Things You Need to Know Before Adopting Internationally


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To improve your chances for a successful adoption, you need to be as fully informed and prepared as possible. Do not assume people in the adoption business “must know what they are doing.” Read all you can on the subject, ask every question you have, and use every resource available to you. This is a major decision not only for you but also the child you are going to bring home. Below are suggested questions to ask yourself and others, checklists, and suggested resources. This is not everything but it is a place to start.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Do we thoroughly understand the process of attachment or parent-child bonding and the consequences of children experiencing insecure attachment or broken attachments?
Do we have the necessary commitment to make an investment in parenthood that raising a child requires?
Do we know what kind of child we would consider bringing into our home?
Do we have sufficient knowledge to ask the right questions about a child?
Do we know how to establish resources before we adopt that we may need after the adoption?
Do we have the patience to participate in pre- and post-adoption placement counseling to be prepared for the problems that will arise?
Do we have the financial resources including adoption subsidies to raise this child?
Does the adoption subsidy include appropriate psychotherapy and residential treatment if these become necessary?

Questions to Ask Agencies and Caseworkers

Is the agency willing to provide full disclosure of all records prior to adoption finalization?
What were the circumstances that placed this child in foster care and for adoption?
What is the history of this child?
What kind of abuse (physical, emotional, and/or sexual) has this child endured?
How long has this child been in foster care and what kinds?
How many times has this child been moved since birth?
What are the existing or potential problems for this child?
What post-adoption intervention resources are available should problems arise?
To get more ideas about what adoptive parents need to know before adopting, read Keck and Kupecky’s book Adopting The Hurt Child, especially chapter six “Dreams and Realities.”

Signs of Attachment Difficulties (Birth-one)

Failure to respond with recognition to face of primary caretaker in first six months.
Infrequent vocalizations-babbling, crying.
Delayed milestones-creeping, crawling, sitting.
Resistant to physical contact or appears stressed by it-rigid and unyielding.
Excessive fussiness and irritability.
Passive or withdrawn.
Poor muscle tone-flaccid

Signs of Attachment Difficulties (Ages 1-5)

Excessively clingy and whiny.
Persistent, frequent tantrums, sometimes escalating apparently beyond the child’s control.
High threshold of discomfort-seemingly oblivious to temperature discomfort; picks sores and scabs until bloody without manifesting pain.
Unable to occupy self in a positive way without involving others.
Resistant to being held.
Demands affection in a controlling way on the child’s terms.
Intolerant of separation from primary caretakers except on the child’s terms.
Indiscriminate display of affection, sometimes to strangers.
Problems of speech development q Problems of motor coordination-considered accident prone.
Hyperactivity evident
Feeding problems
By five, may be manipulative, devious, destructive, hurtful to pets, frequently lying.

Symptoms of Attachment Disorder (Ages 5-14)

Superficially engaging and “charming”: uses “cuteness” to get others to do what he or she wants.
Lack of eye contact on parental terms: difficulty making eye contact with others while talking with them.
Indiscriminate affection with strangers: goes up to strangers and becomes overly affectionate with them or asks to go home with them.
Not affectionate on parents’ terms (not cuddly): refuses affection and pushes parents away unless child is in control of how and when it is received.
Destructive to self, others, and material things; accident prone: seems to enjoy hurting others and deliberately breaks or ruins things.
Cruelty to animals: May included incessant teasing, physical assault, torture, or ritualistic killing.
Stealing: steals from their home, parents, and siblings and in ways that almost guarantees getting caught.
Lying about the obvious: lies for no apparent reason when it would have been just as easy to tell the truth.
No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive): extremely defiant and angry; needs to be in control of events in his or her life; tends to boss others; responds with prolonged arguing when asked to do something.
Learning lags: often underachieves in school.
Lack of cause and effect thinking: surprised when others are upset by his or her actions.
Lack of conscience: unconcerned about hurting others or destroying things.
Hoarding or gorging food: hoards or sneaks food or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, glue, paints, flour, garbage, etc.).
Poor peer relationships: difficulty making friends or keeping friends more than a week; bossy in his or her play with others.
Preoccupation with fire or gore: fascinated with or preoccupied by fire, blood, or morbid activities.
Persistent questions and chatter: asks repeated nonsensical questions or chatters non-stop.
Inappropriately demanding and clingy: tries to get attention by demanding things instead of asking for them; clingy or affectionate only when wanting something.
Abnormal speech patterns: along with other more serious symptoms, may develop unusual speech patterns.
Sexual acting out: may act sexually provocative with peers or adults; masturbates in public.
Factors that contribute to a successful adoption
McKelvey and Stevens, Adoption Crisis (1993, p. xviii)

Youth (older children have a harder time adjusting to an adoptive home)
A minimum number of moves and foster placements (frequent moves traumatize children)
A permanency plan developed immediately after the child enter the system
Preplacement services to assess the family strengths and skill, and to ease the transition
A correct temperament match between parents and child
Full disclosure of the child’s history and a realistic appraisal of the disruption risk
Postplacement intervention before problems become crises
Ongoing training and support for parents, lasting through adolescence in “special-needs” adoptions

Thanks to Adoption Helper for this article-
Adoption Helper
189 Springdale Blvd.
Toronto, ON, Canada M4C126

Deborah Mumm, The Adoption Coach– Everything for Adoption

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