Accessing & Layering Post-Adoption Services

By Salena Burden You are not alone. There are hundreds of families around you, thousands of families across the United States and worldwide that are searching for the same thing you are. They are looking for the answers to help their children heal. Although there is no magic wand that will erase the trauma and pain that your children have experienced, there are resources in most communities that can help. There are advances in science and research, happening as you read, with professionals from the medical, psychology, social work and educational fields, folks trying to discover what else can help your child heal. Have hope. Whether you live in a bustling urban area or a quiet, rural area, the availability of post-adoption services may vary drastically. I would like to provide you some thoughts on how to layer the post-adoption services you have at your fingertips. When searching for post-adoption services, it would be ideal if the providers and supports you work with are trauma-informed and adoption-competent. When searching for supports that are trauma-informed, they should recognize that trauma is pervasive and have the ability to recognize signs of trauma within children. They need to understand that traumatic stress does not occur for every child who has experienced a traumatic event, but that those youth who have experienced traumatic stress have the ability to heal. More information regarding trauma-informed practice can be obtained by referring to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration website at When referring to adoption competency, ask if the provider you are working with is aware of the seven core issues of adoption. They include the following: 1. Loss 2. Rejection 3. Guilt and Shame 4. Grief 5. Identity 6. Intimacy 7. Mastery/control. (Silverstein and Kaplan, 1982). These lifelong issues of adoption can affect adoptees at any time or can be triggered by specific milestones in life. While it would be ideal for your providers to be trauma-informed and adoption-competent, finding that combination is not always possible. I have some suggestions when seeking out the layers of post-adoption supports that would be great in conjunction with foundational knowledge of adoption. What does your family need? When you think of post-adoption services, what comes to mind? You might say, “Services for my child.” Services for your child are important, but more critically important to think about, what does each member of your family need? In order for your child to receive the best care one could possibly imagine from the best parent in the world, you need to take care of yourself. Is it possible that because of the hard place your child came from, that you have taken in that trauma? Some call it post-secondary trauma, also known as vicarious trauma. When you are hearing about what terrible things your child has experienced, that takes a toll on your mind, body and soul as well. Think about what you may need, separate, and in addition to, what your child needs. If there are other members of your family, consider that they may be affected as well and could also benefit from support and/or services. Mobilize your allies. Who can be your advocate in your community? Can you identify your child’s previous caseworker, your foster care licensing worker, a post-adoption specialist, a parent advocate, therapist or counselor? Reach out to your post-adoption ally as soon as you recognize the need for assistance. The more quickly you reach out, the less likely you will need to layer more complex services down the road. What are some general services to look for to support your family? These may include family and individual counseling, medication management, case management, support groups, mentoring and family coaching. Are there electronic resources that can provide you resources? Sign up for local adoption newsletter or email subscriptions, search your social media for support, and subscribe to helpful electronic magazines such as Adoption Today and Fostering Families Today. What does your faith-based community have to offer? There are churches, Jewish community centers and mosques that offer a variety of support in their communities. These supports may be in the form of youth groups, parent groups, counseling services and emergency services. Additionally, some churches offer incredible conferences to support families, both blended and adopted. What does your mental health community have to offer? If your child has some significant mental health needs you may be working with a local behavioral health hospital or agency. Some of them offer mental health case management services, counseling and medication management onsite at their facility. Additionally, some offer wraparound services or crisis stabilization support in the form of mobile response teams. What does your educational system have to offer? Reach out to the guidance counselor at your child’s school to see what types of programs they offer for helping your child develop academically, socially and emotionally. What does your child’s insurance company have to offer? Many youth adopted through foster care have some type of adoption Medicaid assistance. Medicaid, although a standard adoption benefit, is structured differently state to state. You may live in an area where Medicaid services are under one managing umbrella, or you may live in an area where it has moved to managed care, where multiple health insurance companies have contracts in various areas and you have options to choose from. Whatever the structure is in your area, there are some services that may be available through the insurance company that you wouldn’t traditionally think of as post-adoption services, but could be beneficial. If your child has mental or behavioral health needs you may consider reaching out to the insurance company to see if they offer behavioral health case management. A behavioral health case manager can assist you in navigating mental health providers in your child’s health care network if that is a service that needs to be accessed. Additionally, they may be able to help identify how to work through authorization processes. If your child has complex medical needs, consider reaching out to your insurance company to see if they have nurse case management services. For those of you who adopted privately, check with your private insurance company to see what services they have to offer as well — you may be surprised at what you find. There are a lot of opportunities for post-adoption support once you begin to explore the varying layers of resources available in your area. Remember, there is hope. There are many families who have found resources in their community to support them through their lifelong journey of adoption, and I hope these tips help those who are still searching. a ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Salena Burden is married and is a mother to a 3-year-old girl. Burden has worked in child welfare and adoptions for more than 12 years and has a passion for helping families in adoption. She developed Central Florida’s first post-adoption program which began in 2007. Burden has presented on post-adoption services on local, state-wide and national platforms and is one of the adoption competency trainers for the State of Florida. Burden currently works as the statewide adoption services consultant for Community Based Care Integrated Health in Florida.

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