Perhaps you have seen them. They are the children throwing a fit at the swim meet, the child digging their fingers into a mother’s arm. Perhaps they are charming, but always they want to be where the adults are. However behind the scenes, they curse, throw household items, and perform an intense threatening battle of intimidation when they believe no one outside their family is watching their behavior. Children who are adopted with mental health issues, ranging from attachment, behavioral, or chemical imbalances can really be difficult for a family. To get inside the world of an adoptive mother with a mentally ill child will help you understand how to help a family who is struggling.


Though there are also father’s out there who deal with mentally ill adoptive children, in this article, we are going to focus on the mother aspect. The reason for this is many children who have been adopted take out most of their anger and frustration on their primary caregiver, who tends to be the mother figure since, generally, she is the one who is home most of the time. So all anger, frustration, and hurt are thrown towards the mother. Inside the world of the adoptive mother with a mentally ill child can be scary, especially if the child is violent. Sadly, some families deal with children who have psychopathic behaviors, are struggling with fetal alcohol syndrome, bipolar disorder, or the many other aspects of behavior that will produce a manic high or low. During these times, a mother may not know how her child is going to respond. Some mothers may fear for protection of their other children in the home. They fear they won’t be believed because their child acts differently in front of visitors and then has angry outbursts behind the scenes. A mother who is afraid seems to make the child feel empowered.

The Drought of Assistance

For the adoptive mother dealing with a mentally ill child, behind the scenes can be a desperate search for assistance. A mother who needs a break may seek respite care since many regular babysitters are not trained for the task of caring for children who have these specific needs. A mother may be seeking to find financial support to provide proper care for her child if he or she needs behavioral reform at a treatment center. A mother may need the help of a representative if a child has an IEP team who doesn’t understand that homework isn’t getting done at home. For these mothers, they are desperate for more assistance to help provide for their children.

When Friends Turn Away

Things can become lonely for a mother who is struggling to help her child. When a child bites another child, other parents may say no to playdates. When a child is having behavioral issues, other parents may not want to expose their children to that poor behavior. When other parents perceive constant drama with the mother with a mentally ill child, they may grow weary of constantly hearing the stories that are going on behind the scenes. Other parents may feel like the mother is not doing all that she can to support her child. Those who cannot see the struggles behind the scenes may seek to be protective of the child even though they don’t realize that the parent is experiencing hardship as well. Inside of the world of the adoptive mother with a mentally ill child can seem so lonely, so those of us who know a mother facing this must stay in the battle and support them.

How You Can Help

There are many ways friends, family, and associates of mothers who have mentally ill adoptive children can step in to help. The first is to offer respite care. A couple of hours is a godsend for those who are mothers trying to give their adoptive children their best efforts. Since children want to show their best faces to outsiders, more than likely those who volunteer to babysit will have a child who is seemingly like an angel. This will give the mother a much-needed break. Go to your county’s mental health awareness panels and talks to raise awareness about the needs for services in your communities for adoptive mothers who have children with mental health issues. If you are an educator of a special needs class, be willing to work with a mother who comes in and shares her struggle at home with her child. More than likely, she has many battles going on, and homework is a battle that can be done at school. If you are at church or public program where kids will come for entertainment, check up on your adoptive mother and give her notes of encouragement, have a special needs parents night out, etc. Read other stories on of adoptive mother’s struggles with their mentally ill children so you can gain insight.

All in all, we need to be there inside the world of our adoptive mothers with mentally ill children. Remember it takes a village.

Read some of the suggested stories on adoptive families dealing with mental health issues on below.