Archive for the ‘Adoptive Parents’ Category

The Adoption Storyline in the Movie, Instant Family

Image result for instant family movie

The latest Mark Wahlberg comedy to hit theaters, Instant Family, tells the story of a couple who sets out to adopt a foster child, and ultimately winds up caring for three children. The film is based on the real-life story of director Sean Anders and his wife, Beth, who took in three young siblings to foster together in 2012. At the time the children were six, three, and 18-months-old. They later chose to adopt these children and give them a permanent home.

The storyline goes into specific detail of the foster care adoption process, because, as Anders said in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, “When my wife and I got involved in foster care to adopt when we first were taking the classes in such, we were really surprised that we didn’t know anything about it – from movies or from TV.”

That unknown of foster care later inspired Anders to team up with co-writer John Morris, to share a story of adoption with a playful mix of humor and heartfelt drama.

Instant Family, released this past November 2018, follows Ellie and Pete Wagner, a successful house-flipping couple (think Chip and Joanna Gaines). After an ongoing discussion about having children, the two decide to explore the foster parenting world. They initially seek a young child, as many prospective adoptive parents do, then talk about adopting a teenager because of how many need a home. The couple eventually welcome a teenager and her two younger siblings home. This is just the first of many instances in which Instant Family properly addresses the foster parenting journey.

Often, hopeful parents seeking to adopt from foster care wish to adopt a younger child. However, as is the ongoing focus of National Adoption Month, there are many teens in system in need of forever homes – currently, over 13,450 children between the ages of 15 and 17 are in foster care. Not to mention, many of the children in foster care are siblings, which can make finding a forever family more difficult. Federal legislation and child welfare as a whole both emphasize the importance of keeping siblings together whenever possible. It is three siblings that complete the Wagner family in the movie, Instant Family.

Throughout the film, the Wagners face many challenges. Some of these challenges are typical with caring for any child, and some are unique to children who have been in the foster care system for some time. Either way, the many circumstances the Wagners face are both relatable, touching, and, at times, humorous.

Mark Wahlberg told the Associated Press that the filmmakers were very careful in the way that adoption was portrayed throughout the film.

“We always talked about, ‘Is this too much? Is this pushing the envelope a little too far?’,” Wahlberg said. “It can be really hard and it’s honest in that way that there are a lot of great times, there are a lot of difficult times, but ultimately it’s so rewarding and that’s what it’s all about.”

Instant Family is sure to be an instant family favorite for foster and adoptive families. It strikes the right balance of entertainment with comedic parenting moments, combined with genuine relatability for those who have faced the challenges that come with the foster care system.

The film does a great job at addressing the “white savior” myth associated with fostering, while also addressing the terrible “just in it for the money” types of fostering parents. The filmmakers made it a point to include a variety of ethnicities, sexualities, and genders in the character roster. In addition to his own family’s adoption journey, Anders said he also pulled inspiration from other adoptive families, to reach a wider, more diverse audience and to give a more accurate depiction of the modern family today.

Tig Notaro, who portrays one of the clinical social workers in the film, says the Instant Family adoption story has a real message and actually takes an honest look at adoption from foster care:

“I think this is a pretty realistic portrayal of that world and it’s like, ‘Sure, this is tough and scary but there’s a lot of tough and scariness in the world, but here’s the great part of it all,’” she said. That’s where the humor in Instant Family works so well.

As Sean Anders explains, “There’ve been great movies about the subject of adoption and foster care, but unfortunately they a lot of times focus on the trauma and the tragedy. They leave people walking away with feelings of fear and pity and negativity and that sort of adds to the stigma. I wanted to make a movie that doesn’t shy away from the kind of tragedy and trauma that is involved with it, but also gets into the laughter, love, and the joy of a family coming together in that way.”

The creators of Instant Family hope that this one will be appreciated by parents of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. There also could be a positive message here for anyone considering growing their own family through adoption.

As Wahlberg said, “I think knowing that there are a lot of kids out there who are in desperate need of a home, hopefully that will pique people’s interest and make them kind of look under the hood a little bit more and hopefully look into bringing foster children into the home and eventually adopting.”

Sean Anders continues, “I would encourage anybody making a film on the topic of foster care to make sure that they touch on who these kids are, and that even if they’re hurting and even if they’re coming from a traumatic place, that they’re still just kids who need love, and need moms and dads at homes to live in. And that these kids are also really strong. A lot of times they are stronger than your average kid, because of what they’ve had to persevere through. So I just wanted people to have a better understanding of who the kids are.”

Learn more about adoption at Adoptions With Love. Our caring staff is available to help you grow your family, and can chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Talking the Talk: Age-Appropriate Adoption Conversations

Talking to Your Child About Adoption

Many parents feel nervous about approaching the “adoption talk” with their child. However, it is important to remember that adoption is not a one-time “talk.” Adoption is a lifelong conversation. As your child grows, the conversations you have together will evolve. By keeping adoption an open topic in your home, your child will grow comfortable asking questions and learning more about his or her adoption story. You – as a parent – will also grow more comfortable answering questions over time.

Adoptions With Love has compiled sample Questions and Answers in the above infographic, so that adoptive parents like you can know what to say (and how to say it!) as their children grow.

