Adoption and Transition
The process of adoption can be long and arduous. Whether you adopt from foster care or go through a private adoption, it is a momentous shift in the dynamic of your family. Growing comes with growing pains, which can translate to unexpected challenges. These challenges can be overcome when you take them step-by-step and acknowledge the time and effort it takes from both parents and children to transition through adoption.
Foster Care Adoption Transition
Adoption through foster care always features a transition period. There are two factors that play into this. One is that foster children have often been uprooted from what they have known as home and their family. The second involves the parents, who don’t typically have a solid plan of adoption when a child or children are placed in their homes. So consistency is key, and will help ease the adjustment.
Children in foster care are not always eligible for adoption. In most cases, there isn’t an immediate termination of parental rights, which means that the child often must spend months or years waiting until they are eligible for adoption. This time can be hard on both children and foster parents waiting to adopt.
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the average time elapsed after the parental rights are terminated and when the child becomes adopted is just under 12 months. It can be expected that the child will remain in the care of their foster parent(s) for this duration. Adoption through foster care is beneficial in that it gives both the child(ren) and parent(s) involved time to adjust and transition into their new lives.
However, this does not mean that the children and parents have an easier transition period. They may have bonded with family members that can feel like they are being broken through adoption. It is not uncommon for children to act out because they feel conflicted in this situation.
Adoption Transition Tips
Whether you’re adopting a child from foster care or doing a private adoption, it can be difficult. However, it’s not impossible. Here are some ways to ease the transition of adoption:
- Give them space – While it may seem counterproductive, giving the child time and space to process their feelings can benefit you in the long run.
- Make them feel at home – Setting aside an area of the home especially for the child can help to foster a sense of belonging. Even if they will be sharing a room, having their own dresser or closet will reinforce their place in the home.
- Don’t make the past taboo – Adoption is a new beginning, not only for parents but children, too. Don’t make the mistake of treating the past like a taboo subject. Your child has a past that should not be erased. Embrace it and how it allowed them to become a part of your family.
- Talk to your child – There is no telling how a child will react to adoption. Even if they are ecstatic to have found a place to call home, they could still be conflicted in their previous relationships with family members. Make sure you and the child talk through their feelings so they do not end up overwhelmed with conflicting emotions.
- Stand your ground – The transition period can be fraught with tension, as parents struggle to enforce the rules of the home and children try to carve out their own place in it. The child may push boundaries to get a feel for the consequences. You both will benefit from having set rules that solidifies everyone’s role in the home.
- Take care of yourself – Much of the transition process focuses on the child’s comfort level. However, that does not mean that your feelings should be ignored. Take the time to check-in with yourself by keeping a journal, talking with friends or family, or even just giving yourself a 10-minute relaxation break once in a while.
While every adoption requires a transition, it doesn’t mean that it has to be difficult. Adoption is a long process that doesn’t stop once the adoption is finalized. Take things day-by-day and check-in with each other often. The transition that adoption can help families grow by allowing everyone involved to come to terms with the reality of their new and growing family.
AFCARS. “The AFCARS Report”. www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport23.pdf, Accessed 21 November 2018.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. “Helping Your Foster Child Transition to Your Adopted Child”. www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_transition.pdf#page=1&view=Introduction