Development and design of an intervention on family relationships and communication about adoption
This paper presents the design and development of an intervention program for adoptive parents, which looks at communication about adoption and family relationships as the building blocks of communication openness. Talking about the origins and in adoption is one of the most difficult tasks in an adoptive family and even though parents inform of talking about the origins, it is oftentimes experienced with preoccupation and anxiety.
“Building family relationships in adoptive families: talking about the origins” aims to provide adoptive parents with skills and competencies to foster openness and therefore a healthy development of their children, with an intervention steaming from the Attachment Narrative therapy and the Systemic theory.
Key elements included in the program are the mentalization process; the understanding of the child’s feelings and emotions; the needs and legitimacy of both the adoptive and the biological family; the need for the child to elaborate and integrate their double origin and the need for the psychological permission of the adoptive family to do so as well as the acknowledgement that adoptive parents can create a climate of emotional attunement with their children, and nurture an open and honest communication.
The program consists of six 2-hour sessions and has been designed for parents with at least one adoptive child between 3 and 12 years old. The program begins with Session 1 (“Welcome”), where parents introduce their families and share their experiences of the adoptive process. Session 2 (“Talking about feelings”) deals with the emotional expression; parents work on identifying and managing the feelings related to the adoption, and the relationships of those feelings with their behaviors. Family sculpting is used in this session to visually represent the family relationships and the related feelings and emotions. In session 3 (“Talking about our family”), participants work on the genogram of their families of origin and the genogram of their children. Session 4 (“Narrating our history”) covers the narration of the family history by means of a narrative that the parents will compose. In session 5 (“Communication between parents and children”), participants share experiences around talking about adoption. Finally, in session 6 (“Goodbye”) the intervention is drawn to a close.
The program is currently being piloted, by means of a quasi-experimental longitudinal design, using pre-, post-intervention and 6-month follow-up measures. This multicentre evaluation includes a mixed-methods approach to assess the effectiveness of the program. Some of the measures included are communication about origins, family cohesion and adaptability, expressed emotion and adjustment in both parents and children.
Findings and implications
In addition to the development of the intervention program, some preliminary findings on the effectiveness of the program will be presented and discussed.