It’s Hard To Find Help When You’re Adopted


One thing that became painfully clear to me in researching and writing The Girl Behind The Door is how much emotional baggage many (but not all) adopted people have, given their early separation. That trauma can sap ones coping skills, ability to self regulate, connection with others and sense of self, to name a few. Our 17-year-old daughter Casey, adopted at 14 months from a Polish orphanage, suffered from all of these before she took her life almost ten years ago, and yet my wife and I were utterly oblivious to the root cause – her infancy.

We tried therapist after therapist to get help with her emotions and extreme behaviors, but to the professionals she was like any other Marin County teenager acting out: annoying but not necessarily alarming. So they tried treating her behavior (just be tougher with her and she’ll straighten out) without ever getting at the root of the problem that now seems obvious. They all knew about her infancy but no one ever connected the dots. The result was tragic. To make matters worse, when we confronted the so-called professionals post mortem, they seemed more intent on protecting themselves from a malpractice suit than offering any solace.

“It was drugs!” her therapist insisted. She impressed upon us that in her 40+ years in practice she’d never had a problem with a “troubled girl” as she put it. So the message was: not my fault, she was a bad girl and you were lousy parents. Same message from a Polish adoption facilitator back east: I’ve had no problems with Polish adoptees, go away.

Since my book was published a few years ago I’ve heard from a great many in the adoption community. We were hardly alone in our desperate, and disastrous, attempts to get Casey help. I’ve heard from as far away as Warsaw, Poland and as near as my Bay Area home way too many stories of desperate, lonely people in that triad in crisis. Like us, they couldn’t find the help they needed, but unlike us they knew that their challenges were rooted in the attachment issues that arose from their children’s separation at birth. Some parents have lost their children to suicide as we did; others live in fear of their children’s self-destructive impulses that put them at high risk of harm or worse.

They’ve reported to me about their inability to find adoption/attachment professionals, failures of therapy, problems at school where teachers and administrators discipline out of ignorance, even when presented with the facts. In my short experience with my local school district, I’m not surprised at the small-mindedness and lack of creative thinking in high school administrators.

Even if an adoptive family finds a qualified adoption specialist, there are additional hurdles. Is that specialist taking new patients? Is it covered under their insurance plan or do they need to shell out hundreds of dollars an hour out of pocket? Will their child connect with that person? If not, are there other alternatives?

I wish I had an answer for these desperate families. I don’t. But let me offer this in the hope that it leads a family to the help they need, as imperfect as it is.

  • Check out the Resources page on this blog where I’ve posted every data source I came across in my research and writing.
  • Reach out to adoption groups like the American Adoption Congress and Families For Russian and Ukrainian Adoption. They could be valuable tools for networking.
  • There are a good number of adoption groups on social media (including AAC and FRUA) where you can connect with other parents, swap tips and hopefully make a valuable contact.
  • There are more adoption-oriented podcasts and programs online such as Adoption On that may provide more networking opportunities.
  • Search online in your community and state for any adoption resources.
  • Check out adoption books, as more of them are coming out.

Many of these sources either didn’t exist or were unknown to us when Casey was alive, when we could’ve been more effective. It’s understandable to sometimes want to give up from exhaustion and constant dead ends. But I can say from experience that once your child is gone, there’s no hope.

P.S. – Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile but after over 100 posts, one tends to run thin on material!

I Will Be Speaking At Book Passage Corte Madera Sunday Feb. 26th At 1PM

the-girl-behind-the-door-9781501128349_hrI’ve been invited back to Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, to speak about my book, The Girl Behind The Door, which has been released by Scribner in paperback. It chronicles my search for answers to my daughter Casey’s suicide. Casey was a Redwood High School senior who leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge on January 29, 2008. My search led back to her infancy in a Polish orphanage, a trauma which we learned too late was likely at the root of her demise. Casey’s story has touched a great many readers, with two literary awards and over 100 extremely satisfied Amazon customers. Recently The Girl Behind The Door was published in Germany and Poland.

Please join us Sunday for what should be a moving and thought provoking event!


My Book Is Now Published In Poland!


I’m excited to announce that the Polish publisher Prószyński i S-ka released “The Girl Behind The Door” in Polish language in January. It is titled, “Mogło być inaczej: Prawdziwa historia rodziców, którzy zrobili wszystko, by ocalić córkę” which translates into English as “It Could Have Been Otherwise: The true story of the parents who did everything they could to save their daughter.”

I only found out about this through a woman in Poland named Monika, who is an adoptive mother who read and embraced the story and has become our new friend. In fact, she sent us something that truly blew our minds. She found the orphanage in Mragowo where Casey spent the first year of her life. It was closed down long ago and re-purposed into a nursing home for children and youth with disabilities, which makes sense because most of the children in the orphanage back then were handicapped.

The building has aged quite well having been tastefully repainted; there is even a new front drive of attractive pavers. Below is the orphanage as we saw it in 1991, and the “home” (at bottom) as it is today.




Interesting NY Times Piece from 1/7/17


I share this opinion piece titled “Yes, It’s Your Parents’ Fault” from the Sunday January 7th New York Times because I rarely see analytical pieces on attachment issues and disorders in major newspapers. To those like me who have been steeped in this subject, it offers nothing terribly new. Rather, it is more just textbook attachment theory unlike what you may find in Wikipedia. Still I share for anyone who might find it interesting or helpful.

Go See The Movie “Lion”

If you are part of the adoption triad you’ve probably heard about the movie “Lion.” I saw it today believing that it was a story about loss and reunion. It is that but, in my opinion, the crux of the movie is an adoption story with all its warts, mysteries and crises of identity.

And that’s all I’ll share. No spoiler alerts!mv5bmja3njkznjg2mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdkymzgzmdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006811000_al_


About Celebrate Calm

507143c0-5b2e-48f5-9478-897094919918I started this blog as a way to share with other families everything I’ve learned about understanding and parenting children with attachment issues as well as behaviors that manifest much like attachment disorders. Unfortunately I learned all of this too late as my 17 year old (adopted) daughter took her life in 2008. You can go to my Resources page on this blog or read my book, The Girl Behind The Door, for more detail.

I still get messages and emails years later from parents who, unlike me, recognized that their children carried serious baggage from infancy yet still couldn’t find them the right kind of help. So I try to share anything I come across that might be helpful to the endeavors of others. To be clear, these aren’t vetted endorsements. You will have to do your own homework to determine if any organization I feature is appropriate for you.

Someone recently tipped me off to a North Carolina organization called CelebrateCalm. Founded by Mr. Kirk Martin, this organization offers workshops, books and CDs aimed at parents and teachers dealing with children who have trouble self soothing. Though this is a classic trait of orphaned children, Martin’s work is aimed at kids, such as his own son Casey, with ADHD. Here is a link to a 2008 article on CelebrateCalm in The Washington Post.

This may or may not work for everyone but I believe when it comes to our kids well-being we have to try everything!