Finding and Using Postadoption Services: Changing Needs for Support at Different Ages and Developmental Stages

This information was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway

Changing Needs for Support at Different Ages and Developmental Stages

Most of the time, adopted children and youth are not thinking about adoption and its complexities. Like other children and youth, they are busy with schoolwork, sports, and social events. But there are developmental stages as well as milestones and events that often trigger adoption issues.

Developmental stages. Children and youth understand and feel differently about their adoption at different points in their life. For example, children adopted as infants may first learn about their adoption story as toddlers or young children. When entering school, a child may become aware that most children were not adopted and may be challenged to respond to questions and comments from peers. During adolescence, as youth grapple with identity issues and independence, they may have new questions about their birth families and their relationships. Additionally, as adopted people become parents or become old enough to consider parenting, they may find themselves wanting to reconnect with birth relatives or know more about their genetic history. Consequently, an adopted person’s questions, concerns, and needs often change over time.

Milestones and events that may trigger a need for postadoption support. In addition to developmental stages, the following milestones and events can trigger adoption issues and tap into 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 and sentiment, 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
  • Divorce of adopted parents
  • Deployment of a military family member
  • Death of a family member

During these times, parents should watch for signs indicating that their adopted child, or they themselves, need special support. Signs might include changes in mood, eating habits, or sleeping habits. Parents can prepare children and youth by discussing the possibility that these triggers may cause a reaction. Parents should let their children know that they understand what is happening and will be there to help and find other resources as needed.

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The original (2006) version of this factsheet was developed by Child Welfare Information Gateway, in partnership with Susan Frievalds. This update is made possible by the Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The conclusions discussed here are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views or policies of the funding agency, nor does the funding agency endorse the products or organizations mentioned in this factsheet.


Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012). Finding and using postadoption services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.