When talking about adoption with your child, an important factor to keep in mind is age-appropriate adoption language. The discussions had with an infant about adoption should be different than the ones you would have with a preschooler or ten-year-old. As seen in the above infographic, timing and language play such a critical role in your child’s sense of self. Below we share some additional advice on how to have positive, age-appropriate conversations with your child.

From the first day you welcome your child into your lives, you can begin sharing his or her adoption story. It is never too early to start using the word “adoption,” whether it is during a bottle feeding or bath time. Your baby may not grasp what you are saying in those first several weeks, but the practice can help you gain more comfort and confidence with the “right” words to say.

Adoption is something that you will continually discussing, intermittently, throughout your baby’s childhood. Getting comfortable with the “talk” will greatly benefit both parent and child down the road.

Just as parents need to understand what age-appropriate conversations sound like for each developing age of a child’s life – for example, “Where do babies come from?” from a preschooler can be answered with a simple, “Every baby comes from a man and a woman.” – the level of discussion for adoption should be tailored to each specific age.

The Infant Phase (0-2)

During bath time with an infant, for example, simple messages such as: “Daddy and I are so happy we got to adopt you. We love you more than anything in this world!”

Early Childhood Years (3-5)

As your child grows, the conversation will grow, as well. In the preschool phase, the discussion will evolve into: “Mommy and Daddy were so happy to adopt you! Your birth mom had you in her belly, and she wanted to make sure you had the best life. She found us and asked us to become your mommy and daddy when you were born. We adopted you, and you have been our sweet baby from the start.”

The inevitable “why” questions come into play at the toddler and preschool phase, as well, but young children are often pleased with simple answers such as “because we knew you were meant to be ours!” This will help your little one feel loved and at home where he or she belongs.

Keep in mind that, at the toddler and preschool age, you must be very careful over which words you choose to use when discussing adoption. Avoid negative phrases such as, “gave up for adoption.” Young children are sponges and will repeat (and later process) this negative adoption language, which could affect their self-esteem.

School-Aged Kids (6-11)

Speaking with your child in the elementary school years becomes a bit more complicated. Your child will likely have more specific questions regarding his/her birth parents, especially if there has not been much contact between your two families. Kids in school often do projects about their ethnic backgrounds and family history. Be prepared to answer your child’s questions as openly and honestly as possible. You do not want to give your child any feelings of insecurity or mistrust because of an uncomfortable topic. Your child’s questions are normal and healthy and should be faced head-on.

Adolescence (12-17)

This age can be a very delicate one, bringing more emotions and feelings into the adoption discussion. Your teen may start to have negative feelings or feel a deeper urge to learn more about his or her birth parents. This is completely normal and should be handled with empathy and care. Be supportive and willing to share more details about birth parents, if you have them. Share photos with your child, and letters that you may have. If you are in touch with your adoption counselor or the birth parents, arrange a time to meet.

Do not be offended when your child asks questions or expresses feelings about his or her biological parents. Accept that your child may want to contact the birth parents or know more about his or her background. This does not reflect you as a parent. It does present an opportunity for you to strengthen your relationship, by being a trusted source of information and guidance through this phase of life!

Learn more about talking to your child about adoption, at each phase of his or her life. Learn how to answer the tougher and more delicate questions about adoption. Download our free eBook, “A Guide to Explaining Adoption to Your Child” below.


Adoption Conversation Starters: Resources to Use When Talking About Adoption with Your Child

Talking about adoption is an important element of being an adoptive parent. Just like nurturing a child with the repetition of the phrase “I love you” is pivotal, being lovingly open and positive about adoption is a crucial part of caring for your son or daughter. Adoption is an essential part of your family’s story, and must be talked about repeatedly, positively, and compassionately.

Many parents do not know how to begin the adoption conversation with their little one. This is completely normal. Some worry it might affect their relationship with their child. Others fear it will make their child confused, or worse – feel like he or she does not belong. The bottom line is, the child whose parents are open and honest about their adoption story is a happier one. Open adoption conversations lead to more answers, more confidence, and a more complete sense-of-self.

Bringing up  the adoption conversation early and often can help lay down the groundwork for more evolved conversations as your child grows. Adoptions With Love has been guiding adoptive families for more than 32 years now, and it is truly remarkable for us to see how children flourish and relationships between parent and child strengthen because of this level of honesty.

There are many tools and tricks of the parenting trade for talking about adoption with young children. We have discussed many of these in our recent eBook, “Explaining Adoption to Your Child: A Guide for Adoptive Parents.” Below, we outline some additional resources parents can use to help guide adoption conversations.

Story-Telling:

Children love to hear about themselves, especially in story-book form. Your child will be excited to hear about how your family came together (and will probably ask you to repeat the story time and time again!). This is a sacred story that is deeply personal and only for them. It makes your child feel special. It is meaningful. Most of all, it helps your child understand more about adoption, even at a young age.

Creating a story for your child will come naturally. You can explain that, once upon a time, your child was born to a beautiful, brave woman who loved him/her with all her heart. However, , she was not able to take care of the baby (for adult reasons). So, she chose a nice family to love and raise her child. They became her forever family. Use real names if you have them, to associate positive language and tone with your child’s birth parents.

