Sponsored by the HealthcareTrainingInstitute.org providing Quality Education since 1979
Add to Shopping Cart

Adoption-Telling the Child about Rape, Incest and Other Birth Circumstances
Adoption: Telling the Child about Rape, Incest and Other Birth Circumstances - 10 CEUs

Section 1
Children's Understanding of Adoption

CEU Question 1 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Introduction | Adoption
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

Read content below or click FREE Audio Download
to listen;
Right click to "Save..." mp3

The next four tracks will deal with explaining adoption to the following ages: 0-7, 8-12, 12-15 and 16-19.

Do you have clients who have adopted an infant or toddler?  Do they have questions about explaining adoption to their child? 

On this track, we will first discuss Explaining Adoption to Infants and Toddlers.  This will include a Child's Understanding of Adoption, Comfort with Adoption and Gathering Information About the Child's Family.  As you listen, think of your client.  How does he or she plan to tell his or her child about adoption?

3 Areas of Explaining Adoption from Ages 0-3

#1 Child's Understanding of Adoption
Obviously, many toddlers do not understand the concept of adoption since the idea of adoption is very abstract.  Despite this, parents can begin foundational work to assist children in developing positive attitudes about adoption, their birth parents and themselves during the early years between infancy and age 3. 

Have you found, as I have, that some very young adopted children who have experienced trauma, or abuse communicate panic and distress through behavior rather than words?  Gracie, age 1 had recently been adopted by Sherman, age 30 and his wife Melissa, age 28.  Sherman and Melissa indicated that Gracie may have come from a home where abuse was present, but it was uncertain.

#2 Comfort with Adoption
Sherman and Melissa had some questions regarding how and when to tell Gracie that she was adopted.  Melissa asked, "Will she even understand, if we try to talk to her about it now?  Should we wait until she's older?" 

I stated, "It has been my experience that children who are adopted as infants or toddlers gain the most comfort with the concept of adoption when they have grown up hearing about it.  If you can talk comfortably to each other and to Gracie about her adoption now, it could become second-nature to talk about it when she's older.  You might show Gracie pictures of the day you brought her home from the hospital, agency or airport and tell her how happy you were when you adopted her.  Gracie can learn to understand, in a limited way, that she gained a family through adoption."

#3 Gathering Information About the Child's Family
In addition to Gracie's understanding of adoption and her comfort with adoption, I suggested that Sherman and Melissa try to gather as much information as possible about Gracie's birth family. 

I stated, "You have a great window of opportunity, while Gracie is still very young, to gather information about her history.  By the time Gracie starts to ask questions, her birth parents might have different names, may have moved out of state or may be involved in new relationships that do not allow for contact with you.  Perhaps the social worker who helped you get Gracie will have retired by that time.  When Gracie has questions or asks for pictures from her birth family years after the adoptive statement, it can be difficult to meet those needs." 

I explained to Sherman and Melissa the value of anticipating Gracie's needs for information and concrete mementos from her history.

4 Considerations from Ages 4-7
Now that we've discussed explaining adoption from birth to age three, let's look at preschool, ages three to seven, and how those children tell other children that they are adopted; and also how the parents add more details to the adoption story.  Explaining adoption from pre-schoolers through seven-year-olds will include the child telling the story, the child hearing the story, being positive but realistic, and reassuring the child that the adoptive family won’t be lost.

#1 The Child Telling the Story
Have you found, as I have, that many adopted children between preschool age and age seven ask a lot of questions about their birth parents?  I have found that many love to hear the stories of their adoptions and will repeat it often to play mates or at school.  These children might even play out their stories with dolls or stuffed animals.  Vernon and Emily, both 35, had an adopted son, Billy, age 6.

Emily stated, "Billy will talk about his adoption to anyone who will listen!  Billy was adopted from Korea when he was just a baby.  However, when I overheard Billy just yesterday explaining the story of his adoption to his best friend, he mixed up about some of the details.  Here's how Billy mixed up the facts.  Billy told his best friend, 'I was born to my parents and went to live with another woman in Korea for a year. Now I am back with my real parents.'  How should I clear up this misunderstanding with him?" 

