe it’s because I’m a therapist and have seen too many “forever families” break up. Maybe it’s because, as an adoptee, I have trust issues. Or maybe its because saying “forever family” evokes the uncertainty of it. Do non-adoptive parents tell their kids they are in a “forever family?” I don’t think so.
There is also the issue of when exactly you know if you have accomplished the goal of being a “forever family.” Is it like marriage where you only know if the vow of “till death do us part” has been upheld by one of the parties dying?
I imagine an adoptive parent or professional created the term “forever family” to offer reassurance to adoptees and their families. I can appreciate the intention but worry that the term reassures the adoptive parent more than the adoptee. Stating you are a “forever family” is like someone saying s/he is going to be honest with you. It raises suspicions and doubts.
Adoptees tend to be sensitive about promises, lies, secrets and honesty. Adoptees appreciate the truth because it validates their experience and honors their intuition. Don’t promise an adoptee something you can’t deliver. A parent can’t guarantee that s/he won’t die or won’t get divorced. The world is filled with random events and situations that are out of our control. Can a parent promise a “forever family?” Not really.
So what can an adoptive parent do?
Instead of saying you are a “forever family,” be one.
- Show adoptees that they are valuable members of the family.
- Be interested in who they are and what interests them.
- Prove that family is important by spending time together and appreciating what each person brings to the family.
- Acknowledge the importance of birth family connections.
- Let adoptees know you love them even if you aren’t thrilled with their current behavior.
Adoptive family relationships are built upon shared moments and daily interactions. Trust takes time, a very long time for adoptees. Allow adoptees to gather family moments, piece them together, and draw their own conclusions. Hopefully with the passage of time and a collection of consistent moments, the adoptee will feel like s/he is in a family that will be there for her/him...forever.”
(Editor’s note: Dr. Russell raises thoughtful points which we believe may be of interest to our readers. We welcome any responses that her article may generate.)
From the Director’s Desk: Sonia Girel
I am very pleased to report that in September of 2003, for the fourth consecutive year, Adopt-A-Child received accreditation from the Russian Federation. This reflects both the manner in which we assist our families to adopt, along with our adoptive parents’ attention to Russia’s requests for post-placement reports, photos and registration. I thank everyone for their compliance with these very important matters.
In the past several months we have attended adoption conferences in Charlotte, N.C., Denver, Boston, Chicago, Battlecreek, Mi. and Pittsburgh. It has been a pleasure to present our programs to people from all over the country and have the opportunity to help so many families to adopt. Thank you to our parents who have assisted us with these conferences.
Advocates for Adopted Children from Eastern Europe (AACEE) is a support and educational group for families who have adopted from Eastern Europe. If anyone is interested in learning more about their programs, you may contact them at www.adoptedkids.org or 724-695-8378. We were happy to participate in AACEE’s European Children’s Festival as part of the National Adoption Month celebration.
And finally, on behalf of our office, I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. As always, we so appreciate the cards, pictures and greetings that brighten our office every year at this time.