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On the last track we discussed Four Factors of Parenting. These factors included commitment, flexibility, empathy and intuition.
Do you have a client who has questions regarding the age of the adopted child, trans-racial adoption or adopting a child with disabilities? How do you respond?
On this track, we will discuss Age, Race and Disabilities in Adoption.
3 Important Questions when considering Adoption
Question #1 - Which Age?
Bruce and Colleen, ages 28 and 29, were looking to adopt. Bruce stated, "The thing is, we already have a two-year-old at home, named Trina. Do you think it’s best for us to adopt a child older, younger, or around the same age as Trina?"
I stated, "When you picture your adopted child in your mind, what age is he or she? This picturing process is one indication of the age you may be most comfortable with. Another factor to consider is your age. Some countries and agencies have age requirements for parents."
I explained that Vietnamese law, for example, requires that adoptive parents be twenty years older than the child they are adopting. Many domestic agencies have maximum age restrictions. I stated, "In some instances, age requirements are lifted for children over school age. You may want to find out which agencies or countries consider you eligible."
Bruce and Colleen seemed interested in hearing more information, so I continued to state, "I can see you are already considering the age of your current child. Do you want your new child to be the oldest or the youngest or somewhere in the middle? If Trina has a strong personality and is a natural leader, it may be difficult for her to relinquish her role as the oldest child. On the other hand, if Trina is shy or easygoing, she may not mind having an older sibling."
I explained that twinning, the pairing of two non-related children of the same age, is becoming more common. However, most social workers caution families against twinning children of the same sex, as the competition can be fierce.
I stated to Bruce and Colleen, "In terms of adopting another girl, you may want to take the time to think about how difficult it would be if one of your daughters entered puberty much earlier than the other, or what difficulties could arise if both your daughters liked the same boy, or if one daughter was a much better student than the other. Many agencies will not allow families to twin same-sex children. However, in some cases, these decisions are left solely to each family."
Questions #2 - Trans-Racial Adoption?
I stated, "In deciding to adopt across racial or ethnic lines, it can be important to consider how your extended family and community will react. In my experience, many parents find that their parents or their siblings don’t support trans-racial adoption." I explained to Bruce and Colleen that they too would need to confront their own feelings about race.
Have you found, as I have, that clients often have unacknowledged prejudices? I stated, "A good rule of thumb might be to ask yourself, ‘Can I picture myself married to a person of this race or ethnic group?’ Just as you live with someone to whom you are married, you live with the adopted child. If not, perhaps you should not adopt a child of that race either."
I continued to state, "Only you can decide whether you need full family support for your adoption. Keep in mind, though, that children are often very aware of the subtle nonverbal reactions of people and may sense underlying prejudice. I have found that some families report, however, that family members were non-supportive before the adoption, but changed their minds once they met the child."
I explained to Bruce and Colleen that where they lived might also matter in trans-racial adoption. I asked, "Do you live in a multicultural area, or is your town predominantly one race? Cities with racial diversity are often more accepting of multiracial families and offer more opportunities for cultural exploration. Multiracial families also tend to draw attention. This could be especially difficult for Trina, as your biological daughter. If you adopt trans-racially, you may need to be willing and able to explore your child’s culture and to develop ties with his or her racial or ethnic community.
Question #3 - Can we Handle Disabilities?
Have you found, as I have, that some prospective adoptive parents feel pressured into accepting disabilities they are not comfortable with, so as not to appear too "picky"? I explained that most clinicians will understand that different families have different expectations and limitations. I explained to Bruce and Colleen that they would not be helping themselves, their agency, or their child by accepting a disability that they didn’t feel comfortable dealing with.
I stated, "You may want to research spina bifida to feel more capable of making a decision. You may also want to research disabilities that have emotional and behavioral components as well. Emotional and behavioral disabilities can be more difficult to evaluate in terms of what your family can handle living with. You may want to become familiar with conditions that older adopted children are at greater risks for, such as attachment difficulties, fetal alcohol syndrome, sensory integration disorder, and attention deficit disorder."
In a later session, Colleen stated, "I researched spina bifida to know that, contrary to what I thought, it is a disability that is appropriate for our family. We would be able to handle her. However, we ended up not adopting the little girl because we have a lot of stairs in our house, which would be difficult for her, with this disability. But the prospect of raising a child with spina bifida is no longer uncomfortable to us."
Do you have a Bruce or a Colleen who have questions regarding what age group in which to adopt, adopting trans-racially and adopting children with disabilities?
On the next track, we will discuss Surviving the Wait. This will include Dealing with Parents, the "Eight Things to Tell Your Family" Technique, Losing a Referral and the Farewell Technique.
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