THE ADOPTED CHILD
Articles for Parents
All Family Resources
Alphabetical List
  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
  12. Children Who Steal
  13. Children and TV Violence
  14. Children and Family Moves
  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
THE ADOPTED CHILD

Approximately 120,000 children are adopted each year in the United States. Children with physical, developmental, or emotional handicaps who were once considered unadoptable are now being adopted ("special needs adoptions"). Adoption helps many of these children to grow up in permanent families rather than in foster homes or institutions.

Parents with an adopted child wonder whether, when, and how to tell their child that he or she is adopted. They also want to know if adopted children face special problems or challenges.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists recommend that the child be told about the adoption by the adoptive parents. Children should be told about their adoption in a way that they can understand.

There are two different views on when a child should be told they are adopted. Many experts believe the child should be told at the youngest possible age. This approach provides the child an early opportunity to accept and integrate the concept of being "adopted." Other experts believe that telling a child too early may confuse the young child who can't really understand the information. These experts advise waiting until the child is older.

In either case, children should learn of their adoption from the adoptive parents. This helps give the message that adoption is good and that the child can trust the parents. If the child first learns about the adoption intentionally or accidentally from someone other than parents, the child may feel anger and mistrust towards the parents, and may view the adoption as bad or shameful because it was kept a secret.

Adopted children will want to talk about their adoption and parents should encourage this process. Several excellent children's story books are available in bookstores and libraries which can help parents tell the child about being adopted. Children have a variety of responses to the knowledge that they are adopted. Their feelings and responses depend on their age and level of maturity. The child may deny the adoption or create fantasies about it. Frequently, adopted children hold onto beliefs that they were given away for being bad or may believe that they were kidnaped. If the parents talk openly about the adoption and present it in a positive manner, these worries are less likely to develop.

All adolescents go through a stage of struggling with their identity, wondering how they fit in with their family, their peers, and the rest of the world. This struggle may be even more intense for children adopted from other countries or cultures. In adolescence, the adopted child is likely to have an increased interest in his or her birth parents. This open curiosity is not unusual and does not mean that he or she is rejecting the adoptive parents. Some adolescents may wish to learn the identity of their birth parents. Adoptive parents can respond by letting the adolescent know it is okay to have such interest and questions, and when asked should give what information they have about the birth family with sensitivity and support.

Adoptive parents often have questions about how to deal with the circumstances of adoption. These parents need support from mental health and health professionals.

Some adopted children may develop emotional or behavioral problems. The problems may or may not result from insecurities or issues related to being adopted. If parents are concerned, they should seek professional assistance. Children who are preoccupied with their adoption should also be evaluated. A child and adolescent psychiatrist can help the child and adoptive parents determine whether or not help is needed.

For more information see Facts for Families #4 "The Depressed Child," #5 "Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises," #8 "Children and Grief," #24 "Know When to Seek Help for Your Child," #52 "Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation," and #64, "Foster Care."

Article #15 Updated 4/99

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
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