By Barbara Granger, CFP, Family Coordinator, Via Hope
Raising any child can be a challenge, but raising an adoptive child holds additional challenges. The child you’ve hoped and dreamed for came with more than you thought you could handle. More times than not, you are unaware of medical histories, including mental health. As the child is maturing, mental health challenges may start emerging – some more severe than others.
We found that to be true in the life of our family. We knew some birth history, but not enough to have prepared for what was to lie ahead. Now thankfully, we have been able to put the pieces together along with our daughter’s symptoms. She has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Exposure, which has impaired her cognitive reasoning, as well as her emotional dysregulation. Now that we understand this, the knowledge has has given us insight and changed our parenting perspective. It gives us hope in her future, not in a cure, but in the ways we can support her. It has also given me the gift of my career as I advocate for stronger family involvement and voice, not only in a child’s treatment but beyond to help shape policies and procedures in the community, the state and even nationally.
Mental health challenges affect the whole family. Your extended family can often question or judge your parenting decisions. Friends, who were once in your inner circle, start backing away. Careers are altered when employers don’t understand the times you are called away, or the decisions you need to make seem to be a reflection of your parenting, which then leads to character misassumptions.
Many of these circumstances surround any parent raising a child with mental health challenges, but in the life of the adoptive parent, the unknowns weigh on you causing you to feel helpless and continually searching for answers to questions you may never find. The unknown traumas that a child may have experienced pose challenges difficult to pinpoint just by the symptoms that exist. Knowing all of this doesn’t change the fact that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Our journey may not be what I envisioned when I first held our precious daughter in my arms, but it is a journey I can be proud of and it’s taking me places I could never have imagined.