Photo Books:

Much like the photo book you created early in the adoption process, adoptive parents may choose to make a special adoption photo book to share with their child. This is commonly called an Adoption Lifebook and holds the small details of your family’s adoption story. It may begin with photos of Mom and Dad just getting started with the adoption process – such as filling out paper work. It may also include photos of the birth parents, if available, or photos from the delivery room. Everything from nursery prep to the first days of school are also great moments to include. Be sure to write special captions to describe your feelings of excitement. Include specific stories, like dad’s reaction to the phone call confirming a match. This can drum up positive vibes and great conversations about the adoption. You can look at this together as a family, when talking about adoption. This will help you tell the story and allow your child to have visuals as you do.

Mementos:

In addition to photos, there are many other items from the adoption journey that can encourage conversations with your child. Ultrasounds, your child’s hand or foot prints from the hospital, or a special gift from his/her birth mom, are just some tangible examples. If your child has a special blanket from the hospital or infancy, this can be used to bring up the adoption conversation, as well. You may say something like, “I remember when we first laid our eyes on you, you were wrapped up in this blanket. Sweet as can be. We drove as fast as we could for hours to reach the hospital where you were. We could not wait to hold you.”

Children’s Books About Adoption:

Many parents turn to adoption books to help broach the adoption discussion with young children. These books can help your child understand adoption. Children’s books about adoption can also normalize the concept for your child. They can give him/her something to relate to, allowing your child to see that there are other families out there that were formed just like yours. This an important distinction at a young age – that adoption is a normal way to create and grow a family.

Of course, no children’s book story will be exactly the same as your child’s adoption story. That is because your child’s adoption story is unique. Adoptive parents often use children’s books about adoption as ice breakers, to introduce the concept repetitively, without being too intrusive. Some popular adoption books for kids, as recommended by Parents Magazine, are:

  • Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born – Jamie Lee Curtis
  • A Mother for Choco – Keiko Kasza
  • The Day We Met You – Phoebe Koehler

Adoptive Parent Groups:

It can also be extremely helpful to join adoptive parenting groups for additional resources and support. Like-minded individuals can share stories that help spark ideas for having continuous and positive discussions about adoption with your child.

Of course, there are going to be many moments throughout your child’s life that present natural, organic opportunities to talk about adoption. For example, when rehearsing for a school play, you could ask your child, “Do you think you got the acting bug from your birth mother? Or maybe your birth father?” This will give your child the reassurance that it is okay to think about things like this – and it will also give your child freedom to ask more questions about his or her background.

Adoptions With Love wants all adoptive parents and children to feel comfortable discussing adoption. Our caring staff is here to help support you through this parenting journey. Download our free guides below for more information about starting the adoption conversation or email us at info@awlonline.org. We are here to help start and continue these conversations for stronger and healthier relationships between adoptive parent and child.


Adoption Requirements in Massachusetts: What to Know

Adoption is an incredibly rewarding way to grow a family. It is a path taken with much consideration and compassion, and probably one of the most momentous decisions you will make in your lifetime. When you make the decision to adopt, you are making the beautiful choice to open your heart and home to a child, whom you will love endlessly. You are also taking steps to fulfill your dream of becoming a parent.

Of course, we realize that choosing adoption (especially for those who have experienced infertility) can also be overwhelming. As a prospective adoptive parent, you likely have a million questions surrounding the adoption process. One that may be most pressing, however, may be around adoption requirements. Who can adopt a baby? What do I need to have, or do, in order to grow my family through adoption?

If you are a Massachusetts resident, Adoptions With Love can help. We are a non-profit, private, domestic adoption agency that provides this very special service to hopeful parents across the Bay State. It is our mission to help you through the MA adoption process and ensure that it is a positive, joyous journey for your family. We work tirelessly to find the best possible home for each child, and to find that home right here in Massachusetts with you. To help you get started, we have outlined the fundamental adoption requirements in Massachusetts below.

Massachusetts’ Adoption Requirements

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires all prospective adoptive parents to complete a thorough application process, which includes a several-month-long home study, FBI background checks, as well as submitting any required documentation, such as health records.

In order to adopt, Massachusetts state law also requires the following. Private adoption agencies may also have their own set guidelines and requirements for prospective adoptive parents.

  • You are an adult over 21 years of age.
  • You either rent or own a home
  • Your home has adequate privacy, safety, and space for all family members, including your soon-to-be child (children of the same gender may share a bedroom)
  • You attend a training course that prepares you for adoption and parenthood
  • You to provide personal letters of recommendation, in addition an adoption application
  • You complete a home study before being approved to adopt

Adoptions With Love is very involved in the home study process, in which one of our MA-licensed adoption social workers will visit you in your home and conduct a series of interviews to get to know you, your family, and your hopes for the adoption. You can learn more about the adoption home study (and how to prepare) here.

While documentation may vary agency to agency, Massachusetts adoption requirements note that families should submit current health records as part of their home study (to ensure your mentally and physically fit to raise a baby), as well as current financial records (to ensure you are financially stable enough to raise a child). You do not need to be wealthy to adopt a baby in MA, but you do need to be able to meet your family’s basic needs.

