Dear Dr. Bill,
Four years ago we adopted a baby girl from her birth mom; we have experienced a wonderful and healthy attachment with this child. Now we’re considering a second adoption — an 18-month-old boy who has been in the foster-care system with two different families for the past year. At 6 months of age, he was removed from his birth mom because of abuse. What are the risks of adopting a child at this age, especially given his background?
First of all, let me say “bless you.” More and more Christians are pursuing adoption and caring for foster kids, and it’s encouraging to hear stories like yours.
To answer your question, the first two years of life are critical in a child’s emotional development. Kids who are abused, neglected, or moved from care-giver to care-giver during this time are at greater risk for emotional and behavioral problems.
Some suffer a phenomenon known as Reactive Attachment Disorder. This is characterized by an inability to bond with others, even adoptive parents who are extremely loving and nurturing.
However, it’s important to know that every situation is unique. Some abused and neglected children are extremely resilient and thrive when they’re placed in a stable environment.
If you adopt this little boy, I’d consult with a psychologist who specializes in early childhood attachment. He or she can work with you and your family to help ease the transition from the foster care setting to your home.
Thanks for writing Janelle.
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