Adoption is the merging of two distinctly different systems into one. Although this unification is beautiful, it is not always harmonious!

Your current family system is comprised of individuals with varying personalities, roles, strengths, weakness, backgrounds, and experiences; all of which contribute to the function of your family as whole. While every family member differs, you all have created your place within your current system. You may have taken the role of disciplinarian, another family member may identify as the comforter, or someone may take on the role of the enabler. Everyone within your family plays an essential role in the current function of your household. Each family member is also influenced by their individual interactions with their environment, school, work, social groups, cultural identity, and religion.

An Ecomap (fig.1) is one tool that can be used to assess your connections outside of your family and how those connections impact how your family functions.

This tool can also be utilized to assess your relationships within the family system and how those bonds can be strengthened.

The child that you hope to adopt is currently residing in a completely different family system. They may be living in a group home, a foster home, a residential facility, or an orphanage. You may be adopting a child that is from another country where there is a difference in culture, beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. For example, in Chinese culture it is typical for the family structure to have the father figure as the leader of the household. In contrast, if a child that has grown up in a group home he/she may have taken on the role of the caregiver to care for their younger siblings. Because of these differences, it will be important for you to identify your adopted child’s current family system and how that differs from your own.

As you navigate through the journey of adoption, assess the individual strengths and areas of growth for each member in your current family structure. Then when your adoption is finalized, and your new son or daughter becomes a part of your new family structure, assess those strengths and areas for growth again. This will help you to strength your connections within your family and assess how the roles within your family may change.

It is important to remember that your adopted child may not have experience with a healthy family structure and may initially feel like an outsider due to unfamiliarity with their new family system. Although, the beauty in adoption is that your definition of a “family” will expand, the growth within your family will lead to strengthened relationships, and your hearts will expand with love for the transformation of your new family system!