WHAT KIND OF FAMILY DOES A WAITING CHILD NEED?
Adopting a child is a lifelong commitment that can be challenging and rewarding. A family adopting a child with special needs must be strong, flexible, and able to provide stability and security in a nurturing environment. The family must also advocate for their child and be willing to use community resources. Adoptive parents of waiting children or children with special needs are extraordinary. Some have already experienced caring for children, whether their own, or those of relatives or friends. They are often able to handle stress positively. They are altruistic and independent in their thinking. They usually want a child who needs them.
Is your family built on consistency, unconditional acceptance and commitment?
Successful adoptive families have the ability to:
MAKE A COMMITMENT
Adoptive parents must understand that adoption is a lifelong process and have a firm resolve to raise a child no matter how difficult things become. Children in adoptive homes will test this commitment over and over. To be successful, your commitment to the child must be unwavering.
RESEARCH THEIR CHILD'S NEEDS
Parents need to be able to find out about their child’s needs, whether this is an older child, or a medical need, to gain insight into the daily realities of parenting a child with special needs.
Parents need to be patient, tolerant, flexible, energetic, competent, responsible individuals with a good sense of humour. Openness and flexibility are essential, taking into consideration all the worst case scenarios that may be associated with the particular needs of the child.
HELP CHILDREN REBUILD THEIR SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE
Adopted children may blame themselves for the separation from their birth parents. This can lead them to feel that they are bad, defective and unlovable. Adoptive families must be able to help them overcome feelings of low self-worth.
Waiting children often come from families where communication was confusing and distorted. Successful adoptive families express their feelings and thoughts openly and clearly, which helps their adoptive children do the same.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Successful adoptive parents are realistic about their child's strengths and limitations. By their example, they set reasonable expectations and are able to find happiness in, and acknowledge, small increments of improvement. This helps build competence, pride and increased self-esteem.
ACCEPT THE CONCEPT OF "OTHER PARENT"
Adopted children may retain strong emotional attachments to their biological parents, former foster parents or other caretakers. Successful adoptive parents help their adoptive children grieve the loss of these significant people by encouraging them to express their feelings and memories about those who previously parented them.
Most waiting children have experienced chaos and trauma in their lives. Successful adoptive parents have found that a structured, stable, predictable and organized environment offers a sense of security and protection to the child.
ANTICIPATE THE EFFECTS OF A NEW MEMBER ON THE FAMILY
Families have their own unique ways of functioning. When an adopted child joins the family, these ways of functioning are changed for all family members. Adoptive families must be flexible and prepared to make difficult adjustments.
LEARN NEW PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
Children waiting for adoption often force families to deal with situations they have never faced before. Successful adoptive families have a tolerance for conflict that is supported by their problem-solving skills. Conflicts and disappointments presented by the child are dealt with directly and at the time they occur. Rules are negotiable and enforced in a caring, consistent manner.
CONSIDER DISCIPLINE OTHER THAN THROUGH PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT
Waiting children may have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Physical discipline may feel like a replay of past abuse. Successful adoptive families use methods of discipline that do not include physical punishment.
Adoptive parents who expect a child to be just like them often have a difficult time parenting. Children waiting for adoption usually come from backgrounds that are very different than that of their adoptive family. The ability to accept differences and cherish a child as a unique individual is crucial.
USE COMMUNITY RESOURCES AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS
Adoptive families often need help and support from each other, an extended family, friends and professionals such as doctors and counselors. Successful adoptive families are not cut off from their community and have a strong support system that they can rely on.