The Struggle of Teens Who are Adopted or in Foster Care


Teens who do not live with their biological parents might have greater mental health concerns than other teens who do. Of course, there are many children and teens who reside with foster or adoptive parents and who have developed a strong bond with their caregivers. However, for those teens who never had the opportunity to form a secure bond with a parent or caregiver, their psychological well being may be at risk. This article will explore the vulnerabilities of those teens who are adopted or in foster care.


Recent research shows that those children who have the opportunity to form a secure bond with their parent or caregiver have a better chance for psychological health throughout their lives. When a child-parent relationship is filled with anxiety, tension, fear, or even terror then a child will have a difficult time and may be more at risk for mental illness.


An extreme example is a teen who was removed from his biological parents early in life. He or she might have been placed in a variety of foster homes, and as a result, never had the opportunity to form a secure attachment with a caregiver. He or she may be vulnerable to disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Conduct Disorder, PTSD, depression, and ADHD.


Research shows that many adopted children tend to develop a mental health diagnosis. In fact, a 2008 study compared about 500 adopted and non-adopted children and found that the odds of having an ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) were approximately twice as high in adoptees compared with non-adoptees.


This can be even more problematic when adoption agencies hide information and mislead parents who are leaning towards adopting. Then, when adopted children begin to exhibit mental health symptoms, parents may not know how to respond. Furthermore, they may not have made the decision to adopt if they knew that their child might develop a mental illness.


The mental health of adopted children is becoming more and more significant, particularly because the number of adoptions in the United States continues to rise. According to the National Council For Adoption, there were 130,269 domestic adoptions in 2002, whereas in 1996 there were 108,463 domestic adoptions. The United States 2000 Census indicated that nearly 1.6 million children and teenagers under 18 years old in the United States and Puerto Rico are adopted. This is a significant portion of American youth. Understanding the mental health of these children and teens, particularly their early attachment experiences, is becoming essential in supporting their overall well being.


If you are a parent or caregiver of an adopted teen, an important step to take to ensure your teen’s well being is to have them psychologically assessed. In fact, you might have already recognized symptoms or behaviors that point to a concern. If this is the case, have your teen assessed by a mental health professional. Doing so can lead to a diagnosis (if your adopted or foster teen has one) and then to the most appropriate treatment.


Because adoptive and foster teens are already vulnerable to mental illness, having them assessed supports their safety, growth, and psychological health.