Approximately 120,000 children
are adopted each year in the United States. Children with physical,
developmental, or emotional handicaps who were once considered
unadoptable are now being adopted ("special needs adoptions").
Adoption helps many of these children
to grow up in permanent families rather than in foster homes or
Parents with an adopted child wonder
whether, when, and how to tell their child that he or she is adopted.
They also want to know if adopted children face special problems
Child and adolescent psychiatrists
recommend that the child be told about the adoption by the adoptive
parents. Children should be told about their adoption in a way
that they can understand.
There are two different views on
when a child should be told they are adopted. Many experts believe
the child should be told at the youngest possible age. This approach
provides the child an early opportunity to accept and integrate
the concept of being "adopted." Other experts believe
that telling a child too early may confuse the young child who
can't really understand the information. These experts advise
waiting until the child is older.
In either case, children should
learn of their adoption from the adoptive parents. This helps
give the message that adoption is good and that the child can
trust the parents. If the child first learns about the adoption
intentionally or accidentally from someone other than parents,
the child may feel anger and mistrust towards the parents, and
may view the adoption as bad or shameful because it was kept a
Adopted children will
want to talk about their adoption and parents should encourage
this process. Children have a variety of responses to the knowledge
that they are adopted. Their feelings and responses depend on
their age and level of maturity. The child may deny the adoption
or create fantasies about it. Frequently, adopted children hold
onto beliefs that they were given away for being bad or may believe
that they were kidnapped. If the parents talk openly about the
adoption and present it in a positive manner, these worries are
less likely to develop.
All adolescents go through a stage
of struggling with their identity, wondering how they fit in with
their family, their peers, and the rest of the world. This struggle
may be even more intense for children adopted from other countries
or cultures. In adolescence, the adopted child is likely to have
an increased interest in his or her birth parents. This open curiosity
is not unusual and does not mean that he or she is rejecting the
adoptive parents. Some adolescents may wish to learn
the identity of their birth parents. Adoptive parents can respond
by letting the adolescent know it is okay to have such interest
and questions, and when asked should give what information they
have about the birth family with sensitivity and support.
Adoptive parents often have questions
about how to deal with the circumstances of adoption. These parents
need support from mental health and health professionals.
Some adopted children may develop
emotional or behavioral problems. The problems may or may not
result from insecurities or issues related to being adopted. If
parents are concerned, they should seek professional assistance.
Children who are preoccupied with their adoption
should also be evaluated. A child and adolescent psychiatrist
can help the child and adoptive parents determine whether or not
help is needed. See also Foster
Problems of Children &
Alcohol & Drug
Gay & Lesbian