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Adopting Toddlers (1-3 yrs)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'm so happy to be joining this forum. I just had the Talk with DH yesterday, and he's open to adoption. We have a 2.5 year old and a 6-month-old, so right now we're just exploring our options. We're open to domestic or international adoptions and would consider a couple of siblings.

That said, please be patient with me. I'm ignorant on these topics and 99% positive that this topic has been covered before in this forum. In fact, if you have a thread in mind, feel free to link me.

I've been reading all of these horror stories (@#$%$% Internet!) about adopting toddlers--namely behavioral problems stemming from poor attachment in infancy. I've heard of them doing everything from rejecting parents to getting downright violent with them.

Is this problem widespread, or do the Bad Apple anecdotes just get a lot of attention? If there is a "hard case" toddler, what are the evidence-based, non-"holding-therapy" interventions?

We're open to adopting a toddler, but the prospect also seems a wee bit intimidating. If you've adopted a toddler, please share your experience.
post #2 of 12
Just calling out a hello to you, and welcome! You've found a great stop for learning about this topic! Feel free to peruse the two stickies--forum guidelines, adoption language, and resources.

I think there are more and more evidence based treatment strategies, as more and more research is done with brain development.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is a good resource http://www.nctsnet.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=hom_main. There are many excellent books, listed in the resources. I think most folks will tell you that many children are very resilient and there are many degrees of trouble after placement.
post #3 of 12
Currently, i'm fostering a little boy that came at 16 months old and will be 2 yrs old next month. He is a totally typical little boy, a bit melodramatic but hasnt had any attachment issues or atypical behavior issues so far. I should know next month if i can adopt him, or not. however, he doesnt seem to have suffered much neglect or any abuse (he came into care due to criminal activity of one of the parents), and i know that he had always coslept (not that that would prevent any attachment problems but i think it helps...)

I know others here have adopted toddlers and everything went really well, and then some have dealt with my significant/trying issues. So it can run the gamut.

The most recommended book seems to be Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft.
post #4 of 12
I haven't adopted a toddler. We received my son's referral from Ethiopia when he was 4.5 months old and brought him home at 6.5 months old and even though he was young (very young in international adoption terms) he had significant attachment issues that took most of a year to get a handle on and that still pop up from time to time even now... he turns three next week. There is no guarantee that a young child won't have issues or that a older child will. It really depends on the personality of the child. If we adopt again, we will adopt a toddler or preschool aged child.

I second queenjane's book recommendation and also recommend Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray which I read prior to adopting our son but it became invaluable (and very worn) after he was home.
post #5 of 12
I think the biggest piece of advice I would give about toddler adoption is that a newly adopted toddler needs more than an infant. We adopted out of birth order for reasons that were out of our control, and that put a huge stress on our family.

Our daughter does have attachment issues. We have a therapist who uses the research of Daniel Hughes. There is a lot of quackery in the world of adoption therapy, so beware. But it sounds like you have already figured that out He writes mostly for professionals, but he does have a book about traumatized children that is written for a more typical audience.
post #6 of 12
My two sisters were adopted as toddlers (international, China). The first was 23 months and is now almost 5. The second was close to 3 and has been with us almost a year. The older one has no apparent issues and everything has worked out as perfectly as anyone could ever desire. The younger one has had a lot of trouble and definitely has some pretty bad attachment issues, but it is still wonderful to have her in our family (though I know it is a lot harder on my mom than anyone else). It can go either way.
post #7 of 12
We adopted VeeGee at just shy of 3yo - she'd been with us since she was 19mos.

I think that one of the things that I wish I'd known was how much I would need to be patient with her in terms of her attachment to me, though I'm not sure one can be told such a thing really. I think I went in expecting that she would be so relieved to have a mom that cared for her every day for many many days, that she would attach and it would be this lovely mother-daughter bond. I was her "savior" ya know? Well, that way of thinking was clearly NOT a good way, though it was the only way I knew at the time.

It took her a very long time, though when I look back, it feels quick, to trust me, to express real affection (she was used to expressing affection, but it had a creepy, almost manipulative tinge, that I think was a result of her trying to get someone to take care of her, a survival mechanism) towards me. I wanted to give her language, to have her call me "mom." But that took a while. I don't think I would call that rejection, rather just a slowly evolving trust. That said, it can feel like rejection, it can hurt.

And she was also somewhat violent with me for a while. She was very averse to being touched and so would fight me at every turn. Diapering, grooming, feeding, etc. were all just awful. It may seem strange that a 19 month old could be as powerful as she was, particularly in light of her extreme physical fragility, but she packed a punch and a kick!

In the end, I would counsel any prospective fp or ap to cultivate within him/herself a sense of humor, perspective, and patience. As the grownups, it's our job to be willing to wait for the little ones to heal and to attach at their own pace. Certainly, some will attach faster than others, some will have mental/emotional, even physical, barriers to attachment that will either delay or, in some cases, prevent full attachment. But I think it's relatively rare that a parent who is both prepared and willing to be flexible and responsive never breaks through.

Best of luck!!!!!
post #8 of 12
A very wise post!
post #9 of 12
We got our dd at 2.5 and our ds at 2. Neither have attachment issues, but HUGE other ones that no one warned us about. LOL

Just read all you can, and go into it with your eyes wide open.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for sharing your wise words and experiences. What a wonderful thing you've done for these children.

And thanks for welcoming me to the forum. I can see by the stickies that I have a LOT of reading to do. I just fear that DH and I will get trapped in the paralysis of analysis and never get around to actually adopting anybody... All of the decisions to make and questions to ask ourselves can be quite overwhelming!
post #11 of 12
I recently listened on creatingafamily.com... to a radio broadcast about "the ups and downs of toddler adoption." An author talked about her own experience and ways to be a better parent for a toddler and about attaching to your toddler. It was really positive and insightful.

We were thinking of adopting a toddler... but have felt more and more that we need to wait until our little ones are a bit older (closer to school age) so that we will have more time and energy to give to the toddler we hope to adopt. The program confirmed this even more for us.

post #12 of 12
We adopted our daughter from Russia as a toddler. At first she definitely had some expected attachment problems. She was also grieving. It took about 6 months for her to trust and attach to me and maybe a year till she was comfortable with my husband. I tried to keep her with me at all times (except at night). She went everywhere with me and I talked and sang to her constantly. She is now 5 and attached pretty well to both of us. I do sense a bit of insecurity in her that I don't see in my bio kids and I don't know if that will ever go away. For exmple, she is very clingy and always wants our attention. It almost seems desperate sometimes.

A book about toddler adoption specifically is "Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft" by Mary Hopkins-Best.
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