Vicarious traumatization is a term that describes the cumulative transformative effect on the helper of working with survivors of traumatic life events. The symptoms can appear much like those of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also encompass changes in frame of reference, identity, sense of safety, ability to trust, self-esteem, intimacy, and a sense of control. The presence of vicarious traumatization has been noted in many groups of helping professionals who have close contact with people who have experienced traumatic events. Caregivers are at even higher risk if they have a history of trauma in their own backgrounds and if they extend themselves beyond the boundaries of good self-care or professional conduct.
We sometimes see in the writings and comments of adopters and potential adopters, the signs of vicarious trauma. We see it too in mothers-of-loss and sometimes in adoptees who want to fix it for all of the rest of us.
There are many adopters who suffer the difficulties of post-adoption depression and in a world where adoption is touted as beautiful and an unrealistic picture presented, it must be difficult to achieve a balance between reality and dreams, hopes and plans. The adoption industry seems to do very badly at this preparation of potential adopters, perhaps in fear of lost income and profits, in a business where the numbers of adoptions is steadily falling. The special difficulties of becoming a non-biological parent often seem to be inadequately addressed and prospective adoptive parents are left to flounder, struggle with their feelings, doubts and misgivings.
These days it seems most adopters who are experiencing difficulties following adoption are able to admit to having post- adoption depression or other difficulties and receive treatment, support or help for it from trained professionals. As many as 65% are estimated to have PAD and much of that could be prevented by much more efficient screening, better selection and skilled preparation. Even better results would be achieved if the adoption industry was cleaned up, became ethical and was not corrupt, money -making and about supplying children to adults. If we were able to achieve a situation where only those children who really need a family are provided with the very best possible and all other children are supported in being able to remain with their biological families in their own countries we would see a huge change in the outcomes of adoption. There are those of us who will always need adoption for a variety of reasons – genuine lack of suitable family; abusive, dysfunctional family. There are many changes that could be made to adoption to make it a safer, more secure option for children. The problem seems to be finding those who are committed to promoting those changes, bringing them into law and practice. It seems that those who are law-makers and have the power, so often consider other things a priority and the lives and welfare of adoptees of minority interest and importance.