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Achieving a healthy transition from foster custody to legal adoption

Achieving a healthy transition from foster custody to legal adoption

The last name on your newly adopted child’s certificate of adoption may read the same as yours. However, there will still be many questions and concerns awaiting your child--now and in the future. To achieve a healthy and successful transition from foster custody to legal adoption, there are a number of strategies you can use as an adoptive parent.     


Do

Do discuss the process with your child

Discuss the step-by-step process and encourage your child to ask questions and share any concerns he/she might have with you about the process.

He will most likely have concerns about never seeing his birth family again. It is important for you to remember that even though he now has your last name, he will still have very strong feelings about his biological family and background.

The older he is, the stronger these binds to his biological family will be. It is very dangerous for adoptive families to discount this background and feelings towards them. Instead, recognize them as an important part of who he is, and try to incorporate them into his life. 

Do consider open adoption

If possible, and if everyone feels comfortable with the idea, consider having an open adoption. An open adoption allows an open contact between the biological parents and the foster child, allowing for the potential of a one-on-one relationship between both sides, as they interact directly with each other.

Communication may consist of letters, emails, social networking sites, phone calls, and even visits. Open adoption benefits both sides--especially the child--as it permits him to resolve any feelings of loss and relationship, and gives him access to information that he might seek later on in life. These types of adoptions also allow the child to maintain relationships and connections with people who are important in his life.

Open adoptions are not for everyone, and serious consideration needs to be made before making a decision either way. Adoptions that are open with biological parents and children need to be made on an individual basis--as each adoption situation is unique. 

Do think about throwing a party

Adoption day parties are a wonderful way to celebrate as your foster child officially joins your family. Invite friends and family members over on the day that you legally adopt your child. Celebrate the event with cake, ice cream, balloons, and present, making it similar to a birthday party.

Let him know that this is a very special day for not only him--but for your entire family--as it grows officially by one more with his adoption into your family. 


Don't

Do not ignore the grief

The adoption of your foster child is indeed a joyous and happy one. Yet, the internal process for all involved can be a challenging one, especially for your child.

Children may have a difficult time accepting the fact that they will never return to live with their biological parents or birth family members again. It is necessary for you, as an adoptive parent, to allow your child time to grieve the loss of connection with his birth family.

Your children may very well need time to experience the stages of grief before they fully transfer attachment from their birth family to yours. Adoption can be an emotionally difficult time for a foster child. No longer will kids be able to hope for possible reunification with their biological parents, or even with other members of their birth family.

Instead, the termination of rights by birth parents might produce feelings of grief and loss within them, fears they had kept bottled within themselves during the length of their stay in foster care. Kids may even feel that they have betrayed their biological family as they legally take the adoptive parents’ last name, as well as becoming a permanent member of the family.

You may find that the child revisits the stages of grief again, both during and after the adoption process. Indeed, it can be an emotionally traumatic time for all involved. 

Do not ignore the questions

Even though your child may have lived in your home for some time as a foster child, he will likely re-experience feelings of loss during the adoption process.

Allow him to discuss his feelings of grief and loss with you as you listen attentively to him, validating his feelings and emotions. If he should ask any questions about his biological parents or birth family, answer them as honestly as you can. His questions are very important to him, for both his well being and his future. 

Do not treat your child differently than the other kids in your home

Help your child transfer attachment from his birth family to yours by ensuring that he is included in all aspects of your family, and when possible, incorporate parts of his previous family’s traditions into your own. This will help him feel more comfortable. After all, his birth family gave him his appearance and gender, his intelligence, his temperament, talents, and of course, his life. These will never change.

He needs to know that his past is important, and that he is now a full fledged member of your family and is loved just the same as all the others in the house. 


Summary
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There will be difficult times during the adoption process and after. At times, it may seem that your relationship is going backwards. Yet, with time, love and patience, adoptions are often one of the greatest gifts of love you can offer a child. This is a gift that will forever bless your family.


More expert advice about Adoption and Foster Care

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Dr. John DeGarmoLeading expert in the foster care system

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent since 2002, and he and his wife have had over 40 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering pass...

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