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Adopting an older child internationally: additional things to consider . . . part 2

In my previous blog, I shared that older child adoption has become more common in recent years, both domestically and internationally. In this installment, I will go a bit deeper into detail about issues that must be considered and prepared for when adopting an older child internationally. Those issues are as follows:

1. Prospective parents need to educate themselves on the effects of orphanage living on a child. Some children adopted internationally may spend several years in an orphanage prior. Bringing a child into your home from an orphanage will present radical changes for the child. Just learning to sleep in his/her own room by herself may at first be overwhelming, since he/she is used to sleeping in a common room with 20 or more other children. It may be best to let him/her initially sleep in your room on a cot or sleeping bag until he/she acclimates. Also, be cautious of initially overwhelming him/her with too many toys and other belongings. In the orphanage, he/she had to share toys that weren’t even his/her own. In our son’s orphanage in India, he was not even able to leave the orphanage with the clothes he had been wearing—they too were shared, so we had to buy him a new shirt, pants and a pair of shoes before we took him with us.

2. Prospective parents need to educate themselves about the residual effects of trauma on an older child. Just leaving the orphanage in the company of strangers (you!) can be traumatic. Other types of trauma experienced by intercountry adoptees include abandonment, physical and sexual abuse, sex or labor trafficking and malnutrition. Often, orphanages have little or no family or health history on the children they take in, especially in developing and poor countries. I encourage parents to attend the excellent seminar, “Hope for the Journey” which is regionally simulcast by the Show Hope Foundation, offered typically each spring. This seminar does an excellent job of addressing trauma issues in adoptees. I also highly recommend the books The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross, and Adopting the Hurt Child by Dr. Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky.

3. If as a parent you are Caucasian and your adopted child(ren) is a person of color, be prepared to deal with insensitive and ignorant comments from others, and even acts of racism. As a white dad, I experienced this “second-hand” when my Indian son was in third grade. On day he came home visibly upset. When I asked him what was the matter, he said through tears, “Another boy at school told me I should go back to my country where I came from.” This really angered me, but it also gave me a very small taste of what people of color sometimes experience. I encourage parents to have open conversations with their adopted children of color about race, racial prejudice/racism and the history of race relations in the U.S. If you have a good friend or acquaintance who is a person of color, you can even have them share with your child their own experiences, and how to effectively deal with hard situations. Race relations in this country have not been pretty, and we need to be up front with our kids about that.

In my next blog, I will talk about adopting older children from the foster care system in the U.S. Thanks for reading, and I welcome your feedback! Feel free to leave a comment on the “Contact” section of this website’s Home Page.


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