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Adoptive Parent Preparation begins with the realization that expectant adoptive parents can proactively plan to help their adopted children transition into the family with a little upfront advice from adoption professionals and experienced parents.

Once prospective adoptive parents have begun the adoption process with an agency or an attorney there will be a window of time to educate oneself and prepare to parent an adopted child.

Planning ‘how’ to parent is as important as choosing a program or compiling a dossier. Adoptive parent expectations may be based on a long-held dream, but living with a child who is experiencing normal adoption reactions can be overwhelming for a parent who is not sure what is going on or where to go for support. The real rewards and joys of parenting adopted children are huge, but without guidance, the real challenges can also be draining, confusing and depressing. Parenting with perception and knowledge will give parents the tools to tackle the mild-to-major spectrum of attachment and adoption issues, and decrease the potential for parent stress and post-adoption depression.

The Baby Care BookWith Eyes Wide OpenHelping Children Cope With Separation And Loss

Emotional Preparation for Adoptive Parents



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Displaying empathy and sensitivity toward an adoptee’s grief over previous losses, and learning how to help the adoptee towards awareness and resilience, are important tasks for adoptive parents in the adoption process.

These tasks may offer parents learning opportunities on multiple levels: in order to help an adopted child emotionally bond, parents need to understand the child’s issues and perspective; parents also need to reflect on the model of their own upbringing so they can consciously make different parenting choices appropriate to their adoptee’s life experience and needs.

Grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and extended family and friends all play significant roles in a successful adoption. Involving family, while setting clear and reasoned boundaries for the adoptee’s first months at home, may alleviate tensions and set the stage for continued extended-family participation. 

Expert Viewpoints:

  • Regina Kupecky, LSW :
    • “You aren't my real parent “… joys of parenting teenagers
    • The Cycle of Bonding
    • “Affirming the Reality of the Hurt Adoptee”
  • Deborah D Gray
    • Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement
    • Five Faves for Families Helping Anxious Children
  • Gregory C. Keck, Ph.D.
    • Affirming the Hurt Adoptee’s Reality
Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents   Cross-Cultural Adoption: How to Answer Questions from Family, Friends and Community

Practical Preparation for the Adoption Process


Love may be the key ingredient of an adoptive family, but love alone is not enough to be an effective adoptive parent !

It takes effort, patience and compassion to understand the underlying issues and emotions of adopted children, but happily, a mom or dad’s two strongest parenting tools are always available and on-call: play and communication. These two, intertwining tools reinforce each other while gently breaking down barriers to parent-child intimacy.

New babies and toddlers need lots of one-on-one time while transitioning to mom or dad, and play can provide the magic connection.  Relaxed, interactive play leads to easy conversation, and utilizing honest, open communication on a regular basis creates a family relationship built on trust. Lifebooks (focused on a child’s pre-adoptive life) and other life narrative tools (children’s literature, videos and artwork) make it easy for parents to delve into deeper conversations about birthparents, abandonment, race and heritage, and to normalize the adoption experience.

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Medical Issues

 Handbook of International Adoption Medicine

Parents who learn the language of diagnostics and remediation techniques are better equipped to seek out knowledgeable professionals for information and intervention early in the adoption process, if needed. 

Medical issues may influence an adopted child’s health, temperament and behavior. An adoptee may be affected by environmental toxins, nutritional deprivation, disease and parasites, genetic predisposition, or by maternal drinking and drug usage while in utero. Parents can help to mitigate an exposed child’s physical and mental damage with aggressive early intervention. New research points to the benefits of helping the brain heal past traumas through neurofeedback. Attachment is also linked to brain development; a child with attachment issues may benefit from concurrent psychological and neurological therapies.

Speech and language are inextricably linked to the brain, and to early life relationships and experiences. Biomedical diets help an adoptee’s immune system maintain balance, while sensory work promotes behavioral regulation. A holistic, ‘umbrella’ approach that connects and simultaneously treats the physical, mental and emotional states is most effective in helping adopted children reach their full potential.

Expert Viewpoints:

  • Dr Jane Aronson : The Conundrum of Age Assignment for Children Adopted Abroad

Common Concerns


All parenting is a leap of faith, but adoptive parents have a few extra choices to make while leaping into the adoption process.

The unknown possibilities inherent in adoption may sound scary, but deciding to parent a child is still a powerful declaration of faith, hope, determination and love. Romanticism has no place in adoption, however! Parent prep resources can be a useful means to gauge a family’s readiness to adopt, and can help prospective adopters clarify what they can provide or handle.

Choosing to parent a special needs child, for instance, demands an understanding of the long-term medical and financial ramifications of the child’s need or disability, and the impact of these potential issues on the existing family.  

Adopting transracially requires adoptive parents to become race conscious, and to take responsibility for reaching out to people of differing cultures and ethnicities. Ignoring racism is not an option for multi-racial families; examining the importance of competent transracial parenting prior to adopting is a necessary exercise, and one vital to family fit. 

Family fit means more than having enough space at the table—like all moms and dads, adoptive parents must decide if what they have to give will be enough, and if a better family balance will be created by adding a child. Parents must also carefully consider family fit when adopting out of birth order, or when creating sibling-ship between an adopted child and a birth child. Consciously building a family is a satisfying, joyful experience, but the work goes more smoothly when results are expected, understood and nurtured. 

Parent education, through books and workshops--and parent awareness, through self-understanding and experience, are useful measurements of readiness for those beginning the adoption process.

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