Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beyond Attachment

At the Adoption Counselor blog, a plea to go beyond attachment in educating adoptive parents:
When is the adoption industry going to move beyond the notion that attachment is the key to everything? I mean really, the myth is perpetuated that once the child achieves the capacity to experience a reciprocal attachment relationship with the adoptive parents then there will be no further problems and the adoptive family will be no different than a genetic neurotypical family. Just look at the adoption conferences – the main topic is generally about attachment strategies. All the conferences and seminars I’m asked to speak at want something from me about how to facilitate and create attachment. How did we get to this place?
I mean really – yes, attachment is important because it means that parts of the child’s brain have developed physically to a point where relationships are possible. That’s good, even I can agree to that. But —- the problem is that there’s a total denial about the incredible significance of factors that I think are vital.
* * *
Vital # 4 – no matter how attached our children become, and even if they attain emotional regulation, there is still the birth family to consider. Our children have more than one set of parents and the adoption industry needs to accept that reality beyond the lip service it currently gives. The bparents may be active in the children’s lives forever, or they may show up courtesy of Facebook at the worst possible time. Whether or not the bparents are present, they live in our children’s brains where they exert great influence. The loss, the abandonment, the attachment (there is often an attachment between even the most drugged out and violent parents and their children), and the memories that are conscious and those that exist in neuronal shadows - these are all a barrier to the pretense that the miracle of attachment will transform us into genetic neurotypical families.
I, too, am a big fan of attachment parenting.  I did it all -- wearing baby, mirror games, co-sleeping, you name it!  Because that's what I learned during pre-adoption training, and that's pretty much all I learned about adoption parenting.  I got NOTHING beyond the first day, the first month, the first year.  It was as if my kids would stop being "adopted kids" and would simply be "kids" after that first year! 
No one told me about other issues adoption would bring, no one told me about adoption issues my school-age children would face or what adoption issues might arise in the teen years or how young adults have adoption issues. No training on talking to my kids about adoption, no mention of grieving the loss of a birth mother you never knew.  Everything I learned was basically:
attachment parenting = adoption parenting
Everything else I had to learn on my own . . . which is pretty much why this blog exists!  And why there's that blogroll to the right with adoptee and birth mother blogs -- they were my textbooks on adoption parenting beyond attachment.


Kris said...

Same here. All education focused on attachment. Some on nutrition and health problems of the previously institutionalized child. But pretty much nothing beyond the first year.

ChristyCanuck said...

Thank you for linking to this great blogpost. So true!

And thank you for all the great resources you post about on your site that go beyone attachment to address the whole child.

-J.D. Humenay said...

As an adopted kid, I did attach well to my family, I'd say. My legal parents are my "parents", but I also have a biologically family too. They are more "friends" than "parents", but they ARE a part of my life, and not matter how much I love my parents (the legal set that raised me), I do still have some emotions about my biological family. Not ones that are debilitating or anything, but I care for them as I'd care for friends. I'm SO glad my parents didn't deny me those emotions. They understood as best they could, and I love and appreciate that (now, as an adult - as a kid, I wasn't sure what to make of it).

Sharon said...

We adopted older kids, and were required to take a class from our agency on Adopting the Older Child. I don't remember how much talked about attachment; I do recall we talked about respecting the child's privacy and not telling their story everywhere but letting the child decide who they wanted to share it with. I found that to be really valuable advice. The class also covered finding role models etc of the same race/ethnicity as your child. I feel fortunate to have dealt with a good agency.