An adult that is stable and healthy, that is financially, emotionally, and physically fit to raise a baby, and that can fully provide safety and security for their child, can adopt in Massachusetts. Same-gender and LGBT couples, single parents, and married couples all have an equal opportunity to adopt in MA, though requirements can vary by agency. Adoptions With Love welcomes all aspiring adoptive parents in Massachusetts to complete an application.

Upon submitting an adoption application, including all supporting documents, Adoptions With Love will contact you within two weeks. You will then be assigned a social worker from our staff, and we will schedule the first meeting of the home study process. You will also enroll in baby care training sessions to prepare for parenthood (if you are a first-time parent, per Massachusetts law) in addition to group sessions at Adoptions With Love. These serve as a great opportunity to meet other waiting parents and to learn more about the adoption process and all that adoption involves.

If and when you are ready to adopt in Massachusetts, the caring and knowledgeable staff at Adoptions With Love is here to help. We offer private consultations, free-of-charge, to go over the preliminary application process and Massachusetts adoption requirements. During this initial consultation, you will have the opportunity to ask us questions, learn about us as an agency, and decide whether you would like to move forward with adoption. We can help you decide if adoption is the right path for you and your family. We will help prepare you to embark on this beautiful journey of becoming a parent. Please contact us anytime to learn more about the adoption requirements in Massachusetts by calling 617-964-4357. You may also download our free guide, ‘The Massachusetts Adoption Process’ below.


How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Baby?

Adopting a baby is an exciting, life-changing milestone for families. The anticipation and process leading up to this moment, however, can feel like a lifetime for those that have long-dreamed of becoming parents: When will you be able to welcome your child home? How long does it take to adopt a baby, to complete a home study, or to get matched with an expectant/birth mother? If you are just beginning the adoption process, what should you expect in terms of adoption wait times?

Adoption wait times can vary, depending on which route you take in your journey to adopt – domestic and international adoptions, for example, vary greatly in length. Wait times can also vary depending on the type of adoption agency you choose, or how much time a birth mother needs to take in choosing the right family for her baby. Below, Adoptions With Love breaks down the typical length of the domestic adoption process, from the home study to the finalization of your adoption papers.

Applying to Adopt

Your first step in the adoption process should be a conversation with yourself and your family members: do you wish to adopt a child domestically, internationally, through a private agency, or through foster care? Once this decision is made, you can then select an adoption agency to begin the application process. Many states including Massachusetts require families to work with a licensed adoption agency.

Prospective adoptive parents who are interested in a domestic infant adoption should look for an adoption agency in MA.  An adoption counselor can then help you into the adoption process. At Adoptions With Love, we are a full-service, private, licensed MA adoption agency. You can come in for a free of charge consultation with one of our social workers to understand more fully how the adoption process works in our agency. If you choose Adoptions With Love, you can expect a counselor to contact you within two to three weeks of submitting your adoption application.

The Home Study Phase

The home study process takes several (two to three) months to complete.

An adoption home study is a legal requirement for hopeful adoptive families. It consists of home visits (in which a social worker comes to your home), background checks, and a series of interviews with your family, both individually and together. For Adoptions With Love, this process allows us to get to know you, your story, and what led you to adoption. The home study is also a great way for you to get to know us. Through these consultations and home visits, you can learn more about how our compassionate adoption program works.

The home study involves sharing your family story, and getting it ready to share with expectant/birth mothers, As part of our adoptive parent services, the staff at Adoptions With Love can help you create an adoptive family album and write letters to considering expectant/birth moms. These valuable tools will help expectant/birth parents get to know you and find a special connection with your family.

Average Time to Match with a Birth Mother and Finalize the Adoption

After the home study process is complete, it is time to wait for an expectant/birth mother to select you. This is the home stretch for hopeful parents, and can vary family to family. Some parents may experience a bit of a wait, while others are selected fairly quickly. There are many ways you can make the most of this time, such as taking parenting classes, preparing your home for a baby, finding a pediatrician, and joining support groups to chat with other hopeful parents waiting to adopt.

Once you are matched, you may feel a bit of relief. While the process is not yet complete, you may take comfort in the fact that you will know about how long it will take from here on out. Typically, the mother you are matched with will determine the timeline for the adoption and placement. She may be only a few months pregnant, in her final trimester, or may have already given birth.

In every state, birth parents cannot sign papers allowing the adoption until after the baby is born (in some states, an expectant father can sign papers prior to the birth). Some states will have specific time requirements. For example, in Massachusetts, birth parents must wait four days after the baby is born to sign any adoption papers.  In some states, there is a revocation after birth parents sign the consents to the adoption.  This means that they can change their minds within a specific time frame.

Most private, domestic adoptions are completed within two years. At Adoptions With Love, infants are typically placed within six to twelve months of completing a home study. We are committed to helping you grow your family.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Child Internationally?

Adopting a child from another part of the world is also possible for hopeful parents in Massachusetts. In order to adopt internationally, you must work with a Hague-accredited intercountry adoption agency. Keep in mind that the requirements, laws, costs, and wait times associated with international adoption will vary, depending on the country and the agency you choose. Some countries report an average wait time of six months after completion of the home study, while others (such as China) take several years.

For prospective adoptive parents, the waiting period to adopt is often full of anticipation and eagerness. And while it may feel like forever, it is important to remember that adoption wait times do generally fall within normal pregnancy timing: Couples expecting a biological child must wait at least nine months for their baby, not considering time for successful conception or any fertility treatments. Take advantage of this time with your family and your loved ones, and start preparing to bring your little one home soon.

