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December/January 2018Vol. 18, No. 9Adopting an Older Child

When adopting an older child, the adoptive family should understand that the child may feel abandoned, distrustful, fearful, and resistant to accepting his or her place in the adoptive family. These feelings can stem from previous experiences with birth families or from their time in foster care.

The article Adopting an Older Child from the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange discusses ways adoptive parents can mitigate the transition from being a child in foster care to being a child in a forever family. The article reviews different emotions and situations that newly adopted older children might express, such as grief and a sense of separation or abandonment. The child may also express behavioral issues, such as lying, stealing, and bed wetting.

The article offers suggestions for countering negative behaviors and emotions in the following ways:

  • Allow the child time to get used to his or her new identity as a member of a permanent family. An older child may have past attachments to previous parental figures and caregivers and may feel that accepting a new permanent family is an act of betrayal.
  • Set limits and enforce discipline when needed. This provides the child with structure and consistency.
  • Be demonstrative in their positive feelings toward their adopted child. Adoptive parents should reassure them by telling them, "I love you," "You're a good person," and "You're important to us."
  • Listen to what the child means instead of just what they said. If a child says, "You're not my real parents!" or "I don't like it here!," adoptive parents should understand that the child may be acting out of fear of rejection.

The article also discusses the importance of helping the child gain an understanding of his or her past experiences and the ways he or she came to be with the new adoptive family.

Adopting an Older Child is available at