The Gospel Coalition this week released a penetrating article spotlighting the sometimes-intense struggles that adoptive families can face, particularly as children who’ve experienced severe neglect or abuse enter adolescence.
“As Adoption Ages: How Parents Are Handling Teen Challenges,” by Sarah Zylstra.
The article’s title hints at the large number of families that adopted children a decade or so ago … and now find themselves amidst a very different combination of gifts and difficulties than they faced in the early years of their adoption journey.
Admittedly, the article focuses especially on some of the most difficult situations out there, from serious mental illness to violence within the home. Studies of adoptive families consistently indicate that – although adopted individuals do often face distinct struggles, especially in their adolescence and early adulthood – the large majority tend to do well in the long-run. Having experienced severe deprivation or abuse in early childhood can amplify the challenges greatly. But even in the most difficult of situations, children in adoptive families most always do dramatically better than their peers who were not adopted and grew up without families.
Even so, the stories the article recounts are not merely outliers. Sticky notes on my desk carry prayer reminders for many, many dear friends and acquaintances I’ve met in the CAFO community who are in the midst of intensely difficult times with their adopted teens. Some of these prayers have been answered marvelously. In other cases, the answers seem a very long way off.
To be sure, the potential for special challenges in the teen years is not destiny. Countless adoptive families are thriving in this season of life. But, at least drawing from observation and anecdotal evidence, it does seem that the teen and early adult years tend to be the peak of challenges for a sizable portion of adoptive families.
As we often express at CAFO, adoption invites us to walk with Christ into places of great brokenness. Many children welcomed through adoption have known immense hurt. When we welcome these precious lives into our hearts and homes, we choose to share in that hurt with them. Among many other things, this reality calls the church to be the church for these families and for the children they love – in prayer and spiritual support, encouragement and non-judgmental understanding, practical support and service, and more.
Read more about these deep struggles…as well as hints of the hope to be found within them…in the article, “As Adoption Ages: How Parents Are Handling Teen Challenges.”