Study on Effects of Past Adoption Experiences

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has just released its final report from a study about the post-adoption service needs of those involved in adoption, including placing mothers and adoptees.  Some key findings:

The experiences of the mothers who participated in this study would suggest that the long-term effects of past adoption practices cannot be understated. Mothers described a range of areas where practices relating to their experience of adoption continue to affect them now, including:
1. the birth process;
2. differential treatment from married mothers;
3. experiences of abuse or negligence by hospital and/or maternity home staff;
4. administration of drugs that impaired their capacity;
5. lack of the ability to give or revoke consent;
6. not being listened to about their preferences; and
7. being made to feel unworthy or incapable of parenting, particularly from authority figures.
* * *

These experiences have left many feeling they were the victims of a systematic approach to recruiting "undeserving mothers" for the service of deserving married couples. There were very few birth mothers in the study who felt that the adoption was their choice.

Persons Who Were Adopted

One of the most significant findings within this respondent group appears to be that, regardless of whether they had a positive or more challenging experience growing up within their adoptive family (roughly equal proportions of each participated in this study), most participants identified issues relating to problems with attachment, identity, abandonment and the parenting of their own children.

Compared to Australian population estimates, adoptees responding to our survey had lower levels of wellbeing and higher levels of psychological distress, and almost 70% of adoptee survey respondents agreed that being adopted had resulted in some level of negative effect on their health, behaviours or wellbeing while growing up. These negative effects included:
1. hurt from secrecy and lies surrounding their adoption and subsequent sense of betrayal;
2. identity problems;
3. feelings of abandonment;
4. feeling obligated to show gratitude throughout their lives;
5. low levels of self-worth; and
6. difficulties in forming attachments to others.
Some of these issues became more poignant when the adoptee had his/her own children, which in itself is an area for consideration in relation to the focus of current support needs.
Nothing new in these results to anyone who's been paying attention to what birth mothers and adult adoptees have been saying for years, but maybe in an officially sanctioned government study people will finally start paying attention.