Dear Adoption Agencies,
Thank you for helping us to find our children! We’re so happy they’re in our lives.
As responsible consumers, a group of us decided to share our thoughts with you–our agencies–as to how you might better serve your clients. We hope our suggestions will assist future families adopting older children.
- Please DON’T tell us, “All these kids need is love and a good home.” That negates the complexities of parenting and adoption. It also creates a false sense of reality for some of us.
- Please teach us how to create a strong bond and attachment between us and our children. Let us know about the importance of massage, swimming, hugs, rocking, and more. Emphasize how attachment takes hard work on behalf of the parents. It is not automatic.
- Please prepare us for attachment issues and don’t shy away from talking about RAD (reactive attachment disorder). You told several of us you’ve “never placed a child with attachment issues or RAD.” We find that hard to believe considering that older adopted children all have backgrounds that are conducive to attachment issues. We could use a list of attachment “red flags.” Create a resource list of attachment issue books. Have the parent of a RAD child come talk to us in a workshop. Help us to understand both the challenges and the potential for healing when parenting a child diagnosed with RAD.
- If we’re adopting internationally, help us learn as much as possible about post-institutionalized issues. Have us meet with some families who have had challenges so we can feel better prepared.
- Help us to prepare for the issues of loss and grief that our children will feel. Give us reading materials so we’re better prepared to identify grief and loss in our children, and so that we can help them work through it.
- Quite a few of us barely heard from you once our children were home. One of you sent flowers, a few more called us to say congratulations. Most of you, however, were not even in touch unless we called you first.
- Send us “welcome home packets” consisting of a congratulations letter, older child adoption book, post adoption resource list, blank journal or photo album, and a buddy list of other parents or support groups we can call.
- If we’ve adopted internationally, please let us know when we need to do post-placement reports. We’re glad to do them, but once our kids are home, we forget. Please call or email us to set up appointments.
- Many of us are touched deeply by the children we meet who do not become our children; the ones left behind. If we donate money or toys or clothes to help you in your outreach programs, please follow up with us and let us know you received it.
- If we adopted from the Department of Social Services and were promised services and assistance–like therapy for our child–we expect you to go to bat for us when service providers try to deny us services.
- When we call you to share our concerns and questions about our child’s behavior, please don’t tell us he sounds like a typical kid. We’re a passionate, knowledgeable, dedicated, well-read bunch of parents. Please listen to us and help us.
We’d like to re-iterate that we’re appreciative of all you do. We hope this letter will be received with the same intent with which it was sent; it’s about sharing suggestions and ideas to help all adoptive families be as successful as they can be.
Thanks for listening. And best wishes as you continue to find forever families for older children.
[Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and suggestions for this article. Your input is appreciated!]
Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is www.OlderChildAdoptionSupport.