A Specialty Consulting Service for Adopted Persons*, Based in Metropolitan New York**

When the topic of adoption comes up, whether in the adoption field, in counseling and mental health, or in common conversation, it is assumed that it is about adoptive parents and children. At times it may be, but this continuing exclusive focus in the professions and in research has eclipsed the needs of the people who were supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of adoption, adopted people themselves, regardless of age.

Meanwhile, birthmothers are remembered only for the ‘surrender papers’ they signed under coercion of circumstance, none of which ever made reference to confidentiality, either generally or with specific regard to the child. Her anonymity from the child was naively assumed and then forced upon her by sealing the record.

With regard to the adopted person, there has been little awareness that:

  1. adoption is first and foremost about the relinquished child who grows up and experiences adoption-related concerns, of varying frequency and intensity, throughout life;
  2. the vast majority of adopted people are adolescents and adults, not children;
  3. being adopted has its greatest impact in adolescence and young adulthood, not in childhood;
  4. the mental health field in all settings continues to treat the adopted patient identically with the non-adopted; it resists learning what is ‘adoption specific’ that is an essential component in evaluation, differential diagnosis, language, and in treatment itself;
  5. adoptive status (being adopted) is about far greater complexities than the typically-cited “loss, attachment, trauma, identity;”
  6. the skill-sets of “adoption competent” therapists/counselors focus on the adoptive family with children; however few have the necessary clinical foundation of post-graduate training and experience in the treatment of adolescents and adults (generically) which provide the larger clinical context that is so essential;
  7. in the U.S., unlike other English-speaking countries, Family Law involving children is little more than a form of probate (property) law; children have no rights of their own, and often have no competent legal representation of their own, including in adoption proceedings.

No one can claim “expertise” in treating adopted adolescents and adults because, to date, so little has been studied or published on the Psychology of the Adopted Person/Patient in Adolescence and Adulthood. However, Northstar Consulting is dedicated to collaboration with members of the mental health field who share our interest in furthering what we know as it pertains to both consultation, treatment, and training of the mental health field. (See Doris Bertocci’s paper under Specialties: “Observations on the Unique Developmental and Treatment Complexities of Adopted Patients.”)

Northstar Consulting is a highly specialized psychoeducational consulting service provided by 3 NYS-licensed Clinical Social Workers who meet the necessary qualifications for assisting adopted adolescents and adults with their unique concerns. We work from an extensive background utilizing various modalities of psychotherapeutic treatment with a psychodynamic foundation. Unlike most mental health professionals and “adoption competent” counselors, we are also specialists in the Psychology of the Adopted Person throughout the life cycle.

In particular, we are very knowledgeable about the impact on adopted people of lacking access to information about their birth families and to their family medical histories (including updated). In addition to the state denying adopted people their own birth certificates, agencies report being overwhelmed by adopted adults’ requests for information from their adoption records. Some are charging high fees for this “service,” or they lack the qualified staff to process these requests or provide the professional counseling that, for many, is critical. Unfortunately, many agencies are perfunctorily resorting to mailing “non-identifying” summaries rather than providing the adopted person with the professional service to which we believe he/she is entitled, on both moral and ethical grounds. Northstar Consulting is available to try to fill these gaps in the existing system. We offer extended consultations around these concerns, and also psychotherapy and/or referrals to appropriate resources, if requested.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR AGENCIES:  The adopted adult’s need for access to
either the OBC or to agency information should not be confused with state registries intended to put adopted people and their birthparents in touch with each other. Procedurally, one has nothing to do with the other, and adopted adults are free to enroll in a state registry online entirely separately. [It is well known that for complex reasons, relatively few birthmothers have registered anyway, so for most, it is a non-solution.] It cannot be assumed that the adopted person is seeking a reunion. The internal process of “search” on the part of the adopted person is far more complex, has often been unconscious, and takes a good deal of time and thought as it evolves. From a mental health perspective, the adopted person’s wish for access to information about the birth family, reasons for being placed, etc., differs greatly from the “activated search” for an actual reunion. Professionals need to understand the reasons for this difference and to address each in a different way. Under any circumstance, the emotional impact on the adopted person of receiving information is enormous, and a long time may be needed to integrate it and rework the questions remaining.

The agency’s obligation is to have sufficient counseling proficiency — either on site or by referral to known specialists – to help the adopted person explore a multitude of concerns and feelings about their adoption and needs for information.

Northstar Consulting is a unique, highly confidential resource for a unique population:  the adopted adolescent or adult in need of assistance from a highly experienced clinician who is knowledgeable about the Psychology of Adoption as it pertains to them.

The way adopted people report their experience with previous therapists

Fees and insurance are according to each practice; we try to be flexible according to need.

* Although Northstar Consulting has been established in response to the needs of adopted adolescents and adults, especially in light of current legal events, we are equally dedicated to meeting the needs of any birth parents who wish to avail themselves of our services, and we welcome their call.

** If there is sufficient interest on the part of adopted adults in Manhattan, we will give thought to having an office there, – or if outside metropolitan NYC, we may develop an HIPPA-compliant videophone teleconsulting service.

Doris Bertocci, LCSW, Coordinator
Irvington, White Plains, Pleasantville

Bernie M. Glintz, LCSW
Forest Hills & E. Meadow

Jennifer Griesbach, LCSW
303 Fifth Ave, New York, NY

Diana Luik, LCSW