Early Childhood Trauma

Lisa - posted on 05/26/2009 ( 7 moms have responded )

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I've been reading Deborah Gray's latest book "Nurturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience after Neglect and Trauma" and it is quite startling. It talks about the potentially lifelong impact that early trauma and neglect has on adopted children. Most people seem think believe that providing a loving family and a nurturing environment is all they need. And that kids who aren't adopted at older ages or from foster care don't have any lasting issues (except perhaps medical ones.) Ms. Gray describes just how devastating these kinds of early influences can be - and they may take years to show up.

This seems to me to be a thoroughly undiscussed topic when it comes to pre-adoption education. We've talked to a lot of people about these issues, but no one ever told us that long after an adoption that kids might have problems related to what happened early in life. Were you informed of issues like this before you adopted? Would it have made a difference if you were?

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Kristin - posted on 09/17/2009

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We were informed of what she had been through, and advised to have her see a counselor, however during our home study she never showed any signs of there being an issue and the idea was dismissed with the logic that we should not dredge up things she does not remember.
Now she is having behavior issues, though I am not sure if it is just her age or if it has anything to do with what happened. Since she is our only child I have nothing to gauge her behavior on. I would be very interested in reading this book, and any comments anyone else had on this topic.

Melissa - posted on 07/19/2009

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hello Lisa, my name is melissa. My husband and i adopted our kids 4 yrs ago. They were 4, 2 1/2 and 1. They had a lot of behavioral problems, due to the trama they experienced with their biological parents, but here we are 4 yrs later and they have come so far, if you new our kids back then, you would not recognize them today. It has not been easy, but completely worth it! I would not change it for the world. My two oldest are going to therapy to work out all the issues of the bad memories they have and the emotions they can't deal with. My son was only a year old when we adopted him, and he still has abondanment issues, he can't be alone or he panics. He is getting better, but still stuggles with it everyday. Yes we were told before we adopted our kids about all this, but it would not have mattered to us. Noboday has perfect children right?

Christine - posted on 07/07/2009

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I thank God that a friend told us before our adoption was final that it was going to take years to know the full effects of the abuse my children suffered. My daughter was 5 and my son 6 months. She advised us to use very simple language and tactics. My daughter is 13 now and we know that we still have many hurdles ahead of us. But one thing never changes "The dog has 4 legs and I love you" "I love you, always and forever, no matter what". My son now 9 has lifetime effects of the abuse. We deal with them everyday and have even taken measures to help him learn to overcome. I agree that they make it sound as if once you get them home and love them they will be okay. I think my children will be okay but they will bear the scars of their childhood and each one in different ways. I have never regretted adopting my children, even when the problems surface, I just tell them I love them and that they are my gift from God!!

Jennifer - posted on 07/01/2009

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I think even those who are informed of the possible later in life effects are sort of immune to them, especially the younger a child is. I am an Early Childhood Educater on top of being a foster/adopt parent. I remember sitting through prep classes and bringing up "issues", having the ideas backed up by our agency or whoever was teaching, and then feeling like everyone thought I was just being a pessimist. Which is definately not my personality. I will say that even my knowledge of all the possibilities that can playout from early trauma and neglect (which isn't necessarly caused by adoption, but more so by the situations the child is in preadoption) it does not effect my desire to foster or adopt a child. I DO believe that love and nurturing CAN overcome all things. I've been witness to it too many times! Yes, it may take years of hard work and struggles, and the end result may not be the "perfect" child, but who ever has that, bio or adoptive? I suffered early trauma growing up in my seemingly perfectly normal bio family, it had to be dealt with and overcome (something my 30 year old brother has yet to do) just like any child whether adopted or not. Yes, you see more trauma from adopted kiddos, especially older ones and especially ones from foster care or international adoptions, but that's just due to thier personal stories, it is not due to being adopted. And yes, things can crop up late in life that you would never of dreamed of, but that too is just part of the story. My dear boy was born at 29wks, due to his bio mom useing cocain. It was in his system at birth. We are thankfully pass all the preemie issues and he is thriving and doing well. I adknowledge that we most likely have more struggles to overcome with him, due to his traumatic entry into the world (there are studies showing the traumatic effects of being preemie) but right now I just feel blessed he is my special boy. The moment I laid eyes on him in the NICU I knew he was MY son, no mater what! No one could talk us out of adopting him (and we had people try!). And once again I believe love has overcome! Because we love him it matters not what may or may not crop up any time in his life.

Amy - posted on 06/02/2009

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I agree that I think most people feel if they adopt an infant they have some type of guarantee that there will not be lasting repercussions of their adoption as an infant. Often there is. Primal Wound is theory that states that when a child loses their birth parent there is a wound that can never be filled or repaired. I did know about all this before we adopted (which was a domestic adoption) and now we are working towards pursuing adoption through DCF. I think the chances are higher that you will end up with more problems, emotionally, when adopting through any social services, but you could just as easily end up with emotional problems with a child adopted domestically, internationally or privately. But who can say if these are problems that stem from adoption for sure. Some of them, yes, but some things, like ADHD etc are often grouped in as being "caused" by the child's adoption and the emotional disruption of their adoption. I'm not sure that anyone can prove to what extent adoption can impact a child, but PAP should be aware that there is never a sure thing...but their rarely is in life :)

Emily - posted on 05/31/2009

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Hi, my kids are now 8 and 6, they were 4 and 2 when they came home. I know we had good training prior to our adoption, but I also know that I really had faith in my family that we'd be able to overcome anything. Well, we are, but it's not easy. I didn't want to even entertain the thought that my kids had Reactive Attachment Disorder, but I find myself still after four years dealing with a son who has been kicked out of kindergarten twice for refusing to listen to any authority figure (especially female) and a daughter who struggles daily with re-learning what appropriate social boundaries are. Neither has any impulse control. That said, daily reminders of how much they love us and how much we love them see us through until bedtime, and remembering how far we've come lets us know that progress is being made. Hang in there.

Maxine - posted on 05/31/2009

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Hi Lisa, My name is Maxine, my husband & I have been adjusting the past 3 months to our new daughter's trauma & PTSS disorder. We were told that she has leukemia ( in remission) she's 5 1/2 yrs old. We were not told details of her neglect & trauma. In our 13 week adoption training we did go over what to expect in general, it was alot of information but I don't think we totall realized the impact of the information. When the emotion~part is not yet connected to the info is not as heavy as when you are dealing & living it on a daily bases. Sharin is a doll baby, she looks great( which puts us off guard so to speak) at times when she has a melt down or lies about silly things, wets her bed still. The testing pretty much stopped after 4 weeks. The first 2 wks were nothing I could have been prepared enough for. ( I am a nurse of 22 yrs & seen alot even) She has 2 different therapist at present we will wean her off the "trauma & stablization team" therapist in the near future ( she has been so helpful). These kids do extremely well with the proper tx, our other therapist is for attachment & bonding play theray, once a week~she also helps with the trauma issues. They also recommended many books to read. Ya...she is a fulltime job right now. but the joys increase each day. My husband put it well one day..."why did we wait so long?" and then it's what the heck are we doing?haha


Long story short...we feel your pain! Remember this...." It is the most rewarding pain we will ever go through". If you would like any names of the books we are usually per our therapist pls let me know.


Take Care Lisa


P.S. this is very important: I am still struggling with...make sure you get "your time", keep yourself healthy so she can deal with the daily challenges. I am still trying to balance that with everything else. max ;-)

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