Thursday, February 8, 2007

Step One: Assessment: Part One: What Kind of Children Do We Want

The first step in matching is to thoroughly assess your situation. This may seem simple, but it is a multistep process.

First, you need to determine what kind of child you are looking for. In doing this, you need to understand some myths. (and I can guarantee you that I am going to be telling you some stuff you don't want to hear).

Myth Number One: The Younger the Child the Better

Most individuals believe that the younger the child is when they arrive the better your chances will be in seeing a child succeed. This is not true on many levels. First, the younger the child is the less you know about the issues they will face. A child who is two or three years old might appear to not have any issues at that time. However, later in life the same child may face many if not all of things that children who are 11-17 have already been diagnosed with when they become available for adoption. Getting a child when they are young does NOT mean that they will not have these issues. It just means that you will not know that they have them.

Secondly, the younger the child is the longer they will be in your home. Many people believe that this is a good thing, but when you are dealing with children who have multiple issues, fewer years with you is not necessarily a bad thing.

Third, the younger the child is the longer it will take them to realize that you are not the cause of their issues. Children who come as younger children tend to blame their adoptive parents for every issue they face, while children adopted as teens KNOW that it isn't their adoptive parents fault -- they are the ones who rescued them.

Myth Number Two: If I Get a Child When They Are Younger I Can FIx Them

More and more research is showing that many personality disorders, most mental illness, and as we know, many medical issues, are genetic. A child's personality as well as their behavioral issues are often times something that they come to us with, even if they come at birth. No amount of behavior modification, perfect environment, or positive parenting is going to be enough to erradicate these things.

Myth Number Two: We (or I) Can't Handle More than One or Two Chidren Coming at Once

Often adopting a sibling group can be easier than adopting one child, and sometimes a large sibling group can be easier than a group of two. Working to understand the family system that already exists and using the strengths of each member of the sibling group can actuallly make parenting the group easier. It is also true that children will take up all of the time that you have, so whether you have 2 or 10, they will take up all your time. The more children there are, the more people there are to interrract with.

Myth Number Three: If They Split the Group, We Can Take the Younger Ones and They Will Be Fine.

Time and time again I have seen this happen and it does so much damage to everyone. A "parentified" oldest sibling can be a wonderful asset to parents who will include them in helping with the younger children. And losing the older siblings can be devastating to the younger ones.

Myth Number Four: We (or I) Can't Parent a Child of Another Race

There are many great support groups out there for families adopting transracially. There is also a great amount of enrichment that comes to parents who choose to adopt transracially as they have a new world opened up to them and learn a new culture as they attempt to teach culture to their children.

and finally, Myth Number Five: There are Certain Issues We Just Can't Parent.

Coming from someone who had a list like that and ended up, years later, finding out we were parenting everything on our "can't parent" list, I know that anyone can do anything they decide to do. Their quality of life may not be the same as it was, but anyone CAN do it. And unfortunately, case histories may accurately portray the past, but they can never predict the future.

Asking the tough questions and expanding ideas of what kind of children would fit in the home is a good first step.


debbie said...

Just feel the needs to add, though I adopted my 2 children as newborns knowing they had FAS, I have seen many who through the complete ignorance and lack of proper training from social services and adoption workers allow a FAS child to be adopted without that information which could make a huge difference. This is one of my pet peeves. I hear it over and over and over again. I truly believ if there was better training at the beginning it might help. I wonder how many "failed" adoptions are because of this. Mental illness changes everything in a child's life. The one answer I got from a worker was, but if we told the families, no one would take the kids. Disgusting answer, and I don't think true. And if they did not take them because of that, isn't it better to find out now before so much damage is done? Sorry, don't know if this all really pertains to what you are posting about, but just heard of this happening again and had to vent.

Anti-Zombie said...


I hope it's okay to stop here and ask some questions. I stumbled upon your blog and you seem to understand the system very well, so I thought I'd take a shot. My dh and I are considering adopting from foster care, either straight adoption or foster-adopt. We want to adopt a sibling group, 3 or more kids, 3yo-10yo, any race, with mild or no issues (I keep seeing that on photolistings, but I read you seem to say that might not be very representative.) Several people I know whom I've told this to suggested starting with just one child, but I've heard and witnessed sibling groups seem to have less attachment issues, and if we want to adopt shouldn't we start with what we're most interested in parenting?

Since we're still just preparing (dh has a semester left on his Ph. D before we take the classes), I'm trying to get as many opinions and advice as possible. Mostly, I was also wondering if older sibling groups tended to have similar problems that we could learn about now, or good reading suggestions, or really anything. I just want to start now, so the waiting is hard!