Every toddler without a family is ready for a placement, but not every prospective adoptive family is ready for a toddler. The good news is that the vast majority of parents who have the ability to be effective adoptive parents can develop the skills to parent an adopted toddler, but there are unique concerns and issues that need to be considered.
The parents of biological children know their child’s prenatal history and most of what we might call their medical inheritance. Adoptive parents, even those who adopt “healthy newborns,” usually have far less information. They must take a leap of faith that all will be well and, that if the child has unexpected disabilities or challenges, that they will adapt and cope.
Adoptive father Andrew Melton, 42, did everything the adoption text books suggest prior to adopting his child. He and his partner, Claire, attended an adoptive parents support group for over two years. He participated enthusiastically in the MCFD education program and in the home study process, and he took parental leave when two-year-old Greg joined the family this summer. Despite all this, he wasn’t prepared for what was to come.
When Deborah Bailey and her husband Edward, first met their then three-and-a-half-year old daughter, Ola, in a Russian orphanage, her first words to them were, “You’re late.”
They immediately realized that this little preschooler was a force to be reckoned with. Deborah says that at the same time as Ola was being so forthright, she had a single tear in her eye. This was an early indication of Ola’s desperate need for belonging and her intense fear of it.
More and more adopted children are arriving home between the ages of one and three, and many of these toddlers have been wrenched from a familiar setting, are grieving the loss of a known caregiver, have experienced neglect or other forms of abuse, and/or have experienced multiple disruptions in their short lives. Toddlers who have resided in orphanages have typically experienced both environmental impoverishment and extremely inadequate care.
Even if sexual abuse is not disclosed in a child’s history, foster and adoptive parents must be prepared to deal with issues of sexuality and sexual abuse.
Was My Child Abused?
If your child’s worker does not mention sexual abuse, and records say nothing, did your child escape this form of abuse? Maybe. Maybe not. Sexual abuse often goes unnoticed, and unrecorded, and often children are reluctant to talk about abuse, and few abusers confess to their crimes.
Aleisha and Garry Jenkins adopted their first child, Sadie, as a newborn from the US. Two years later, they approached the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), hoping to adopt two older children. They were surprised when the MCFD proposed a sibling group of two: Elliot, a little boy of 18 months, and his sister, Maya, three years old. Though they didn’t expect such young children, the couple pursued the adoption.
Tracy and Keith recently adopted a little girl through the Ministry. While the ecstatic parents were enthusiastic about telling their story, we cannot use their real names until the adoption is finalized. Otherwise, all information is accurate.
Describe Your Family
Rena and husband Jim Jones already had four biological children when they made the brave move to adopt a sibling group of four from the Ministry For Children and Family Development (MCFD) in 1996.
Anne and David Mickel have Maury Povich to thank for their latest family addition. No, five-year-old Danielle, who arrived home in December, didn't come via the US. The idea did. Anne said when watching the annual American television feature on adopting older children, they realized they "knew nothing about it ... it just seemed like something we wanted to do."