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Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Orphan Trauma"


or•phan (ôr f n)  Deprived of parents. Intended for orphans: an orphan home. Lacking support, supervision, or care.  ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Late Latin orphanus, from Greek orphanos, orphaned

trau•ma (trô m , trou -)  A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident. An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption. ETYMOLOGY: Greek

By Trace L Hentz (blog editor)

For days I could only think about adoption, not write about it. Processing was slow. I eventually coined the word “Orphan Trauma.” When a baby or child is taken from its mother, regardless of race, reason or country, it is traumatic, thus wounding the orphan.


I’ve met several adoptees who are more “OK” than others. Not all react the same about being adopted. A few adoptees said their adoptive parents helped in their search for their tribe and family. Not every adoptee had a bad childhood. Not all are hurt or confused. Not all believe they suffered trauma being taken away. Some handled it better than others while others are addicted to drugs or alcohol or self-abuse.

Regardless, when an adoptees’ uncertainty becomes insecurity that is not good for anyone, including those who live with or love an adoptee, like a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.

Of course, adoptees aren’t the only ones who get numb, split, depressed, suicidal or stressed out. Ask any child of divorce or foster care or missing parents or early loss/abuse/tragedy.

Later, what was even more traumatic for me was to learn prisons and psychiatric wards in hospitals are full of adoptees. Yes. Some of the worst and most violent offenders are adoptees, yet no one mentions this? News and magazine stories fail to write how removing a child from their culture, family, history and identity hurts an orphan and some won’t survive this disconnect emotionally. Some commit suicide. Some are apparently sick enough to become a serial killer.

Americans cling to the idea that we are better here, because we are more advanced or superior, even more militarily-advanced.

Better remains to be seen on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation, still the poorest county in the entire U.S.A. No, not all on American soil are treated equal.

Americans also fail to realize not everyone wants to live like us or be like us. Struggling people want opportunities America offers. Many want to earn a decent wage. If they can’t successfully immigrate to America like in earlier centuries, parents and mothers will relinquish their child just to give them a chance to avoid poverty, like those Mayan mothers in Guatemala who allow Americans to adopt their babies.

Adoption has its own economy, generating jobs and casework for social work agencies and psychologists, with its own special laws and special lawyers. “Quiet” and “behind the scenes” works best for the billion dollar adoption industry. Adoption advocates don’t advertise trauma. Governments can’t shut down the adoption industry now. Adoption is a machine they can’t shut down. It makes some people, some governments, a lot of money. People who advocate and promote adoption use the loudest voice, “we save these poor children.”

I certainly wasn’t aware of trauma. I was living it and not even aware.

After five years of research, my view of adoption changed radically; my shock – finally – wore off. I’d have figured it out if I were talking with prison inmates or mental patients. No one claims adoption is abuse. Yet with so many types of adoptees and orphans, trauma is truly serious! It’s crisis. Think of a serial killer like Charles Manson. Then remember his years in foster care. Manson is a classic split.

Consider what makes some people crazy? When does it start? What creates troubled teens, school shooters, violent youth offenders who become adult career criminals, child molesters or con artists? Children who experience trauma. Children who were molested. Ask any prison population. The vast majority in prison are minorities from poor families, or no families.

Mental health is not addressed when discussing poverty and adoption. This is a tragedy. America’s mind-full citizens are unable to connect all these dots.

When I talk about trauma, I mean splitting sickness, soul sickness. It’s so obvious but rarely put into words, rarely understood. The root of this mental or emotional disease takes its hold in children.

I was one of those children.

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Generation Removed

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