The layers of trauma in adoption are complex and multiplied.

The need for adoption begins with trauma, usually intergenerational trauma that our biological families experience that result in us being relinquished / abandoned. As adoptees, our primary trauma begins at relinquishment / abandonment, being stolen or lost and illicitly/illegally adopted. Then we live the loss of identity (family, kin, culture, country, language, race) when plenary adoption severs us permanently from our origins and via intercountry adoption, relocates us to a completely new country/culture/people/language.

Secondary trauma can then occur after the adoption itself, whether that be through abuse, neglect, living an adoption breakdown, being re-homed, not being granted citizenship, being deported back to our birth country, etc.

Artwork by CS Massey aka YooNett: Tears of Trauma

Recommended Resources to understand the Trauma in Adoption

Karyn Purvis: The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family (book), an article about her work Helping Children Heal from Trauma, Lessons from Karyn Purvis, and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development

Paul Sunderland: Relinquishment and Adoption – Understanding the impact of an early psychological wound (video)

Chaitra Wirta-Leiker: Understanding and Responding to Adoption Trauma Behaviours (video series)

Sara Easterly, Lori Holden, Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard: Adoption Unfiltered: Revelations from Adoptees, Birth Parents, Adoptive Parents and Allies (book)

Nancy Verrier: The Primal Wound (book)

Meggin Nam Holtz: The Unrecognised Developmental Trauma of Early Relinquishment in Adoption

Dr Gina Samuels: Trauma and Transracial Adoption Podcast

Mari Dolfi: Adverse Relinquishment and Adoption Experiences (ARAEs) Assessment

Mari Dolfi: Relinquishment Trauma – The Forgotten Trauma

OLLIE Foundation: The Unacknowledged Grief of Adoption (online presentation)

Paul Sunderland: Adoption & Addiction (video)

Jigsaw QLD: Grief & Loss in Adoption

Sarah Nish: Therapeutic Parenting : Strategies and Solutions (podcast)

Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families (book)

Beacon House: Repair of Early Trauma – A Bottom Up Approach

Harvard University: The Science of Neglect

Intergenerational Trauma Animation (video)

Gabor Mate: The Wisdom of Trauma (documentary)

Bessel van den Kolk: The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma (book)

Bruce Perry: Trauma Informed Teaching and the Brain

Blue Knot Foundation: Talking About Trauma – Guide to Conversations and Screening by Health and Other Service Providers

In Utero: The Documentary

ROAR – a book and guide for carers looking after young children in alternative care to help them understand their complex emotions

Words Matter: Trauma Sensitive Language for Children

Secondary Trauma in Adoption

ICAV blogs about the less-spoken about trauma of abuse from within adoptive homes:

Another adoptee led resource on abuse in adoption: Adapted (Podcast): Kaomi Lee (her own experience).
Interview with Peter Möller on the Korean adoptees who have been abused in their homes and the investigation of these by the Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2022 (listen to the last 7 mins of the interview).

ICAV has created a webinar in November 2021 to educate people on the impacts of living an illicit / illegal intercountry adoption:

See also our Perspective Paper in English or French on what we want authorities and governments to do in response to our illicit / illegal intercountry adoptions.

An adoptee led org in the USA, Also-Known-As created a webinar in November 2021 to educate people of the lived experience of deportation, being sent back to their birth country after being intercountry adopted and raised in an adoptive land for over 40 years –  because of a lack of proper process being followed to enable citizenship and permanence in the USA.