Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - Morris County Psychological Association met last night for a presentation on Clinical concerns in adoption from Dr. Catherine Bianchi, a clinical psychologist practicing in Morristown on Elm Street. There were twenty people in attendance, mostly members of the Morris County Psychological Association. In a short 30 minute mingle period before Dr. Bianchi's presentation I had the opportunity to ask these mental health professionals what Morris County Residents should know about mental health care. They had a lot to say.
Sarah Dougherty, PsyD, LLC who runs a practice on Mount Kimble Avenue, wanted Morristown residents to know that it's okay to not be sure what kind of mental health care you may need. Call with questions, Dr. Dougherty said. "You don't need to know what you need," she added stating many mental health professionals have specialties, but even if the health care professional you contact is unable to treat you they will likely refer you to another source.
Getting into psychological treatment is tough work, therapy isn't a "one-off," it should be an ongoing process. That being said, it can often feel overwhelming for those new to mental health care to go about seeking a therapist. Members of the MCPA want Morristown residents to know they just need to pick up the phone and call. "Don't be scared to ask questions," added MCPA president Nancy Sidhu.
There may be an assumption among Morristown residents that you need to call a psychologist or therapist knowing what you need. You should know this couldn't be further from the truth. The reason these doctors spend years in school is so that they can learn to identify the type of care you need. You wouldn't go to your general practitioner having already diagnosed and treated yourself. You go to the doctor to find the problem and identify the solution. But the key difference here is therapy or mental health care is a long-term commitment. The best thing you can do to accelerate your treatment is to pick up the phone and call a doctor. MCPA is full of empathetic mental health professionals, each of whom can be contacted on their site at MCPANJ.org. These professionals emphasized they are here to help, and even if they cannot treat you they will happily refer you to a colleague who is suited to treat your unique needs.
The Presentation: Clinical Issues in Adoption for Morristown, NJ by Dr. Catherine Bianchi, Ph.D. in five parts:
1. The Status of Adoption in NJ
"The best outcomes in adoption are supported by the preparation of adoptive parents prior to adoption and support after the adoption." (Brodzinsky, 2008; Lalayants, 2020)
For domestic adoptions, there are three main considerations. First, adoptive parents have a choice between an adoption agency and private adoption. Adoption agencies are freestanding as there is no state certifying agency. Private adoption involves the direct placement of a child from birth mother to new perspective parents through the use of an attorney.
The greatest concern for prospective adoptive parents is the threat of scams. Be wary of being strung along in private adoption promises, handing out money to bio-parents, and communicating with unknown sources. Many parents have gotten their hopes up after sending payments to bio-parents and never getting their child. It's a terrible form of corruption that does irreparable damage to the child and prospective parents.
Often it can be difficult to identify legitimate sources of adoption and there have been some instances of corruption. That is why the best option is to verify your sources. "There are reputable private adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities and Spence Chapin," said Dr. Bianchi. There is a wealth of information available on Catherine Bianchi's website and the NJ Adoption Resources Clearing House webpage.
You may be surprised to know that NJ has no formal mechanism for helping families who wish to overturn an adoption. "A judge can do it, but the problem is that there's no formal way to get there. You can't go somewhere designated and say, 'I want to reverse this adoption.'" And DCPP [Department Child Protection And Permanency] only gets involved in cases of abuse. You can't just call them and ask them to take custody," said Dr. Bianchi in email communications after the presentation.
This becomes problematic when ill or unprepared individuals adopt children and later decide they no longer wish to be that child's guardian. Due to this, children who are no longer wanted by their adoptive parents are "basically shopped around on Facebook groups" on the black market, as noted by Dr. Bianchi.
2. Different Types of Adoption
(Domestic adoption, International Adoption, Adoption from Foster Care, and Surrogacy and Donor Conception.)
Domestic adoption carries with it three concerns; 1. agency or private adoption is possible, 2. a reputable agency or vetted private work is the best bet, 3. these children can be drug-exposed or lacking in prenatal care but are usually placed right after birth.
International adoption has four main considerations; 1. country conditions: the child's adversities are largely dependant on their country of origin and condition of the foster home, 2. for some countries there are residential requirements prior to adoption, many parents will choose to live in a country for a specific amount of time in order to adopt before moving back to their home country, 3. requirements to finalize in the country of origin at a later date, meaning the parent will receive their child but the adoption is not finalized until a later date when the family may (but not necessarily, and not all countries require follow-up) have to return to the country of origin, 4. requirements to finalize citizenship in this country - in other words, a child is not a citizen of this country simply because that child was adopted. There is a process to go through to make your internationally adopted child a citizen of your home country.
Adoption from foster care is one of the least expensive adoption options. Parents who want to help children in need often opt for foster care adoption. Many parents think they will find an infant to adopt from foster care but this is very unlikely. The children are usually older and have likely had a rough go of things to find themselves in the care of a foster home. To adopt, you can foster to adopt, which can be a stressful process as prospective parents have to cooperate with bio-parent visits and possible reunification of the child with bio-parents. You can also adopt directly from foster care if the child's parental rights have already been terminated and the child is already available for adoption.
Surrogacy and donor conception carries with them a variety of unique considerations. Parents may know the donor or not, it may be a semi-open, open, or closed arrangement in which case you may not have information about the donor. Dr. Bianchi noted for surrogacy or donor conception there is often a process of dual mourning taking place in both parents and child. The parents mourn for the child they won't have biologically, and the child mourns for the biological parent lost.
3. What Can Parents Expect?
Families with rigid expectations for child behavior may find difficulties with managing adoptive children with behavioral issues. Common behaviors of adoptive children can include hoarding food, feeding others at the table, stealing, and more behavioral issues. Parents should know these are common concerns for many adopted children. Behaviors like hoarding food, feeding others, and even stealing may be a result of scarcity in the child's foster or prior home. Dr. Bianchi specializes in the treatment of adopted children with behavioral issues. She points out a common phrase heard in her practice, "lucky baby." The phrase refers to the child being "lucky enough to be adopted." Parents should know these children don't always feel lucky and this can be a hurtful statement. In transracial adoptions, for example, children may be confronted with questions about being adopted before they are ready to answer them. So while parents may feel lucky, their child may be mourning and coming to terms with a feeling of rejection. There are many support groups for adopted children and parents of adoptees. Check out NJcare.org for adoption resources.
4. Main Issues in Clinical Care of Adoptees
Children adopted from risky situations, internationally from troubled locations, or domestically from dangerous situations may be missing a large amount of personal information that many others take for granted. Simply missing information about the place, time, or day of birth, name of biological parent or parents, or potential siblings can cause adopted children to feel frustrated with the unknown about themselves. The emotional difficulties associated with missing information are common issues professionals like Dr. Bianchi specialize in treating. If you are a parent struggling with your adopted child's behavior, know you are not alone and are likely doing your absolute best. The child may need professional help from a licensed professional like Dr. Bianchi. It's a common issue for new adoptive parents, struggling with the behavioral issues of their child. The parent or parents may feel at a loss or as if they are failing. I assure you this is not the case. As Dr. Bianchi explained, many adopted children are dealing with difficulties that arose prior to adoption. These behavioral issues may be difficult for new parents, but there are professionals out there who can help, and Dr. Bianchi is a great resource for Morris County residents.
5. Where to Look for Information
Thanks to the help and advice of the MCPA and Dr. Bianchi, I left the meeting last night with a wealth of information and resources for prospective adoptive parents and current parents of adoptees. Below is a list of links and resources for pre and post-adoption: