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When Knocking on Multiple Doors Does Not Bring the Expected Help for Adoptive Parents of a Child with Significant Behavioral and Relational Difficulties

Karine Tremblay, Geneviève Pagé

Research Framework: Children adopted from foster care may present significant behavioural and relational difficulties due to their experience of neglect/abuse in their family of origin, which will have a negative impact on their relational and behavioral functioning in their new family. As a result, the parents who care for them on a daily basis may develop secondary or filial trauma.

Objectives: This article presents the partial results of a qualitative study concerning the steps taken by adoptive parents to obtain help.

Methodology: Ten adoptive parents were questioned in semi-structured interviews about their motivation for becoming foster-to-adopt parents, the child’s arrival in their family, the difficulties experienced by the child, and their experience of secondary trauma. The interviews were transcribed in full and subjected to content analysis.

Results: After explaining the children’s problems, this article details the various services these parents have sought in relation with the important issues experienced in their family: front-line services, private sector services, social emergency services, the police and the Youth Protection Services. Finally, the place of self-help in the face of the significant suffering experienced by adoptive parents is detailed.

Conclusion: Although the experience of secondary and filial trauma does not concern all families who adopt from foster care, it is important to provide adequate support for those who do, in order to avoid the child’s placement or the parents’ disengagement.

Contribution: This article underlines the importance of uniform, long-term training for foster-to-adopt applicants, support for adoptive parents and training in the prevention of aggressive behaviour in their child.