April 8, 2024

Rules for Successfully Adopting Out of Birth Order


In adoption, it is important to consider where the potential adopted child would fall into a family’s birth order. Birth order refers to the chronological age of each child in a family in relation to their siblings. In biological families, when children are added to the family, they are naturally younger than the children born before them and the established birth order remains (the first born remains the first child, the second born remains the second, etc.) Adopting out of birth order disrupts this natural progression by adopting a child older than a child already in the home. Artificial twinning occurs when you adopt a child that is less than 9 months in age from a child already in your home, again disrupting a natural birth order.

Research has shown that disrupting birth order in these ways can have negative impacts on a family, causing breakdown in the relationships between the adopted child, children previously in the home, and parents. Significant breakdowns have led to the dissolution of the adoption. It is our recommendation that families do not adopt out of birth order or artificially twin their children. Below are rules to follow if you encounter an adoption situation that would cause a disruption in birth order.

  • Avoid displacing your oldest child with an out of birth order or an artificial twin adoption.
  • Avoid adopting both out of birth order and artificial twinning with the same adoption.
  • Artificial twinning should be avoided with any age child.
    • In the instance you do artificially twin, put the children in separate grades.
    • Do not artificially twin because you want your children to have a close relationship. Artificial twinning creates challenges that have the opposite effect.
  • Utilize extended family members and friends for emotional and practical support.
  • Treat children as individuals.
    • Meet each child at their specific developmental level.
    • Recognize each child’s individual strengths.
    • Do not group children into the same activities, but let them choose what interests them.
    • Assign responsibilities based on ability and not age.
  • Do not compare children. Do not use one child as the example for your other children to be like.
  • Have a realistic understanding of the potential challenges that come with adopting OOBO/AT and know that you will experience some of them.
  • If you think that you can realistically take the challenges on, develop a resilient mindset and see each challenge as another opportunity to overcome.
  • Do not discredit warnings about adopting out of birth order and artificial twinning because your children are young (3 years and under). Even though young children may not comprehend that they are being displaced in birth order, they will still experience changes to their environment and shifts in the family dynamic. Furthermore, challenges related to adopting out of birth order and artificial twinning can emerge as the children get older that may not be present initially.
  • Utilize outside resources, including professional resources (mental health, school, occupational therapy, etc.) and non-professional resources (books, websites, support groups, other parents, church).
  • Think about the personalities of your children and consider how they would do with a sibling who is out of birth order or artificially twinned. Consider the birth order role the adopted child may have had in their previous placement (foster home, orphanage, etc.)
  • Adopted children may have experienced abuse and can harm other children if they have not worked through their trauma. Understand that adopting out of birth order and artificially twinning can put the adopted child in a place of power (due to age or development) over another child in your home, setting up a situation for further abuse or manipulation. You should pay particular attention to children with histories of sexual abuse/sexual acting out and have a sexual safety plan in place.
  • Your current children may regress in development (for example, going from walking to crawling). Prepare for how you will handle this situation if it arises.
  • Watch for jealousy from your adopted child or current children.
  • Spend time individually with children.
  • Take extra steps to foster loving and healthy relationships between siblings.
  • Do not force an out of birth order or an artificial twin adoption if you do not think that the adopted child and your current child(ren) will thrive. If you feel the added challenges are too much, do not take it on.
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