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Mental health consequences often unspoken for adoptees

The answer to the question, “What is family?” requires context. The word has a legal meaning and ramifications but possesses and equally important incorporates social, psychological, emotional and physiological context. Relationships lie at the core of a family. All parties to an adoption know too well about these complexities. Adoptees—those placed with someone not their biological parent—face a transition that increases the risk for mental health issues.


Although a legal process experienced by about 140,000 people annually, adoption involves a process of reattachment. Trauma presents the first hurdle in this period of adjustment. Even children relinquished at birth experience a form of disenfranchised grief. Multiple studies reveal that adoptees’ endure higher levels of depression and anxiety, as well as bipolar disorder.

Common responses to a new home

Attachment, or emotional connectedness, develops early on. Those who enter their adopted parents lives at later than one year old, experience these issues more acutely. When combined with different messaging between the different homes, adoptees can feel conflicted. Among the most significant issues adoptees face include:

  1. Disenfranchised grief: Grief that people generally do acknowledge publicly. Society encourages adoptees to downplay their situations and be grateful.
  2. Hypervigilance: Adoptees experience changes in hormone levels when separated at an early age and it becomes a learned response.
  • Self-Awareness: Absence of a frame of reference of your biological parents, your genetics, leaves children stuck between two worlds.

Adoptive parents in Georgia must satisfy a fixed set of requirements. The other parties, adoptees, often experience a much less straightforward path in their new home. An attorney who understands adoption as a legal and social process can offer guidance.