Adoption Counseling as a Specialty Area for Counselors

Purpose of Study: When I first started as a counselor specializing in adoption related issues I frequently spoke about the virtual shut out of professional counselors in adoption related social services.  Some states required licensed social workers only to perform home studies and guide families through the adoption process. Many agencies and child welfare offices would not hire non social work degreed and licensed staff.  This article, published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in 1997, offers information on how and why professional counselors are skilled and trained to work with adoption related issues.  Since its publication, the field of adoption has altered, to include decreased numbers of international adoptions, fewer infant adoptions, more open adoptions, and has broadened to donor egg adoption and overseas surrogacy. Despite changes in the field, social workers still dominate as practitioners and professional counselors still work to gain entrance and credibility. This article, although 15 years old, lays the groundwork for why professional counselors need to be included in the adoption field.

Review: The article described how the CACREP accredited counselor training curriculum prepares professional counselors to assist adoptive parents, adopted persons, and first/birth parents in all aspects of the adoption process. This includes pre adoption counseling, counseling to determine adoption planning, and post adoption counseling, both in the immediate and long term post adoption process. Specifically, it noted training in counseling interviewing and technique skills, family counseling training, and human lifespan and development as helpful factors.  She also included school counselors roles in guiding teachers and school personnel to de stigmatize adoption in the classroom and to possibly offer school guidance groups for adopted persons.

Discussion: The author provided clear examples of how counselors are best suited to work with members of the adoption triad in different developmental phases of the pre, during, and post adoption process. She describes some developmental lifespan challenges that may impact clients in this category and how a professional counselor’s skills would be beneficial. Given the age of the article many factors in adoption clinical work were not addressed (as they may not have been as widely known at the time) and it mainly focuses on what appears to be infant adoption rather than exploring the unique dynamics of older child adoption and / or adoption from the child welfare system. An updated journal article should include these additional factors as well as information on attachment processes, trauma, and the changing demographics of the adoption field.

Janus, N.C. (1997). Adoption counseling as a specialty area for counselors. Journal of       Counseling and Development, 75, 266-274.