If you are ready to grow your family and begin the adoption process, let Adoptions With Love help. Hopeful Massachusetts families may contact us anytime, day or night, at (617) 964-4357 to get started.


Creating Holiday Traditions as a Newly Adoptive Family

‘Tis the season to be jolly! The holiday season is here. For most families, this festive time of year means bright lights, extra baking, and time well spent with loved ones. Creating new holiday traditions can help bring families closer together. More than likely, you have fond memories of the holidays from your own childhood. Now think about your child and your growing bond as an adoptive family. This season is the perfect opportunity to make new traditions that are special for you and your child – cherished traditions
that can continue every year forward. Below, Adoptions With Love shares some tips for adoptive families looking to spark inspiration and
create new holiday traditions this season.

Talk it Out
Before making any choices on traditions, you should have a talk (or two). First, sit down to talk about holiday traditions with your significant other. Do you want to dedicate a special day for baking and decorating cookies, or building gingerbread houses? Would you like to let each person in the family take a turn at playing Santa on Christmas morning, or lighting the menorah during Hanukkah? Festive activities such as this can be fun for the whole family. Just like studies show that planning a vacation is half the fun –- talking about new holiday traditions can be just as exciting as seeing them through!

Consider Your Childhood Traditions
As you discuss and plan out these new traditions to start, consider your own family traditions that you took part in growing up. What were your absolute favorites? What would you change? Try to imagine yourself as a kid, and what interests your child now. What do you think your child would love? What would you love to see continue in your new little tribe?

Honor Baby’s Heritage
Perhaps your child has a different ethnic background than you and/or your partner. This poses an even greater opportunity for some new traditions to come into play. Nothing can help a child find a sense of belonging like celebrating his or her culture. Learn about some classic holiday traditions within your child’s heritage, and incorporate them into your own family’s festivities.

Celebrate the Past
The holiday season falls at the end of the year. As the New Year nears, it is often a great time to reflect on the year that was. Perhaps your adoption was finalized this year. Perhaps your new child gave you his or her first “mama” or “dada.” (Side-note: Babies typically say “dada” first, since the hard ‘d’ is easier to pronounce, so do not take offense if baby is only saying “dada,” mamas!) Whatever has happened, take some time to look back on these important milestones. There is a reason so many people like to send family letters with their holiday cards. It is all about family, and family is the reason for the season!

Look Toward the Future
Just as you should take stock in what has happened over the past year, this is a great time to look ahead to the next year. What are some family goals? What do you hope the New Year brings? You can make this a family activity. Have everyone write down some ideas for 2019, and share them with the whole family!

Give Back
As Andy Williams once sang, the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year.” It is extra special because of the spirit of giving. The support for homeless shelters, toy drives, and food banks is at all-time high every December. Since children are naturally giving, take this opportunity to encourage that generosity. Take your child to a soup kitchen to volunteer, or “adopt a family” and buy some much-needed coats and mittens to help keep others warm. As the Grinch himself discovered: “‘Maybe Christmas’, he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!’”

These are just a few ideas you may consider when creating new family traditions this season, as a newly adoptive family. No matter your religious beliefs, rituals are a great way to celebrate your culture and faith, while reflecting on your family’s values. Whether your family decides to wear matching sweaters and sing carols around a piano, spin the dreidel, or simply order some takeout in place of cooking for a big gathering – it will be special because it is the tradition you start and enjoy each year together. Think of NBC’s “This is Us” and all the fun, non-traditional traditions they created over the holidays! At the end of the day, what you actually do is less important than making sure you do it as a family! Happy Holidays!

Adoptions With Love is here to help hopeful adoptive parents in MA create happy, loving families through the beautiful gift of adoption. If you are interested or have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 617-964-4357. If you are a family waiting to adopt a child, be sure to read our tips on What to Do While Waiting to Adopt during the holiday season.


How to Talk About Adoption with Your Teenager (ages 13-17)

Adolescence is a crucial period of life that involves major development physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are many changes and adjustments happening during these teen years. They are just beginning to establish who they are in the world. At the same time, their world is growing into a more complicated place. Their education, relationships, and personal growth are all in a state of flux – and the rush of hormones is a completely different battle!

At this time of your child’s life, he or she is beginning to develop more complex emotions, as well as grasp onto more complicated concepts, like the meaning of adoption in his/her life. At this age, your teen is also likely to seek out more in-depth conversations regarding his or her birth parents.

For adoptive parents, this can feel like an overwhelming time. It is important to take each phase of development as it comes, and with as much honesty and openness as possible. Always be prepared for the serious talks and know that the questions your teen is asking are completely normal – and healthy. Teenagers are at a stage of self-discovery. Your child might need answers (about his or her biology, birth siblings, ethnicity, etc.) in order to form an identity and fuller sense-of-self. Think of these answers – whether they be details about the birth parents, or the reasons behind their choice – as missing puzzle pieces that your child needs to feel complete.

We understand it may be hard not to still look at your growing teen as your sweet, little baby. Try to remember that he or she has made great leaps and strides in maturity over the years, and can now handle some more sensitive information about his/her adoption story.

