AF answers your parenting questions
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Q: We adopted two toddlers
internationally. The first is so finicky that I cook six meals a day
trying to get her to eat. The second eats anything, but is
territorial about her food. Help!
A: These are two problems commonly seen
in kids adopted from institutional settings. For the picky eater,
try offering a couple of choices at each meal. Don’t let mealtimes
carry too much emotional weight. Keeping a neutral tone when your
child rejects food will be difficult, but try to make mealtimes
enjoyable. A relaxed, social atmosphere will encourage her to
develop more confidence and curiosity about food.
As for the child who eats anything and everything, make healthful
snack foods available to her throughout the day and let her eat as
much as she wants, whenever she wants. Many parents are afraid of
letting their little ones eat too much, but it’s important for
children to know that food is plentiful and freely available. After
they learn the feeling of being full, they will begin to regulate
—Diana Schwab, M.Ed.,
International Adoption Health Services
of Western Pennsylvania
Q: Our 10-year-old daughter recently
asked if she has any brothers or sisters. She does have birth
siblings, but we didn’t know how to answer her. Is she old enough to
know about them, or to meet them?
A: Adopted children usually enjoy
having relationships with their birth siblings, and they frequently
refer to them as “my sister” or “my brother.” It will be OK for your
daughter to use these terms because this is how she will think of
them. Children can’t have too many people in their lives who love
Ten is actually a good age to talk with your daughter about her
birth family and for her to have direct contact with them. It’s best
to share any information related to adoption with a child before
her adolescence. Meeting the birth family in person or having other
direct contact helps, because children always fare better with
concrete information than with abstract concepts (which is what the
terms “birthmother” and “birth family” are if the child has no
people to attach to those words).
My book, Children of Open Adoption, describes many cases of
adoptive parents initiating direct contact between the child and his
or her birth family around this age.
Co-author of Dear Birthmother and
associate executive director of the Independent Adoption Center
Q: We adopted our six-year-old son 11
months ago. He’s defiant, he steals, and he lies. We’ve tried
everything, but we think he might simply be better off in a family
with fewer children.
A: I empathize with the difficult dilemma
you find yourself in. I’m sure it’s not what you had in mind when
you decided to adopt. But you must consider that, in the five years
that your son lived without a family, he learned he could depend on
no one but himself, and that stealing and lying were the only ways
he could survive. It took years to learn these ways of thinking, so
it will take time for him to learn that his parents know what is
best for him and will always be there for him. My instincts say 11
months is not long enough for him to gain this trust.
If you are convinced that you are unable to parent him,
disruption is possible, and may be in your son’s best interest.
You’ll play a role in ensuring a suitable placement and smoothing
the child’s transition. Your placing agency can help, or they can
refer you to an agency that has experience placing older
[To learn more about disruption, read “Letting Go”
Vice president of adoption services at
Children’s Home Society & Family Services, and an adoptive
Q: A little girl I know just lost both
of her parents. I’ve discussed her situation with my family, and
we’d like to adopt her. How can we do this?
A: For any adoption to take place, two
things must occur: The parents or legal guardians of the child must
give their consent in a manner determined by state law (termination
of parental rights), and the prospective adoptive parents must be
found eligible and suited to adopt (through a homestudy conducted by
a licensed social worker). Because laws concerning both processes
differ significantly from state to state, your first step should be
to consult a local adoption agency or adoption attorney.
Find an agency at www.adoptive families.com/adoption_agencies, or
an attorney at www.adoptivefamilies.com/adoption_attorneys.
Founder, Adoptive Families
Q: Can a single person with a physical disability adopt a child?
A: Most states allow an adoption if the applicant passes a homestudy and if “the needs of a child can be met.” This vague statement is often left to licensed agencies to interpret, and interpretations may vary greatly. One agency may feel that a disabled person can be a parent if she hires someone to physically care for the child. Another may require that the parent be able-bodied enough to care for the child independently.
Beyond that, in domestic adoption, the parent is usually chosen by the birthparent(s). Based on my experience, birthparents rarely choose a disabled single parent if they have married couples to choose from. In international adoptions, the country “acts” as the birthparent. Many countries do not allow adoption by disabled people.
The bottom line is that adoption may not be an option for many disabled single people, unless they have an unusually supportive living situation.
Wide Horizons for Children, Waltham, Massachusetts
Q: Years ago, I placed a child for adoption. Neither my spouse nor my other family members know that I did this. Should I tell them? If so, how?
A:You are not alone—many women don’t tell their family members or spouses about having placed a child for adoption. However, secrecy isn’t healthy for anyone, and secrets don’t remain secret forever (you should be prepared to establish contact with the child or her parents at some point).
You might want to ask a counselor, minister, or other trusted third party to help you discuss this with your family. The important thing is that you share this information with them, rather than having them find out in some other way.
Initially, your husband and family may be shocked, and feel hurt that you didn’t tell them sooner. But they should understand that you were going through a difficult time in your life and that you made a responsible decision for your child based on your circumstances at the time.
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