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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) assessment project is an endeavor by Marie Dolfi, LCSW to develop a comprehensive assessment tool which lists adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences experienced by adoption triad members. The field of adoption acknowledges 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. For an experience to be included on the ARAEs assessment, the experience needs to be a: Stressful or traumatic life event that preceded an adoption or occurred after an adoption finalization that has a negative and long-lasting impact on an individual’s health, self-esteem &/or behavior. With adoption only occurring because of changes in the family system and the involvement of professionals, the ARAEs assessment takes into consideration the systems adoption triad members interact over their lifetime. An ecological systems model provides an ideal framework to look at adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences because it acknowledges the impact of the extended family, communities, adoption professionals, services, and adoption laws/policies on triad members. The advantage of an adverse relinquishment and adoption experience assessment is that it broadens an assessment from the simplicity of “is it an adoption issue” to a comprehensive look as to the reality of the number of ARAEs experienced by an adoption triad member over their life time as well as an opportunity to look at an individual’s ecological system to assess the best places for support and intervention.

The adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences listed in the ARAEs assessment were compiled from a review of adoption literature (research, biographical & autobiographical), professionals sharing on clinical cases, and individuals accounts shared by adoption triad members. As of May 3, 2018 the ARAEs assessment includes:
49 Adverse Relinquishment & Adoption Experiences for birth/first parents
63 Adverse Relinquishment & Adoption Experiences for adopted individuals
31 Adverse Relinquishment and Adoption Experiences for adoptive parents

While the ARAEs assessment does not include adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences that have impacted triad member’s extended families due to a need to limit the scope of this endeavor, the author acknowledges that extended family members/ adoption constellation members also experience adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences. 

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

The ecological systems paradigm is a concept delineated by Urie Bronfrenbrenner who emphasized a person's development is impacted not only by the systems that an individual interacts with but the system their family members interact with as well as the impact of the greater society. Bronfrenbrenner identified the following ecological systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem and chronosystem. 

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

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

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

Future steps
The next phase of the project is to continue to interview adoption triad members on their adverse life experiences to “fine tune” the list. The second phase would be to develop a draft of a self-administered assessment that would provide an individual an opportunity to rank the severity of the adverse life experience and what age range the adverse experience happened. It is Marie Dolfi’s hope that an assessment tool for adverse relinquishment and adoption experiences would lead to a more in-depth and precise view of adoption constellation member’s life experiences .

The ARAEs assessment can not be reproduced with the written consent of Marie Dolfi.