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  • Writer's pictureBecca Flatt MSW,CSWA

Mending The Adopted Heart

Hello and welcome. I decided to start this blog, Mending the Adopted Heart, because there is a tremendous need for adoption-competent information within the broader mental health community that centers on adult and adolescent adoptee voices. When I refer to adolescent and adult adoptees, I include transracial, same race, kinship, late discovery, and all other adoptee experiences that make up the adoptee community. The main focus of this blog will not be on adopted infants and children. Yes, every adult was an infant and child once; however, development does not end in childhood; it continues until we cease to be. I find much of the focus on adoption and mental health centers around infants and children without considering the simple fact that infants and children grow into adolescents and adults. This blog is a place for adolescent and adult adoptees to find mirrors for their experience that often lacks mirrors.

While getting my education to become a therapist, I often read about communities experiencing systemic oppression and its impact on mental health. From the root of systemic oppression exists intergenerational trauma. During my time in both my undergraduate and graduate program, I had access to two vast libraries and substantial databases of peer-reviewed articles; there was little to no research on adoptee mental health across the life span. I tried writing papers on adoption throughout my schooling and recognized a lack of peer-reviewed evidence to support academic writing between 2003 and 2014. During this period, I found very little research that would allow me to write the 10-20 page research papers required. There were research requirements on all papers to be supported by peer-reviewed evidence no more than 15 years old. Most of the research I found focused on why closed adoption was harmful and lacked any consideration for adoptee mental health concerning adoption itself or how adoption intertwines with systemic oppression and intergenerational truama. Most of these articles were from the 1980s, so they would not have been allowed. In the dissertation, Treatment Considerations For Adoption-related Complex Trauma, Jesica Reyka M.A (2019) determined that there continues to be a lack of research on adoption and mental health in academia. Reyka's assertion indicates lack of supportive evidence continues to be an ongoing issue. I assert it will continue to be an issue until more adult adoptees gain more power in institutions that support the research and identification of mental health outcomes for adoptees from qualitative research that centers on adoptees' stories of struggle and pain.

My main focus was on getting my degrees, for, without my degree, I would be unable to work within the system to provide services. I changed my priority and continued onward with the knowledge that one day I would be in a position to speak up and out about the lack of research plaguing adult adoptee mental health. I recognized the future held the possibility for me to help move towards creating and implementing evidence-based treatment modalities to help support adolescent and adult adoptee mental health. While this was a vague sense, it was still underlying every academic step I took.

So here we are as I write these words hoping to increase awareness of the need for culturally competent and adoption competent mental health treatment. At the very least, I hope to help reduce the retraumatization of adult adoptees in mental health treatment by well-meaning, yet, ultimately adoption incompetent therapists.

It is my most profound belief that therapists should not provide mental health treatment for adolescent and adult adoptees unless they have extensive expertise. To me, this includes an in-depth understanding of adoption-related issues, understanding of adoption myths, societal bias related to adoption, a historical reference for adoption, and training based on adoption-related complex trauma.

My hope for this space is to bring other adoptees working as adoption competent mental health providers and adoptee-centered activists as guest contributors to help get as much adoptee insight and wisdom into this space as possible. I recognize I am only one voice, and while that can be powerful, my lenses are mine alone, and adoptee experiences are vast and just as complex as any human experience. Adoptee voices, stories, and truths are essential to understanding adoption and its effects. We are the only experts that can identify what we need.

This blog is for adoptees, and while I hope it opens the door for communication with other mental health therapists, I am not writing for them. Yes, professionalism is essential (i.e., maintaining appropriate therapeutic boundaries, etc.). Professionalism is often utilized as a weapon and a tool of oppression (i.e., natural Black hairstyles being deemed unprofessional, etc.)

I want to further the conversation on adoptee mental health. I will normalize experiences the border mental health continues not to discuss.

Thank you for joining me here.

In my next post, I will discuss what is missing for adoptees in mental health treatment.

Becca Flatt MSW, CSWA

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