Developmental Ages and Stages in Adoption

Ry, flyMost of the time, adopted youth are not pondering their adoption nor the complexities it brings to their lives. Like any other children, they are busy with school, friends, sports, and other activities. But the adoption community has come to realize that there are definitely developmental stages as well as milestones and events that often trigger adoption related issues.

There’s no need to rewrite an exceptional resource & this article describes how adoption can impact development in great detail:  Child Welfare Information Gateway.  This resource can help you to better understand special adoption-related developmental concerns. The article looks at issues of separation, loss, grief, anger and identity as the child grows. It looks at what to expect at different ages, including the emotional impact of adoption.

We find that children’s interest in adoption varies throughout the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence. As children progress from one stage to another, they look at adoption differently and, often, have more concerns or questions.  Parents can facilitate this developmental process by being knowledgeable and supportive, and by continuing to retell their child his or her adoption story.

Use age-appropriate language.
Help your child remember the people who were in his or her life before coming to your home.
Help your child remember the places where he or she has lived.
Speak positively about birth family members and prior caretakers.

Even if you have educated yourself about normal child development and behavior at different ages, as your child matures you are sure to find yourself questioning any of your child’s behavior that seems out of the ordinary. An adoptive family has the added concern of trying to decide whether or not it is an adoption issue that is troubling the child, or not. Of course, the adoption community has found that the following milestones and events can trigger challenges and bring up powerful emotions:

• Birthdays of the adopted child, siblings, parents, or birth parents
• Anniversaries of placement into foster care, an orphanage, or the adoptive family; or the date of adoption finalization
• Holidays (especially Mother’s and Father’s Days, but any holiday that involves family gatherings, such as Christmas, Passover, or Thanksgiving)
• School projects in which a child is asked to talk about his/her family, such as “family tree” assignments or identifying inherited family traits
• A doctor’s visit in which an adopted person is asked to supply medical history information
• Adopted mother’s pregnancy, birth of a child, or adoption of a sibling, which may upset the adopted child’s sense of security in a family
• Puberty
• Unplanned contacts from the birth family
• Divorce of adopted parents
• Deployment of a military family member
• Death of a family member

Remain aware of milestones and events that may trigger a need for postadoption support.  During these times, parents should watch for signs indicating that their adopted child, or they themselves, need a little more help. Overt signs might include changes in mood, eating habits, or sleeping habits. Parents should let their children know that they understand what is happening and will be there to help and find other resources as needed.

Please contact your social worker at Chrysalis House, Inc. if you find your loved ones needing further advice or referrals.


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