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Older child adoption

Tips on adopting an older child

1. When meeting your new daughter or son for the first time, remember that your joy at being parents may be at odds with the anger/fear your child is feeling. You are a stranger to her, and she may not experience the "love at first sight" you are feeling. Respect the her comfort level and give her whatever distance is required.

2. It is nice to bring a special memento to give the child to mark the occasion, for example, a locket or book. Put together a small album of pictures of you and your home. The child can look at the pictures between visits, which can help ease the transition.

3. Find out what the child has and what she needs. The foster parents are a wealth of information. Write a list of what needs to be done (i.e. paint room, buy toys and clothes). Older children need to feel that there is a space ready for them when they move in ... you'll need help to get it all done.

4. There may be a "honeymoon" period when all of you "play" at being a happy family. Issues will emerge later, but this is a positive move towards acceptance.

5. When your child moves in, be aware of her limits in terms of meeting a lot of family and friends at one time.

6. Understand the stages of grief that Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified as the emotional responses to death. These stages are also appropriate for other grieving processes: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most people do not go through them in a linear fashion, but jump back and forth between stages.

7. By acknowledging and helping your child through the different stages, acceptance will eventually be reached. She is grieving a significant loss and will likely have feelings of rejection which will continue to surface. An older child may have had painful and numerous goodbyes. It will take a long time before she trusts again. It can be difficult to hear a child grieving for birth or foster parents. Children need to know you are accessible and willing to listen. Sharing and accepting your child's past can be an important part of the bonding process.

-- Sheila and Pierre, adoptive parents (


A_O_K (Adopt Older Kids), (Adopt Older Kids). Email list. 1,128 members.
Adopting and Parenting the Older Child, Interview with author Trish Maskew.
Older Child Adoption Online Magazine, Many articles. Susan Ward (was
Parenting the Adopted Adolescent, Adolescents struggle with their identity. CWIG, 1995.
Strengths of Adoptive Families, Study of the mental health of adopted adolescents. Search Institute, June 1994.
Suggestions for Parenting the Older Adopted Child with Attachment Issues, How to develop an attached relationship. Brenda McCreight, from Parenting Your Adopted Older Child, 2002.
Tending the Garden - The Healing of Yuanjun, Older child from China. Marybeth Lambe.
The Adoptive Parent's Reaction to Adopting an Older Child, Adoption Council of Ontario (ACO).
The Older Child's Reaction to Being Placed for Adoption, ACO.
Tips on Adopting an Older Child, ACO.
Toddler Adoption - Steps for an Easier Transition, Ashley comes from Vietnam. Claire Crocker, 2000.
Unique Challenges of Toddler Adoption, Mary Hopkins-Best, 2000. Roots and Wings.

Web - Biological siblings

Accepting Adoption, Birth children accept the adopted child from China. Evelyne McNamara.
Alike, but Different - Father and Son: What's it Like for Adopted and Biological Children in the Same Family, Larry Carlat.
Sibling Attachment, Treat the siblings by birth or by adoption equally. Pat Johnston.
Sibling Issues in Foster Care and Adoption, How child welfare professionals can keep siblings together, in foster care or in adoption. Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2006.


Bernstein, Anne C. Flight of the Stork. Uses three 12-year-olds to discuss sex and birth. Assisted reproductive technology, donor insemination, surrogacy, stepfamilies and adoption.

Cline, Foster M. D. and Fay, Jim. Parenting Teens With Love and Logic. Teaching Children Responsibility. Techniques that prepare children for a world requiring responsibility and maturity without power struggles.

Crook, Marion. The Face in the Mirror: Teenagers Talk about Adoption. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000.

Gabel, Susan. Filling in the Blanks: A Guided Look at Growing Up Adopted. A tool for 10- to 14 year-olds to explore their feelings about adoption and produce a life book for themselves.

Hopkins-Best, Mary. Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft. Indianapolis: IN: Perspectives Press, 1997. Parenting a child who arrives older than infancy but younger than kindergarten age. Tools for transitioning and promoting attachment. Advice on whether or not to adopt a toddler.

Jewett, Claudia. Adopting the Older Child. Harvard, Mass. Harvard Common Press, 1978. What's in store for those who open their hearts to a waiting child. A family counsellor and adoptive parent provides tools for dealing with separation and grief, family adjustment and problem behaviours.

Little, Jean. Emma's Yucky Brother. Toronto: HarperCollins Canada Ltd. Juvenile Books, 2001. Emma's brother Max is adopted internationally at age four.

Maskew, Trish. Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child. Longmount, CO: Snowcap Press, 1999.

McCreight, Brenda. Parenting Your Adopted Older Child: How to Overcome the Unique Challenges and Raise a Happy and Healthy Child. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland CA, 2002.,

McCreight, Brenda. Eden's Secret Journal: The Story of an Older Child Adoption. Adoption Press, Mount Hermon CA, 2003. Eden's journey from foster care to a new life in an adoptive family. Fictional story for older adopted kids and their parents to help them understand each other.

Miller, Mangi and Nancy Ward. Eyes Wide Open: A Workbook for Parents Adopting International Children Over Age One. Children's Home Society of Minnesota, St. Paul, 1996.

Robinson, Grace. Older Child Adoption. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1998.

Biological siblings

 Adoption Resource Central
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Fertility Adoption Adoption Resource Central Post-adoption Family Tree
Contact: Robin Hilborn,
Box 1353, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
©2007 Robin Hilborn. All rights reserved
URLs verified, Jan. 25, 2007
Updated, May 1, 2007

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