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The effects on child and adult mental health of adoption and foster care 

The effects on child and adult mental health of adoption and foster care
The effects on child and adult mental health of adoption and foster care

June Thoburn

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date: 23 May 2022

Adoption and foster care are important ‘solutions’ to identified problems or risks, but potentially they are also contributors to problem behaviours or emotional difficulties. In their problem-solving role, they are seen as potential solutions, not only to actual or future mental health problems of children, but also to the adverse effects of involuntary childlessness. This chapter concentrates on the impact of adoption and foster care on the children placed, but their role in problem solution or problem generation for adults is also touched on. Adoption is more often than not a satisfactory way of meeting the need to become parents for those childless couples who succeed in having a child placed with them (a tiny minority of the involuntary childless). It is very rarely a solution to the problems of a parent who gives up a child for adoption whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Studies of adults who relinquished children indicate that the reaction to the loss of their child may be associated with moderate distress or may lead to a long-term grief reaction, which in turn will potentially harm children subsequently born to that parent. One must also note that some parents who lose a child to adoption or foster care are themselves children, sometimes not yet in their teens, whose needs are often overlooked in the interests of providing for the infant.

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