It seemed to be important to Billy that his adoptive parents be his real parents and to feel that he was where he should be.  Billy seemed to understand that another woman was involved in his story, but he misunderstood her role.  I stated to Vernon and Emily, "Maybe it is important to Billy to hear about real parents and to understand that both his birth parents and his adoptive parents are real, even though they have played different roles in his life.  He may need the reassurance that belongs with you."

#2 The Child Hearing the Story
In addition to the child telling the story, Vernon, Emily and I talked about Billy hearing the story himself.  Vernon stated, "Billy's favorite bedtime story is the story of his adoption, but he knows it so well, he could repeat it back to me word for word!  Does he really need to keep hearing this story every time he asks for it?"  I stated, "He may need to keep hearing the story as he grows up.  Remember that Billy's perceptions about the circumstances of the adoptions, his birth parents and even himself will change as he matures."

#3 Being Positive but Realistic
In addition to telling the story and hearing the story, we discussed telling the story positively but realistically.  Emily asked, "Should we add more details to the story?  It might keep Billy from getting confused about it…"  I stated, "Billy might ask for more details as he gets older.  You get to decide how much to tell him at which age.  However, try not to paint Billy's birth parents in a totally positive or negative light.  Both the positive and negative aspects of the birth parents' situation will likely be important in helping Billy to understand why the separation from them was necessary."

#4 Reassure the Child that the Adoptive Family Won't be Lost
Now, let's talk about reassuring the child that the adoptive family won't abandon them.  I also felt that it was important to tell Vernon and Emily that I have found many preschool and elementary-aged children fear that their adoptive family will abandon them. 

Young children might believe that their birth parents gave them up because they cried too much as a baby, or were the wrong gender, or were too ugly, or in some other way so offended their birth parents that these people left them permanently.  In other words, many children assume responsibility for the adult decisions and behaviors that led to adoption.  I stated, "Billy may need to be reassured that his position in your adoptive family is permanent."

Do you have a Vernon or an Emily whose pre-school or seven-year-old has mixed up some facts surrounding his or her adoption story?  Might he or she benefit from hearing this track? 

On this track, we have discussed Explaining Adoption from Infants to Seven-year-olds.  This has included a Child's Understanding of Adoption, Comfort with Adoption, Gathering Information About the Child's Family, the child telling the story, the child hearing the story, being positive but realistic, and reassuring the child that the adoptive family won’t be lost.

On the next track, we will discuss Explaining Adoption from Ages Eight to Twelve.  This will include the preadolescent's perception of adoption; even if they're not talking, they're thinking; the acknowledging the birth parents technique; and letting children know they can love two sets of parents.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barnett, E. R., Cleary, S. E., Butcher, R. L., & Jankowski, M. K. (2019). Children’s behavioral health needs and satisfaction and commitment of foster and adoptive parents: Do trauma-informed services make a difference? Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 11(1), 73–81. 

Cioffi, C. C., Griffin, A. M., Natsuaki, M. N., Shaw, D. S., Reiss, D., Ganiban, J. M., Neiderhiser, J. M., & Leve, L. D. (2021). The role of negative emotionality in the development of child executive function and language abilities from toddlerhood to first grade: An adoption study. Developmental Psychology, 57(3), 347–360.

Brodzinsky, D. M. (2011). Children's understanding of adoption: Developmental and clinical implications. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(2), 200–207.

Messina, R., & Brodzinsky, D. (2020). Children adopted by same-sex couples: Identity-related issues from preschool years to late adolescence. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(5), 509–522.

Testa, M. F., Snyder, S. M., Wu, Q., Rolock, N., & Liao, M. (2015). Adoption and guardianship: A moderated mediation analysis of predictors of post-permanency continuity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85(2), 107–118.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are four areas to consider when explaining adoption to a pre-schooler or seven-year-old? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

Others who bought this Adoption Course
also bought…

Scroll DownScroll UpCourse Listing Bottom Cap

CEU Test for this course | Adoption
Forward to Track 2
Table of Contents

CEU Continuing Education for
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

OnlineCEUcredit.com Login

Forget your Password Reset it!