Secure attachment typically forms as the result of ongoing reciprocal interactions between an infant and their caregiver, usually the mother.  The infant communicates his needs by sounds or cries and the caregiver responds consistently in a loving nurturing manner.  The child learns to trust the caregiver and the caregiver becomes increasingly attuned to the child’s needs.

However, if the child experiences neglect, abuse, inconsistent or inadequate care, he may still attach to the primary caregiver but the relationship will be characterized by insecurity and mistrust.  The child feels neither safe nor loved.

Adopted children may have experienced highly chaotic or neglectful environments while with birth families. Unfortunately, foster care, while intended to keep children safe physically and emotionally, can exacerbate a child’s problems by exposing them to multiple caregivers, numerous disruptions, and poorly managed transitions. In the early stages of adoption, parents must be extremely sensitive and responsive to their child’s needs, both the more obvious physical needs and the sometimes confusing and subtle emotional needs. It will likely take time for the child to accept and trust the parent’s nurturance and it will definitely take time for the parent to develop the level of attunement necessary to meet or even anticipate the child’s unique and complex emotional needs.

Fortunately, our increasing understanding of brain development has led to the recognition of a range of patterned behaviour and activities that mimic the attachment activities of infancy for older children. Adoptive parents can learn and practice skills that will enhance the parent child relationship and promote healthy attachments.

Have questions about attachment and adoption?

Ask our Family Support team! 

Why have an open adoption?

Openness is about maintaining positive, child-centred relationships, giving your child a better sense of self and allowing you to know her better.