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Placing Children with Families

by Marge Snider

Once a family has been selected for a child and the child has been prepared for placement, the adoption worker and the family may develop and implement an individualized plan for how and when the child will move into the family’s home. This plan must carefully consider the needs of the child and family to:

  • Provide continuity of caregiving

  • Ease the child’s adjustment

  • Enhance the child’s understanding of the event

  • Allow an opportunity for important people in the child’s life to help the child transition

  • Facilitate new attachments

  • Plan for postadoption contacts

  • Help the family and child cope with changes and stress

Any child experiencing a move and change in caretaker is at risk for experiencing trauma. This is true for domestically adopted infants, older children adopted from foster care, and infants and children placed through intercountry adoptions. However, the degree of trauma can be mitigated by the care and skill the worker and the families bring to the process.

PREFINALIZATION SERVICES

A child typically lives with the new family for 6 to 12 months before the adoption is finalized by the court. This period sets the tone for the adjustment and attachment of both the child and the members of the adoptive family. Adjustment generally occurs in a predictable sequence of five phases: getting acquainted, the honeymoon, ambivalence, reciprocal interaction, and bond solidification. Adoption workers should be aware of this sequence of phases to educate families about what to expect during the adjustment process.

The availability of supportive services before and after adoption finalization has been widely identified as a critical factor in the successful continuance of an adoption. Objectives of prefinalization services are to:

  • Continue educating family members about expected stresses and changes

  • Help parents facilitate new attachments

  • Encourage a sense of entitlement by adoptive parents

  • Recognize early indicators of potential disruption

  • Address children’s issues with loss, attachment, or cultural differences

  • Address parents’ issues with unmet expectations, cultural differences, or lack of preparation

  • Provide immediate interventions to stabilize placements at risk of disruption

While most adoptive placements are successful, disruptions (such as termination of the placement before finalization) do occur. Researchers note that the rate of disruption among children adopted from foster care increases with the age of the child since older children often have experienced multiple moves, placements, changes in schools, and other difficult events following their initial abuse or neglect. Research suggests that disruption is less likely when postadoption services are provided.

POSTADOPTION SERVICES

Even after finalization, the need for postadoption services is a normal part of adoptive family development and is not necessarily an indicator of family dysfunction. Postadoption services can help all members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and child) deal with normal developmental stages of adoptive family life, long-term adoption issues, openness mediation, searches for background information, or reunions. A safety net of supportive postadoption services preserves permanency, provides reassurance to prospective adoptive parents, and serves to bring in more adoptive families for children.


Share your Story with us…

Real stories are a powerful way for families to understand the benefits of foster care and being adoptive parents. Whether you are a birth parent, adoptive parent or adoptee, adoption changes you. Each time you share your story with someone, you will be reminded how all the pieces of your adoption or foster care journey came together.