Therapy Resources for Adopted, Foster, & Kinship Families
Adoption, foster care, and kinship care bring a mix of both gains and losses to families. Some children feel the losses acutely, while others do not. Some kids carry the scars and hurt of abuse and neglect with them into their new homes, thus impacting their behaviors and ability to adjust to their new homes. It’s not uncommon for those children to struggle to attach to or trust their new parents or caregivers. It’s also not uncommon that the new parents may struggle to attach to their new children.
Help is available. Therapists who are trained in issues specific to the adoption, foster, or kinship experience can work with children and with families to help smooth out the bumps that sometimes occur during the adoptive or foster experience. For purposes of simplifying the conversation, we will use the term “adoption-competent” here. Many of the issues that bring foster or kinship families to therapy are similar to adoption issues.
Many foster agencies have therapists or providers they want the child to see, or the child may arrive at a home already enrolled in therapy. Sometimes, however, foster parents need to be proactive in finding a therapist for their foster child and to advocate that the child receive or continue to receive services.
How to Find an Adoption, Foster, or Kinship Therapist
Finding a counselor or therapist that is adoption-competent and trained to handle adoption-related mental health issues for an adopted, foster, or kinship child (and family) is a challenge. Here are some suggestions of reputable resources to assist families in their search:
Center for Adoption Support and Education — CASE offers training resources for professionals, along with two adoption-competency initiatives for mental health professionals to acquire “the skills, insight, and experience necessary to serve the needs of the adoption and foster care communities.” They also provide a directory for therapists that have been trained in their programs.
The Karyn Purvis Institute for Child Development — As the developers of the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) model of parenting and attachment-building with adopted and foster kids, KPICD offers frequent training options for mental health professionals. Their TBRI Practitioner list is updated frequently and searchable by region.
Adoptee-Therapist Directory — Beyond Words Psychological Services, LLC, maintains this list of licensed U.S. mental health professionals who identify as adoptees & work with adoptees/adoptive families in a variety of public & private settings.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway — This site, run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, offers a wide variety of resources for adoption, foster care, and other child welfare issues. You can search for resources in your area. They also offer this guide to finding and working with an adoption therapist. It includes information on different types of therapy and additional tips for choosing a therapist.
Adopt US Kids — This national organization focuses on increasing awareness of the needs of children and teens in foster care, including the need for permanence. They offer a variety of training and capacity-building services for adoption and foster professionals, along with supports for adoptive parents that include information on mental health resources.
The ARC Framework — ARC is a collaborative initiative funded in part by National Child Traumatic Stress Network. **Please note that ARC’s Find a Provider search tool is not currently working. We will update when the tool is restored.
The Family-Centered Treatment Foundation — A partner organization to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, this organization focuses on home-based therapy. Parents seeking therapeutic support should specify their preference for adoption-competent practitioners. This model has been found to be very effective with children who have experienced trauma and are struggling with attachment and behavioral issues.
The DDP Network — Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) was created as a treatment for families with adopted or fostered children who had experienced neglect and abuse in their birth families and suffered from significant developmental trauma. They offer a Find a DDP Practitioner, Consultant or Trainer tool on their website, along with other resources for both mental health professionals and families.
Theraplay, Inc. — Theraplay provides individualized, one-on-one, play-focused therapy services in a variety of settings, including their outpatient centers, schools, or children’s homes. Therapeutic services include playgroups, occupational therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and more.
Check your County and State Welfare Agencies
Contact the local child welfare and foster agencies in your county and ask who they recommend. These governmental agencies go by different names in different states (Department of Social Services, Department for Children and Families, etc.)
Ask for Friends and Family Recommendations
Parents can also seek also “word of mouth” recommendations that come from trusted sources, such as:
- Fellow adoptive and foster parents
- Adoption & foster caseworkers, home study agency, or social workers
- Family doctors or pediatricians
- Children’s hospitals
- Adoption clinics
- School psychologists, social workers, or guidance counselors
As adoption-competent mental health resources can be challenging to find, parents often feel overwhelmed by the circuitous path that “word of mouth” recommendations lead them to follow. It can take some time and trial runs before they find the right fit for their family’s needs.
Because there is so much overlap in therapy information between foster/kinship parenting and adoptive parenting, you can also check out Therapy Resources for Foster and Kinship Families, in our Foster/Kinship Resources Pages. There are more tools and supports listed there to help you find the right match for a foster child as well as an adopted child.
How To Find a Therapist For a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused
For parents, caregivers, or professionals who are seeking specific support for an adoptive, foster, or kinship child who has been sexually abused, we offer the following considerations from Dr. Jennifer Shaw, with the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery & Education. She was a guest on a recent podcast that is now available as a CreatingaFamilyEd.org course called Helping Children Heal from Sexual Abuse.
- Look for a therapist who is both adoption-competent and trained and experienced in working with young, pre- and school-aged children. Educational experience in child development will be very helpful.
- Consider searching for an RPT – An RPT is a Registered Play Therapist. RPT’s are mental health professionals who have completed extensive additional training and supervision in play therapy (Keep in mind, depending upon the age of the child, play therapy might be more helpful than traditional talk therapy.)
- Ask the potential therapist if he or she has both childhood trauma AND sexual abuse training and experience and with what ages.
- Ask the therapist if he or she collaborates with other medical, mental health, and school professionals if need be and share some examples of how that works.
- Sound out the therapist to see if he or she is family-focused? Does he or she understand and treat the impacts of this abuse on the family unit? Is he or she willing to help you become educated allies to your child(ren)?
Interviewing an Adoption, Foster, or Kinship Therapist
Finally, these resources can help you craft a thorough interview to find the right fit for you and your adopted child.
- A Guide to Selecting An Adoption Or Foster Therapist (questions parents should ask when looking for a therapist, written by a therapist)
- Finding an Adoption and Foster Competent Therapist (1 hr. podcast w/ expert)
- Therapists: Parents Should Be With Their Kids for Adoptive or Foster Therapy Sessions (tip sheet by a mental health professional)
Creating a Family has many additional resources on finding an adoption, foster, or kinship therapist. A few recent ones that we think you will find particularly helpful are:
- When is it Time to Find a Therapist? (article)
- How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Adopted/Foster Kids (article)
- Tips for Finding an Adoption-Competent Therapist (article)
- Finding an Adoption and Foster Competent Therapist (1 hr. podcast w/ expert)
- Home-Based Therapy (1 hr. podcast w/ expert)
- How Trauma Impacts a Child’s Development (1 hr. podcast w/ experts)
- Helping Children Heal from Sexual Abuse (online downloadable CreatingaFamilyEd.org course)
- Helping Adopted Children Heal from Past Trauma and Loss (online downloadable CreatingaFamilyEd.org course)
**Inclusion on this page of resources does not imply an endorsement of any provider, organization, or resource. CreatingaFamily.org recommends that parents and professionals do their own research to find a mental health provider that suits their needs and values to find the right fit.
Many more Creating a Family podcasts, articles, and fact sheets on therapy for adoption and foster care can be found at the icons below.
Image credit: Matas Petrikas