Common Long-Term Issues Faced By Adoptive Families & How to Solve Them

January 12, 2023 | 5 min read

Adoptive families face a unique set of challenges once they come together under one roof. In many cases, adoptive families aren’t aware of the common yet long-term issues that may arise in their home. Unsurprisingly, “traditional” families simply don’t even have to acknowledge some of the most strenuous issues faced by adoptive families long term. 

Long-term issues faced by adoptive families can be an extension of challenges found during the first few steps of forming a family through adoption. Things like helping children adapt to their new environments, managing the mental health upkeep of each part of the family, and guiding the adopted children through tough emotions like grief and rejection can be time-consuming and, at first glance, overwhelming.

However, adoptive families need to know that many other people have been in strikingly similar situations and have found ways to adapt to these challenges to benefit their entire family unit.

Adoptive families need to know that many other people have been in strikingly similar situations and have found ways to adapt to challenges to benefit their entire family unit. Find out more:

The Seven Core Issues Faced By Adoptive Families

Family care and child welfare experts have identified the seven core issues in adoption that all members of the family can experience. These are based on years of research, first-person experiences, and input from adoptive families. 

Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency are experienced by all members of the constellation and include the following:

  • Loss
  • Rejection
  • Shame and Guilt
  • Grief
  • Identity
  • Intimacy
  • Mastery and Control

These core issues form a framework for adoptive families and those who provide aid for them to understand where potential problems may be stemming from. Most times, if not always, challenges found in an adoptive family can easily be traced back to one of these core issues and therefore helps direct to proven solutions.

Mental Health

A change as significant as being adopted into a new family is sure to trigger some mental health issues in children that can manifest in various ways. No matter their relationship with their biological family, the very nature of this significant shift can elicit feelings of grief, loss, shame, and guilt - some of the seven core issues of adoption. 

It’s never pleasant to experience mental health crises, especially as a child. Children cannot verbalize and process complex emotions they likely haven’t had to experience at this level. 

Unprocessed grief and shame can easily rear their head as a more significant mental health issue - often manifesting in:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger issues
  • Fear of abandonment

As an adoptive family, you deeply understand the importance of making your adopted children feel accepted and at home. Even if you do everything “right,” these core issues are unavoidable. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in adoptive parents. We want you to know that these core issues are - more times than not - par for the course. But, how you act on these problems as adoptive parents can help you reach a successful solution for everyone in your family. 

Open-ended questions you can ask your family to drive productive conversations about mental wellness:

  • How would you put how you’ve felt over the past week into words? 
  • Has anything been stressing you out recently?
  • What does your ideal day look like? 
  • What’s something you’re looking forward to? What’s something you’re not looking forward to? 
  • What or who do you miss the most right now? 
  • How can we make you feel more comfortable at home?

Social Integration & Perception

Another layer of the seven core issues includes self-perception and integration into a new social world. After adoption, children can often struggle with their familial identity as they navigate their new surroundings and family members. This can permeate all the way into personal identity.

Stemming from identity issues, all members of the adoptive family can struggle with intimacy, meaning the closeness between family members and fear of rejection. There are a lot of unknowns once adoption begins, and nobody in the family unit is immune to feelings of insecurity.

Family care and child welfare experts have identified the 7 core issues in adoption that all members of the family can experience. 🔍These are based on years of research, first-person experiences, and input from adoptive families. Find them here:

Sense of Belonging

Often, adoptive families will run into iterations of this issue without even realizing it. Subconsciously, adopted children can feel like they don’t have one solid place they belong. This is usually attributed to their adoption process and the transformation required of them to join their adoptive family.

Psychology Today explains, “Adoptees often experience a wide range of emotions related to their adoption. Many report a close relationship with their adoptive families and always feeling like they ‘belonged.’

The process of adoption can bring up a lot of feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, but the key to navigating these tough emotions is acknowledging that they are likely going to be a part of your family’s journey. By knowing this, you can prepare to recognize how these issues may arise and already have some ideas to help fix them.

How these issues can show up:

Questions you can ask your family to assist in their social integration and feelings of personal identity:

  • Outside of our family, what makes you you? What are the three qualities you know that you hold and like about yourself? 
  • What makes a family? Is it just one thing, or is it multiple things?
  • What are the best qualities you can show as a friend, and how would you like your friends to treat you?

Adoptive families have specific hurdles they will need to face, but with a brief acknowledgment of what challenges might be to come and tools in your toolbelt ready to tackle them, these issues can be faced head-on. 

Learn more about how to strengthen your family formed by adoption by taking a look at our Families Forever program, the support we offer, and get in contact with us at NCHS today.