Supporting Adoptive Families' Well-Being

A 10-year-old-girl has been acting out to her parents, leaving the house without permission, and even threatening suicide. Her adoptive parents struggle to make her feel like part of the family. A pair of brothers experience serious neglect in an international orphanage during early childhood and develop Reactive Attachment Disorder, hindering their ability to bond with their adoptive parents.

"Families that have adopted have unique challenges and may need help at times to increase family stability," said Diane McKillop, program director for LSSI's Adoption Preservation Services based in Peoria. Children may have experienced years in foster care, been isolated in international orphanages, or fought through difficult years without parental love and guidance. Some children just need help adjusting to their new home.

For more than 20 years, LSSI's Adoption Preservation services has provided that extra support for families who have made the choice to bring a child into their home. The 6 staff members provide care for over 45 youth and families throughout the state. "We promote stability, ensure safety and permanency, and increase the well-being of the family as a whole," said McKillop. "We work to preserve the family unit."

Services start by providing counseling to the adopted child, but extend to weekly family counseling, support groups for parents and youth alike, and mentorship programs with local volunteers. The team also is able to provide crisis support, offer assistance for camp services, and provide respite to parents.

While the success of the program rides on many factors, the results are always unifying. McKillop sees development in coping skills, older teenagers becoming independent and taking ownership of themselves, and families working on Lifebooks together in order to better understand their journey.

After counseling with LSSI staff, the 10-year-old girl now has special one-on-one time with her adoptive mother each day. She is "learning to love myself and my color," and each night asks for mom to tuck her in to bed.