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This information has been directly taken from Child Welfare Information Gateway

Now that you have adopted a child and life is beginning to settle down, you may find your thoughts moving to the future. When shall I tell my child that s/he is adopted? How will s/he feel about it? At what point will s/he want more information? What will s/he want to know from me? How can I help my child feel comfortable about being adopted?

Whether children are adopted as infants or when they are older, whether they are healthy or have physical or psychological problems, their adoption is bound to influence their development. You need to understand how and why.

Learning about the developmental stages of children and what can be expected in each stage is important to all new parents. When your child has been adopted, there are additional considerations. In these pages, we will be looking at specific issues—separation, loss, anger, grief, and identity—and show how they are expressed as your adopted child grows up. Some of these issues will be obvious in all stages of development; others surface at specific times. The more thoroughly you can understand how your child behaves and why, the more likely it is that you can be supportive and help your child to grow up with healthy self-esteem and the knowledge that s/he is loved.

While the stages described below correspond generally to a child's chronological age, your child's development may vary significantly. Some children progress more quickly from one stage to another; others may continue certain behaviors long past the time you would have expected. Still others may be substantially delayed in entering and moving through new stages. Many characteristics of adolescence, for instance, may not even appear until your child's twenties and may persist until your child's identity has formed.

Ages and Stages

Adoption Parenting: Newborn and Infant


What to Expect the First Year

The primary task of a baby is to develop a sense of trust in the world and come to view it as a place that is predictable and reliable.

Adoption Parenting: Toddler


What to Expect the Second Year

Toddlers continue the attachment and separation cycle in more sophisticated ways in the second year.

Adoption Parenting: Preschool


Adoption and Child Development

It is important to understand the typical developmental tasks and needs of preschoolers, as well as how adoption-related experiences may affect your child.

Communication About Adoption

Parents who project an attitude of acceptance and comfort with adoption are better able to help their children explore their own feelings and fears.

Discipline Considerations

The purpose of discipline is to teach, re-teach, and assist children in developing their own internal controls.

Adoption Parenting: Grade School


Understanding Child Development and the Impact of Adoption

School-aged children go through many significant developmental changes. It is important for parents to understand the typical tasks and needs of school-aged children as well as how adoption-related experiences may affect children.

Communicating About Adoption

Parents who feel good about adoption, are comfortable talking about it, and can openly acknowledge their child’s feelings are best able to help their children do the same.

Disciplining Effectively

The purpose of discipline is to teach children acceptable behavior and how to develop their own internal controls. Discipline should take into account your child’s abilities, learning styles, and family history.

Improving Your Child's School Experience

Being adopted can affect your child’s school experience. Peers may pose innocent questions that cause hurt feelings, or they may tease an adopted child about being adopted.

Seeking Help for Mental Health Concerns

Adoptive families, like other families, sometimes need help to address mental health concerns. Sadness, anger, and behavior challenges are normal as children in grade school learn more about their family histories and come to terms with adoption.

Adoption Parenting: Preteen


Psychological Identification

If your child has had several homes before yours, there is often a brief honeymoon period where s/he will try to be perfect to ensure your love. But soon the sense of loss, hurt, and anger surfaces.

Adoption Parenting: Teenage Years


Understanding Teenage Development and the Impact of Adoption

Thirteen- to nineteen-year-olds experience rapid physical and hormonal growth.

Communicating with Your Teenager About Adoption

Adopted teenagers wonder about their birth families and think about adoption more than most parents realize. They need parents who are comfortable talking about adoption, who aren’t threatened or hurt by the discussion, and who can help answer their questions and discover information about their pasts.

Helping You Teenager Communicate with Others About Adoption

Being adopted can affect peer interactions. Teens are capable of more sophisticated understanding and discussions about adoption, but they can be quite narrow in their judgments.

Disciplining Effectively

As teenagers assert their emerging identities and independence, while also navigating peer pressures, they frequently will test the boundaries of family rules.

Preparing Your Teenager for Adulthood

An important part of parenting teenagers is creating the conditions in which they can master adult tasks and take on greater independence.

Seeking Help for Mental Concerns

For many adopted persons, growing up in an adoptive family involves some additional complications and challenges.

Adoption Parenting: Young Adults


Postadoption Issues

Adopted persons may deal with a range of issues at different points in their lives.

Openness, Searching, and Access to Family History

Being placed for adoption does not necessarily mean an adopted person will never be able to contact his or her birth parents again.

Managing Adoption Issues

Most adopted adults overcome any adoption-related issues they experience during childhood and adolescence and are as well-adjusted as nonadopted persons.

Additional Resources

Several nonprofit membership organizations provide education, advocacy, and support for families touched by adoption.

Additional Adoption Parenting Information

Openness in Adoption

Open adoption allows adoptive parents, and often the adopted child, to interact with the child’s birth parents. Openness can vary greatly from family to family and may change over time. Open adoption is becoming increasingly common, in part due to a growing recognition of the potential benefits of allowing an adopted child or youth to establish or maintain connections with his or her birth family. To support adoptive families in considering and maintaining open adoption, this factsheet describes various levels of openness, potential benefits, important considerations, and tips for building and strengthening open relationships.1

Visit Special Needs to find out more about physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.

Return to Adoption Wiki


Child Welfare Information Gateway. A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


1 While this factsheet includes information primarily for adoptive parents, it also may be of interest to birth parents. Pregnant women thinking about placing their child for adoption also may be interested in Open Adoption: Could Open Adoption Be the Best Choice for You and Your Baby? available from

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Angelina Jolie in an American actress most known for her roles in films Changeling (2008), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Salt (2010), and Wanted (2008). In 2000, she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Girl, Interrupted (1999), and in 2014 she won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

After spending time in Cambiodia for a film, Jolie become more aware of the poverty and need in third world countries. Shortly after, she began visiting other poverty-stricken countries and then was formally appointed as A Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2001.

Jolie adopted Maddox, a Cambodian boy, in 2002, then in 2005 adopted a girl named Zahara from Ethiopia. Brad Pitt and Jolie announced that they were going to have a baby together, and Jolie then gave birth to a baby girl, Shiloh, in May of 2006. Pitt and Jolie also adopted Pax, a 3-year-old Vietnamese boy.[1] In 2008, Jolie gave birth to twins, a boy named Knox and a girl named Vivienne.[2]
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