Tips for Parents Preparing to Adopt an Older Child


Jayne Cotter-Kathwaroon
Focus on Adoption magazine

You are close to fulfilling your dream of becoming a parent. This is a time when it is easy not to ask the hard questions. But they must be asked so that you are as well informed as possible and you are better prepared to parent the child.

  • Ask for copies of foster parent reports to come with or soon after your proposal package. These should be written monthly about each child in foster care and will give you information about the child’s daily life, challenges, successes, issues, responses, strengths and patterns. If you are not allowed access to these reports, this should be considered a red flag.
  • Insist on at least occasional person-to-person contact with the foster parent who is most involved with the child. You should be free to talk openly (without the presence of children) and periodically so that you can get a realistic sense of the child’s personality, daily routine, parenting challenges, etc.
  • Ask the tough questions first and the polite questions last. If you need to know about relationship issues, sexual acting out, aggressive behaviours, counsellor’s assessments and opinions, ask first. Once you get to know the foster parent a little, you may want to ask these same questions. If answers are sketchy or inconsistent, consider it a red flag.
  • Talk to all professionals who have worked directly with this child. Ask about their personal opinions as well as their professional opinions. Often personal opinions say much more than a letter of assessment.
  • Read about all potential issues this child may face given his or her exposures and experiences. Preparation is half the battle and will give you skills to fall back on when the surprises come.
  • Research and understand all drug therapy that this child has been prescribed. Don’t be afraid to ask the reasons that this child is taking each individual drug so that you have a clearer picture of the reasons for treatment and the effects on the child.
  • Don’t allow anyone to rush your decisions. Your decision should be made in your time and feel right. “If the answer has to be now, the answer is no.”
  • Follow your instincts. If you feel that something is missing, dig until you find out what it is. If there is information that hasn’t settled comfortably for you, wait until it does before you take another step forward.
  • Ensure that all your questions receive an acceptable and thorough answer—even if the answer is “I don’t know.”
  • Don’t allow placements of older children to happen too quickly. Children older than eight or nine require as much transition and preparation as you do. Two to three months or more is not unreasonable. Although it’s not always possible, more time will afford everyone a healthy and well-planned transition. Other than emergency situations, anything sooner than one month should be looked at critically.

by Jayne Cotter-Kathwaroon