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Marie Dolfi, LCSW                                            
Specializing in Adoption Counseling, Home Studies and Education        518-281-8884     
Adverse Relinquishment & Adoption Experiences
The Adverse Relinquishment & Adoption Experiences (ARAEs) project is an endeavor by Marie Dolfi, LCSW to develop a comprehensive assessment tool of adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences suffered by adoption triad members over their lifetime. Since Deborah Silverstein and Sharon Kaplan Roszia first wrote about the “Core Issues of Adoption” in 1982, there has been an acknowledgement that life experiences impact adoption triad members, but the trauma of relinquishment and adoptive life experiences has not been delineated in a comprehensive assessment tool. While being adopted or having a child relinquished to adoption can be a traumatic life changing experience, relinquishment and adoption life experiences are not equally traumatic. For example, an individual that was a safe haven abandonment with no information would have a different life experience than an individual with an open adoption. An Adverse Relinquishment and Adoption Experiences Assessment similar to the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) would improve the field of adoption by:
Provide clinicians working with adoption triad members an assessment tool that would be evaluate an individual’s relinquishment and adoption experiences considered in totality based upon the impact of their ecological systems over their lifetime. A comprehensive assessment could lead to better clinical treatment and services offered.
Provide a best practice framework for adoption professionals and policy makers on ways to decrease relinquishment and adoption trauma.
Encourage researchers to go beyond statistical collection of adoption triad member demographics and study how clinical interventions can be used more precisely to positively impact clients.

Doing an ARAEs assessment would not replace an ACEs assessment, but rather should be done in conjunction with an ACEs assessment. This would be especially important considering: 1) higher ACE scores for children in foster care ; 2) the intergenerational patterns of some ACES (i.e. multiple generations of children in foster care due to addiction and mental illness). Currently, the first phase of this project is being conduct and includes the collection descriptions of adverse life experiences for adopted individuals, birth/first parents and adoptive parents based upon a review of research, clinical cases and individual accounts with the hope to present the information at a conference
Examples of adverse relinquishment & adoption experiences include:

Birth/First Parent
• Relinquished child for adoption, Coerced to relinquish their child
Child relinquished is a secret from family & friends
Forced to leave school, job or home due to untimely pregnancy
Birth/first father finding out about the child relinquished after adoption

Adopted Individual
Being raised “as if” born into a family
Being a person of color raised as a white person
Adoption dissolution
Having no information on birth family 

Adoptive Parent
Parenting a child with developmental trauma that rejects care and love
Raising a child with special needs when did not apply for special needs adoption
Lack of post adoption services (respite, support groups, adoption sensitive counseling) for family with child with developmental trauma

Adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences are caused by a wide variety of events at multiple levels of ecological systems; some of which could be avoided by evidenced based best practice of counseling prospective birth/first parents and prospective adoptive parents, increased services offered to adoption triad members, and better laws & policies. It should not be simplified that adoption in itself is always a traumatic experience, rather relinquishment and adoption experiences should be looked as a series of complex life events which professionals and support system can help to decrease the negative impact on adoption triad members.

It is Marie Dolfi’s hope that a ARAEs discussion would lead to a more sophisticated view of adoption constellation member’s life experiences and to move away from generalizations like “all birth/first mothers feel”, “birth/first fathers are always”, “all adoptees are”, and “adoptive parents are always” which can lead to unsupported generalizations that can be inaccurate. Hopefully as a better understanding of ARAEs develops it will lead to: better options counseling, clinical training for working with adoption triad members, supportive services designed to reduce ARAEs, decrease in adoption dissolutions and improved policies both at the time of relinquishment and laws impacting individuals after finalization.
If you would like to talk to Marie about the ARAEs project, please email her at
Information on this website can not be reproduced or used without the written permission of Marie Dolfi. It is original material that is published on this website.

Since adoption only happens because of the involvement of systems, we need to acknowledge both the positive and negative impact of systems on adoption triad members over their lifetime.
Macrosystem: Wider society, laws, culture, stigmas
Laws: Sealed foster care & adoption records, sealed original birth certificates, Multiethnic Placement Act, unenforceable post adoption contact agreements, laws on safe haven relinquishment, lack of laws requiring legal representation & true options counseling for anyone considering adoption for their child, laws on termination of parental rights
Societal views: negative views on adoption triad members & adoption
Education: Lack of training in degree programs on adoption issues for social workers and other adoption professionals
Services: lack of supports for prospective birth/first parents with untimely pregnancy, lack of post adoption services for adoptive families and birth/first parents, unnecessary extended stays in foster care & inefficient family court systems
Views on race, ethnicity & transracial adoption: don’t see color
Adoption microaggressions are acceptable by society
Political climates of countries that encourage intercountry adoption

Exosystem: Systems that family members participate in that indirectly impact an individual
Availability of birth/first parent and adoption support groups
Availability of adoption professionals (case managers, social workers, home study providers, agency workers, attorneys) with training on options counseling, relinquishment and adoption issues support system at time of untimely pregnancy and post adoption

Microsystem -Individuals in the home:
Support available around the core issues of adoption (Deborah Silverstein & Sharon Kaplan Roszia) or does the family pretend that:
Relinquishment of child did not happen
Adoptive family believe it is disloyal to talk about the birth family and adoption issues

Mesosystem: Systems that the individual was or is involved in (extended family, employment, community, neighborhood, school)
Foster care- level of care, length of stay
Orphanage- level of care, length of stay
Time/relationship with adoptive parents prior to placement 
Racial diversity of community & school for adopted individual who is a person of color raised by white parents
Relationships with people of their race/ethnicity for persons of color raised by white parents
Mentors for adoptive parents on parenting a child who joins family by adoption
Birth/first parents support system at time of untimely pregnancy and post adoption
Birth mother kicked out of school, home or her job due to an untimely pregnancy
Maternity homes
Support groups, conferences for adoption triad members