Adopted kids and kids in foster care are additions to the family. Unless the child is a newborn, there has to be considerable adjustments on the part of both the child and the parent. Adoptive and foster parents need to lay down specific rules for the children while giving them a sense of love and security which may have been missing from their lives till now. At the same time, if you have children of your own, it is necessary to strike the right balance.
The number of adopted children and those in foster care in USA is considerable. In a recent National Survey of Adoptive parents by Adoption USA it was revealed that 677000 private adoptions occurred in 2012, 661000 foster care adoptions and 444000 international adoptions. Thus the number of adoptive parents is quite high. Of all the adopted children, 43% lived with their natural families before adoption. So, it will be a rather important adjustment for them when they are introduced to a new family. That is why it is necessary for the adoptive parents to proceed slowly.
What adoptive parents can do?
Here are a number of tips to help adoptive parents adjust to the new situation as well as help the child to adjust. Of course, if you are adopting a newborn, you will not require most of these measures. But even toddlers can sense a change in the family. So, even if your adopted child is very young, you will need to take certain steps to adjust to adoption.
- When you are preparing for adoption, keep the décor of the nursery or the child's room simple. You may want to give everything to your child, but this will probably only confuse and overwhelm him/her. Moreover, you do not yet know what he/she likes or dislikes. So, start small and then gradually build up. However, the room should be warm and welcoming.
- Get to know your adopted child. It is necessary to find out about his life till now and his likes and dislikes. This is best accomplished if you can meet with the caregiver of the child. If that is not possible, then you need to talk with the child and find out his/her preferences.
- The child may have come from a large family or the foster care system and may not be used to sleeping alone. In that case you may need to move the child's cot to your own room for a few days to help him/her adjust.
- You will need to set up a support system before you bring your child home. If people offer to help, set them tasks like bringing the food over. It is best to include at least one set of adoptive parents in your support system.
- If you are adopting a young child, it is necessary to keep the child close to you. Try a sling or a wrap for a few months for a baby. Even if the child is older than this, you need to keep him/her close to send the message that you are his/her primary caregiver and protector.
- Your child may not be as overjoyed about the adoption as you are. He/she may be wary of you and may not show love from the beginning. Similarly, you too may not fall in love with your adopted child immediately. It is necessary to give both of you time to adjust and love will grow gradually. Like any relationship, adoption also takes time.
- Finally, you need to maintain a sense of self. Demands of adoptive parenting can be equal to or more than that of birth parenting. So, get some rest and relaxation for yourself as well.
Most of the adoptive parents must have been doing something right because 81% of adoptive families reported they share a “very warm and close” relation with their adopted children.
The foster care system
The foster care system is a government approved system where children under 18 years of age are placed in foster homes for short term or long term care. These children come from families facing hardships. Most short term foster care ends up in reuniting the natural family while long term foster care often leads to adoption. According to data from National Foster Care Month, in 2004, these were 153000 licensed foster homes in USA and in September 2005, 513000 children in USA resided in foster care. If you have decided to become a foster parent, you will require a high degree of commitment. These children often come from disturbed background and it requires a special type of determination to help them. But it can give you immense satisfaction of knowing you have helped to shape the life of a child who might otherwise have become lost.
Tips for the foster parents
Children stay for an average of 2 years in foster care. You can help your foster child during this crucial time in the following ways:
- The first task of the day is to get acquainted with the child. You need to know what he/she likes and whether he/she has a special need. It is also necessary to know the circumstances which placed the child in foster care.
- Set boundaries and daily routines to the child, but allow flexibility. The child will probably take some time to adjust to the demands of a new home.
- While you need to be understanding and show the child that you care, you also need to be firm when he/she tests the boundaries.
- Discuss the relevant issues with the caseworker of the child. This will help you to adjust better.
- Consult your own family and especially your children before you enter foster care program. You need to check in with your own children regularly and, if possible, get some degree of commitment from them also for the foster care.
- Join a support group for foster parents as this will provide you with valuable advice at times of need.