March 21, 2017

Asking the Right Questions

It occurs to me that many adoptive families ask the wrong questions. For instance, they may be short-sighted when they decide on their criteria for the types of child profiles they are willing to consider for adoption.  It is understandable why many couples initially think of race and age.   For some, it is important to have a child who looks like them.  And many assume that younger children attach better, have fewer behavior problems, and that parents have more years with them.  But looking back over our 30 years of international adoption, we have seen thousands of kids adopted at all ages and from every race.  We have also brought over 500 children to the United States on orphan host programs and observed their behavior and adjustment.  Knowing what we do now, we have begun to encourage families to consider a different criteria for assessing their openness to child profiles.  The best predictor of child behavior and adjustment is not race or age.  It is past behavior and adjustment.

Couples vary greatly in their ability and willingness to parent children with behavior problems or a difficult past.  If a couple told me they were hoping to adopt a child who will attach easily and not have behavior problems, I would recommend they look beyond race and age, and instead focus on indications of emotional health.  Emotional health can be observed now.  It is often documented over the past couple years.  And it is the best indication of future emotional health.

Dr. Daniel Nehrbass, President

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