It is also important to remember that an open and honest approach will be best for your child in the long run. No matter their background, adolescents often struggle with self-esteem issues. Having a parent to trust is important for your child’s level of comfort and self-confidence as he or she grows. If your teen knows that you are in his/her corner, you will certainly see a boost in self-esteem.

While it is important to use age-appropriate adoption language in conversations with your teen, you should not avoid sharing tough information – drugs, rape, legal troubles – as a way to protect your child. This will only make the truth harder to share later in life. Hiding the difficult details can also set a child up to fantasize about his or her birth parents, which can cause greater disappointment and pain down the road. Be honest, but also be mindful of your tone and the way you frame your answers. If the birth parents had issues with substance use, for example, you might explain that your teen’s birth parents may have gotten involved with drugs or other problems a long time ago – not because they were bad people.

While you want to share as much information with your teen as possible, you should always be considerate, compassionate, and respectful when talking about his or her birth parents. Remind your child that his/her birth mother did the best she could in a time of crisis and that, by making an adoption plan, she was able to plan for your child’s life. She always had your best interest at heart. Ensure your teen that adoption is not an easy or quick decision, but one made with great love and thought. If you are in an open adoption arrangement, you may also consider involving the birth mother in some of these more difficult conversations.

You can also take these difficult conversations and turn them into great bonding time with your child. Ask for his or her opinion on something when the truth is less than glamorous. Try something like, “How do you think your birth parents felt when they went through that?” This serves a dual purpose. For one thing, it gives your teen a boost in self-confidence. It shows them that their voice matters, and that you care about their thoughts and feelings. It also helps them think about the situation from an empathetic standpoint.

Teenagers are working hard to “find themselves” throughout this emerging phase of life. As a parent, you can provide your son or daughter with honest answers, help your teen feel more confident in his or her adoption story, and help your teenager feel prouder talking about it. You are literally helping your child shape his/her own perspective and personality, and ultimately become an adult. Parenting is a pretty cool job, and you are the one who gets to do it!

Adoptions With Love can help you, too. We always have staff members ready to chat about these complicated, and often emotional, moments. If you would like to learn more about talking to teens about adoption, please download our free guide, “Explaining Adoption to Your Child” below. If you would like to learn about our active Search and Reunion program for adopted teens and their families, please reach out to us at 1-800-722-7731.


How to Talk About Adoption with School-Age Children (ages 6-12)

Children are, by nature, curious creatures – especially after age six, when they have started to develop a broader understanding of the world and their place within it. Whether children were born into their families, were adopted, or just know someone touched by adoption, they will likely have many questions for their parents. As a parent, facing these questions can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to know how much information you should divulge to your child, and how to handle the burning questions about his or her birth parents.

At Adoptions With Love, we understand the feeling many parents have when their school-age child begins asking more complex questions about his or her background. Gone are the infant and toddler conversations, when a simple: “You are ours and we love you!” would typically suffice. If your child is between the ages of six and 12, he or she is just now beginning to understand the greater scope of adoption and what it means. Your child may also be getting more prying questions about adoption from his or her peers at school.

In this article, we will break down some of most positive ways you can talk with your child about his or her adoption story. Having these conversations now, before and in early adolescence, can invoke positive feelings about adoption in your child and help him/her create a fuller sense-of-self.

First and foremost, it is important to keep all adoption conversations with your child as open, honest, and positive as possible. Your child deserves to know the truth, but this should always be framed in a positive light. Even if the truth about your child’s biological parents is difficult to share, ensure your child that they loved him/her very much and made the best possible choice they could. Always keep a calm, positive tone and show respect when talking about your child’s birth family. It is because of their choice that you came together as a family. By doing this, your child will also feel positive knowing he/she came from good people. Your child will also trust you for sharing this important information if you do so in an open and loving manner.

While many children will ask questions about adoption on their own, it is important to note that others may stay silent during early adolescence. Both temperaments are normal in growing children. As a parent, try to make frequent conversations happen. If your child is not asking questions, pose some questions to your child like, “Do you think about your birth parents?” Let your child know you will not be hurt and that you are open to talking about them.

Try looking for easy, organic opportunities to bring up the subject, as well. For example, if your child likes to play sports, you might say after a day on the field, “You are so talented! I wonder which of your birth parents gave you that incredible athletic ability.” This may help your quiet child feel comfortable with an open dialogue about his or her birth parents – Otherwise, your child may avoid bringing them up so as not to offend you. As long as you are happy to talk about it, they likely will be, as well.

With some forethought, sitting down to chat with your child about his or her adoption story can be very beneficial and enlightening. Your child is growing up and gaining a better understanding of his or her history and background. At this age, your child may also be looking for tangible information about his or her biological family. If you have an open or semi-open adoption, consider sharing photos of his/her birth parents and what else you can about their background. Explore your child’s heritage together. Read letters from his or her birth parents. Show your child is or her birth certificate, and your proof of adoption. This will all help your child connect with you and his/her adoption story. Look at baby pictures together that you might have from the very first time you met each other.

As the rule of thumb goes for any age and topic, parents should keep age-appropriate language in mind for the adoption conversation. You know your child better than anyone else in this world. If you know that he or she is not ready to learn the full context of his or her adoption story, hold off on divulging all of the difficult details until the time is right.

