Small Group Counseling with Adopted Children

By Kizner, Lori Riefberg; Kizner, Scott R. | Professional School Counseling, February 1999 | Go to article overview

Small Group Counseling with Adopted Children


Kizner, Lori Riefberg, Kizner, Scott R., Professional School Counseling


Adopted children make up a disproportionately large number of children in psychological distress. (Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Henig, 1992). The themes of loss, grief, and a lifelong search for one's self are prevalent in the adoption literature. We support the belief that children need to have as much information as possible about the circumstances of their adoption. Often information that the parents are withholding from their child is the piece that would make the situation come together and make sense for the child. We believe that eventually the complete story of the adoption needs to be shared with the children. Parents are the best people to share this information and need to do so in a loving and supportive way.

It is usually the middle childhood years that children begin to ask questions about their birth parents and the circumstances of their adoption (Melina, 1986). Talking about the child's adoption acknowledges that the child has a history and communicates the idea that it is acceptable to think and talk about it. Group sessions offered to children at the elementary school age can help children understand that their thoughts and feelings about adoption are shared by other adopted children and that it is okay to talk about them. The group can serve as a safety net during a somewhat difficult time when children are concerned about how they measure up to their peers. Therefore, the following outline was developed for a group counseling unit for elementary school children who have joined their families through adoption. The group was conducted for students in grades kindergarten through three. The group originated from an adopted student who had some questions and concerns about his adoption. Upon consideration of forming a group for adopted children, it was learned that there were six students in the school who had been adopted. A note was put in the school newsletter that included information about the support groups being offered by the counselor, including a proposed new group for children who have joined their families through adoption. Interested parents were asked to contact the school counselor within a week for further information or to arrange a meeting with the counselor. Within 2 days, all of the parents who had adopted children called the counselor about the group. Individual meetings were held with each family to discuss the group. All ideas and suggestions were welcomed. The parents expressed concerns regarding not knowing how much information they should provide for their child about his or her birth family and other issues related to past experiences with birth families and foster families. Also some of the children had very vivid memories of abuse and neglect. The parents had questions about how to address these issues. One couple said that their son had been fantasizing about his birth mother, and they shared how this made them feel. Some of the parents expressed an interest in maintaining regular contact with the school counselor, and others did not. The counselor's intention, however, was to maintain communication with the parents as she proceeded with the group.

The group included four girls and two boys ranging in age from 6 to 10. There was one pair of siblings in the group, in addition to their biological sibling who did not reside with them. This third child knew she shared the same birth parents with the two siblings, however, she had little contact with them. Once child came from Russia, where she had lived in a children's home after being neglected by her parents. Another child lived in a series of foster homes before being adopted by her foster parents. She had clear memories of her early life with her birth mother.

The Adoption Group

The following section presents 12 sessions planned for the adopted children. The sessions were designed in cooperation with the children's parents. Session 1

Objectives. Establish rules and get acquainted. Procedure. …

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