Families are able to adopt children directly from foster care. There will be time of bonding before placement officially happens that allows you to get to know one another and how you all fit together. After placement there is also a period of time (varies by state) before the family can finalize the adoption. This allows for a family to bond, connect, and adjust their daily living to having a child(ren) in their home. Going from no children in the home, to having children, is a very big change that can take time and effort for a family to adjust to their new daily routines and schedules. Even just adding one more child to a family that already has children, will take time to adjust.
Children adopted from foster care tend to be coming from hard places, which can lead to difficult behaviors and emotions. A child may take any amount of time to feel trusting and fully comfortable with their new family and it is necessary that their adoptive parent(s) and sibling(s) in the home be aware of this when a child is placed. Barth et al. (1988) state that disruption is more likely to occur when children of older ages are adopted into a new family; an older child is described to be a child above the age of three years old. Barth et al. (1988) also describe how the number of disruptions have taken a drastic decline since the establishment of agencies and more advocates to be a supportive hand to those children within the system. Examples of these agencies are Nightlight Christian Adoptions, state workers, counselors, and CASA workers. The list goes on. The decision to adopt a child is an important decision that causes change to a family’s overall dynamic. Learn more about Nightlight's Anchored in Hope Program, that assists families adopting from foster care.
With the establishment of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the number of families who are now willing to become licensed foster and adoptive parents has drastically risen. This created a monthly per diem that given to foster parents’ to ensure that they are financially capable of providing for the basic needs and wants of another child placed in their home. This assistance can also be very helpful as many of these children need services that are more specialized and therapeutic to address issues from trauma, grief, and loss. It is important to remember that children who were placed in the foster care system were placed there for a reason and they may have triggers that affect them for a lifetime.
To be able to help a child feel safe and have a place to call home is a privilege that more and more people around the US are taking advantage of. Children who are adopted from foster care may have difficult behaviors that take time and a great deal of patience to work through. It is important for adoptive parents to know that working through trauma and traumatic experiences is not an overnight fix for a child. Adoptive parents should not have this expectation as working through trauma can take a lifetime. Providing love and stability to an adoptive child is necessary. However, when this love and care is provided, it does not mean that all previous issues will be fixed immediately. Taking time to listen and support an adopted child is necessary to help them know that they can trust their adoptive parents and work to overcome their traumatic experiences / habits. Being an adoptive parent is one of the most rewarding experiences one has described, but with it, comes a great deal of patience and trauma-informed practices. Nightlight offers a Post Adoption Connection Center that specifically aims at providing additional support and services to families and children after adoption.
There are a variety of behaviors and emotions that a child must work through during the adoption process especially if they are older youth. Children coming from a trauma background may display behaviors such as hoarding food, sleep difficulties, difficulty with self-soothing, attention seeking behaviors, having difficulty concentrating, night terrors, being on alert at all times, and having ADHD like tendencies usually from trauma experiences. These are just to name a few, and no trauma behaviors are the same for all. Just as adults, children deal with their life experiences in ways that best fit them or that make them feel most comfortable. When children are exhibiting difficult behaviors, it is important for a caregiver to:
- have patience and to form a trusting bond with that child. Utilizing TBRI practices are some of the best ways and procedures for children to feel safe and form a bond with a parent. It may take time to form that bond as children may have difficulty understanding the reason why the adoption was necessary and may want to remain close to their biological family. This is okay and this is normal. Nightlight offers TBRI training to all adoptive families as a part of their training process.
- never speak ill of a biological parent as this may cause a child to feel as though they cannot confide in their adoptive parent if they have questions about their biological family as they grow older. If you speak negatively about their biological parent, who is a part of that child, then they may question if you are speaking negatively about them.
- identify a support system during the adoption process and post adoption as well. Ensuring that one has stable friends or family that can be a part of their adopted child’s life, can help the child and their adoptive family feel more comfortable with one another.
- identify counseling services once the child is placed in your home. This has been known to help greatly with the transition process and also the overall understanding of a child’s new life. Having a counselor allows for the child to have someone that they can speak to of their feelings who is not a new family member. Beginning family therapy to help form attachment between a family and their adoptive child will also be extremely beneficial for the family to learn proper ways of speaking to one another, work on any difficulties that may persist, and also to overall form a stronger family dynamic.
- find a support group that adoptive parents can become a part of to give you new people with similar experiences you can rely on and trust as you weather the joys and challenges of parenting.
By: Kayla Snow
References: Barth, R.P., Berry, M., Yoshikami, R., Goodfield, R.K, & Carson, M. L. (1988) Predicting Adoption Disruption. Social Work, 33(3), 227-233. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/33.3.227