A 12-year-old, for example, is likely to handle sensitive details better than a six-year-old who is just starting to grasp the concept of adoption. If you know that your child’s birth parents had a drug problem, for example, you might consider saving that conversation until after he/she has learned about drugs, alcohol, and their effects.

As your child’s mind and relationships develop, he or she may have more complex questions about his or her birth parents. Be prepared to answer these honestly and compassionately. As always, take into consideration their sensitivity to the subject and share what you can with love. Tell your child the story with care and affection, to reassure the fact that his or her adoption story is a positive one, born out of love.

Adoptions With Love is a constant resource for help. If you want to learn more about how to talk to your child about adoption, or for help on finding the right words, please download our free eBook below, “Explaining Adoption to Children: A Guide for Adoptive Parents.” You may also email us at info@awlonline.org for more information on the adoption process.


How to Talk About Adoption with Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children (ages 0-5)

For adoptive parents, just the idea of talking to your child about adoption can be overwhelming. How will he or she react? Will it hurt your bond with your little one? What types of questions will follow as he/she grows? When should you start the conversation? There is a seemingly endless stream questions and conversations that are required throughout any child’s upbringing. Adoption only adds to the many emotional talks.

Adoptions With Love understands your hesitation. Know that we are here to help you navigate important adoption conversations as your child grows. Each phase of life brings a new series of questions from your child. It is important for parents to know how to respond in age-appropriate language, with honesty and compassion at every step of the way.

No matter the circumstance, an open, honest dialogue about adoption is always best for the child. In fact, over 97 percent of adopted children over the age of five know they were adopted, and 90 percent of these children have positive feelings about their adoption experience.

The tried-and-true rule to talking about adoption is to start early. Start adoption conversations in infancy and keep them going over the years, as your child grows. In this blog, Adoptions With Love offers advice on how to talk about adoption with infants, toddlers, and young children.

From the very first day you welcome your child into your lives, you can begin telling his or her adoption story. It is never too early to start using the word “adoption,” whether it is during a bottle feeding or bath time. As a baby, your child will not grasp what you are saying, but this practice can help you gain more comfort using the language. Adoption is something that you will continually discuss, intermittently, throughout your child’s life. Getting comfortable with “the talk” now will greatly benefit you both down the road.

Another reason it is so helpful to start the adoption conversation early on, is that when the time comes, your child will be more comfortable with (and confident in) his or her adoption story. Your little one will be used to the words and will not be shocked or caught off guard when his or her peers start asking questions, too.

Keep it Simple

Remember that young toddlers and children have short attention spans, so they do not require lengthy conversations to address the topic of adoption. They also think of things as black-or-white, and do not yet have the ability to understand metaphors or unclear “grey” areas. In the early years, use simple, straight-forward language to talk to your child about adoption. Save the more complex details for the later school-age, preteen, and adolescent years.

An Upbeat Approach

In addition to having simple conversations early and often, it is also important to be mindful of the language. Keep things positive! It is important to always send the message that the adoption is a positive, loving way to grow a family, and that is how you and your child came together. Always smile when sharing your child’s story and when talking about his or her birth parents. Young children catch onto emotions, even when they cannot fully grasp the words.

By using a positive, compassionate tone, you will help your child understand that adoption is positive piece of your lives. Your child will be happier and more confident in his or her adoption story if you portray it with pride and happiness.

The Baby Phase

New parents may be pleasantly surprised to learn that it is quite easy to discuss adoption with a baby. This tiny, beautiful miracle looks to you only for love and care. You can start with simple phrases during bath time and bedtime, saying things like: “Daddy and I love you! We are so happy we got to adopt you!” and “We are so grateful for Susie” (use the birth mom’s name, or a name/title you have chosen together to call the birth mom.  Using “mom” can be confusing to a young child). You may also just incorporate the word “adoption” into your day-to-day conversations. This way, your sweet baby will always be comfortable with the word and attach a positive feeling toward the subject.

Talking with Preschoolers & Kindergarteners

As your child grows, the adoption conversation will grow a bit, as well. At the toddler phase, your child may start asking some basic “why” questions: “Why don’t I look like you?” and “Did I grow in your tummy?” You may want to navigate the conversation using simple ways to explain the adoption story, such as:

“Mommy and Daddy were so happy to adopt you. Mommy and Daddy could not grow a baby in mommy’s belly.  Susie grew you in her belly, but she was not able to take care of a baby at the time. She loved you so much and wanted to make sure you had the best life, so she chose us to be your parents forever. Babies need to be taken care of, given food and clothing and a home. Susie couldn’t provide this all (for adult reasons), so we adopted you when you were born. And you have been our sweet baby from the day you were born (or adapt the story to your situation).” You may also tell this in storybook, “Once upon a time…” form at bedtime – Young children love hearing stories about themselves!

If, and when, your youngster begins asking more questions around the adoption, you should feel free to address them simply, honestly, and positively. For example, if your child asks: “Why does my skin look so different?” Just simply say: “We usually look like our biological families. You have skin like Susie (insert name, if you know it), and I have skin like Grandma. But we are all family and love each other, forever, no matter what we look like.” This will give your child the answer he or she is looking for, while redirecting the conversation toward a happy feeling of belonging.

