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Adoption competency training: A new goal for mental health professionals

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AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

(Read caption) Nanny Randy Hambley, right, hands Trey Powell his daughter, Kylan, as her twin sister, Ashton, sits in his lap in their home in Seattle. 'I was in an adoption pool for a year and half, didn't get any calls and got bummed about the whole experience,' Powell said. 'I just wanted to be a dad. Time was not on my side, and I didn't have the luxury of waiting for an ideal mate,' Aug. 20, 2013.

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Adoption can heal lives and create happy families. But adoption also brings with it a host of potential challenges. Cross-racial adoptions can prompt complicated discussions of identity. Prior maltreatment of adoptees (by birth or foster parents) can create a host of behavioral and/or emotional problems. And building a truly blended family can be a truly Herculean task.

Mental health professionals who treat patients for issues surrounding adoption need specialized training and certification, argues a new report.

"It's something a lot of people want, and a lot of people are looking for, and they simply can't find it,"  says Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute. "Unfortunately people sometimes find mental health professionals who mean well, but their lack of knowledge leads them to do more harm than good - and that's a problem."

"I've had a psychiatrist tell me: 'Well, I know adoption issues because I've treated three or four adoptees over the past few years,'" says Pertman. "Well, I sure hope they were typical; I sure hope you can extrapolate from what you learned from them for everybody!"


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