LightHouse Counseling Services

...focusing on the special needs of adoptive families

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Core Issues of Adoption

While we all deal with these life issues to some degree or another, adoptees have specific concerns that relate to their life situations. As adults, they may feel they have cognitively processed and have worked through some of these issues, yet their response is often experiential rather than cognitive, and they may be triggered in these areas by developmental milestones and life changes.


  • Loss – Fear of ultimate abandonment. They have lost biological, genetic and cultural history. They have issues with holding on and letting go.
  • Rejection – Issues of self-esteem. They feel they can only be chosen if rejected first. They anticipate rejection and misperceive situations.
  • Guilt/Shame – They feel they deserve misfortune. They are ashamed of being different, ashamed of their past and of their history. They may take a defensive stance as a coping mechanism.
  • Grief – Grief may be overlooked in childhood and blocked by the adult. This can lead to depression or acting out.
  • Identity – Lack of information about their history may impede integration of identity. They may search for identity in inappropriate ways such as early pregnancy, ineffective relationships, or extreme behaviors in order to create a sense of belonging.
  • Intimacy – Fear of getting close and reenacting earlier losses. Fear that if others know who they “really are” they will be rejected.
  • Control – Cause and effect thinking may be skewed. Adoption has altered their life course without any input from them. 


Adapted from Silberstein and Kaplan 1986
Photo by: Mrs. W