While many young children frequently ask questions about adoption, there are some who stay quiet. This is normal. It is still important for you, as the parent, to encourage these conversations. You can take out pictures of the day you met them and laugh about how cute they were. This sometimes stimulates conversations. There are many adoption-themed books and kids’ shows that can help address the subject. Parents may consider using these to child understand more about his or her story, in a relaxed and comfortable manner, as well as relate it to others’ adoption stories.

Another helpful resource is Adoptions With Love. Our caring staff are available to help adoptive parents and hopeful parents through the adoption process. For more information about talking to your child about adoption, please download our free guide below.

“Explaining Adoption to Your Child: A Guide for Adoptive Parents” is designed to help you find the right words, and answers, at each stage of your child’s life – starting in infancy and throughout adolescence. For any more questions, please email us at info@awlonline.org.


How to Tell Your Child They Are Adopted

For some adoptive parents, the notion of talking to your child about his or her adoption can be nerve-wracking. How do you broach the subject? At what age is it appropriate to discuss adoption with a child? How will he or she respond to the news? Should it be news at all? How do you say it, and how often?

While the how, when, what, and what-ifs can become overwhelming, it is important not to delay this conversation with your child. The sooner you start talking about your child’s adoption story, the more comfortable, happy, and proud he or she will be of it. Remember that, as a parent, you are your child’s biggest supporter and influence. How you tell your child they are adopted (and how often), can have a very positive impact on how your child’s story unfolds.

Today, over 97 percent of adopted children over the age of five know that they were adopted, and 90 percent of these children have positive feelings about their adoption experience. At Adoptions With Love, we want you to feel confident when talking about adoption with your child – so that your child can be confident in it, too. In this article, we will guide you through the process on how to introduce and explain adoption to a child.

Let’s Talk Timing

Adoptive parents often ask, “When should I talk to my child about adoption?” The answer is simple: always talk about adoption, especially when they ask about it.

It is never too early to start sharing your child’s adoption story. In fact, from the moment you welcome him or her into your lives, you – as mommy or daddy – can start sharing the incredible journey of how you became a family. Get comfortable with the term “adoption” by using it in a positive way throughout the day – during diaper changes, bedtime routines, and even walks in the stroller! Your sweet baby may not understand the message during this infant phase, but the habit will help you, as the parent(s), gain comfort and confidence in talking about adoption openly and honestly.

Just like parenting, you will know how to best approach the adoption discussion with your child when the time comes. If you, like many, have an open adoption, you may consider including the birth mother in this conversation. Here are some other tips for how to tell your child they are adopted.

How to Have the Talk – Child-Forward Thinking

In addition to the simple repetition of the word “adoption” in the infancy phase, it is important to have frequent discussion with your child throughout his or her upbringing. These conversations should be age-appropriate and tailored to your child. If your child is still in diapers, he or she may not be able to fully grasp the concept of adoption. That is okay! Mention it occasionally but keep the explanations short and simple. As the child grows, he or she will likely have more questions. Those can be tackled over time, as he or she matures and is better able to process the information.

Be Open and Honest

While adoption can sometimes be a sensitive subject for adoptive parents, especially when a child has questions about his or her birth parents, it is important to be open and honest with your little one as the questions come up – in age appropriate language, of course. If there are some complexities to the story, you can always share those later when he or she is able to understand them. Share your child’s adoption story as openly and honestly as you can at this time. Your child will only benefit from your honesty, and it will continue to build trust and love in your relationship.

These talks should also be given with a positive tone. Remember to speak positively of your child’s birth family and reiterate how much your child is loved. Help your child understand that he or she did not grow inside your belly, but rather, inside your hearts. Let your child know that he or she was not given up, but rather, planned for your family. Your child was chosen. Talk about the selflessness and courageousness of your child’s birth mom, and about the strength she had to make this decision and to give her baby the best possible place to grow. Most of all, explain to your child that adoption was a beautiful way to complete your family – and let your child in on that joy.

Find Resources to Help

Many parents find adoption books to be helpful in explaining adoption to a child. There is a wide variety of literature available – from board books made for toddlers, to “how to” guide books for adoptive parents.

Another move that can help spark positive conversation is to create your own photo book, much like you did for your family in the beginning of the adoption process. A photo book or “Lifebook” is a great way to journal your child’s adoption story from the very beginning. Like “baby books,” adoption lifebooks can help you keep track of important dates, events, and feelings throughout the adoption and parenting journey. You can include ultrasound photos, footprints from the hospital, and if you have an open adoption arrangement, even photos of the birth and birth mother. This will help give your child a better sense of his or her story – which is important to know as he or she grows.

No matter which approach you decide to take, it is important to be open and honest when thinking about how to tell your child they are adopted. Doing this is crucial for helping your son or daughter understand how he or she became a part of your loving family – and a part of your life. Let them know that you welcome their questions and feelings. You can help shape your child’s outlook on his or her adoption story and grow to be proud of it. Open and honest conversations with your child can help teach him or her to positively share this special story with others.

For more information about the adoption process, please visit our Adoptive Parents FAQ page or call Adoptions With Love toll-free at 1-800-722-7731. You may also download one of our free guides about talking about adoption below!