Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Toddler Adoption - The Weaver's Craft

Our adoption agency requires adoptive parents-to-be to read a few books about the special needs that adopted children may have.  I am finally finished reading the books that we chose.  The last book that I read was Toddler Adoption, the Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best.  I found this book to be informative and eye-opening.  The author adopted a toddler from Peru, and she writes about her experience with him after he first came home.  She also incorporates the experiences of other families who adopted toddlers.  Some of the topics discussed include bonding and attachment, behavior management, development, and parenting the grieving toddler.

Early in the book Best challenges you to think about what has motivated you to adopt a toddler.  Is it because the wait time for a toddler is shorter than that of an infant?  Is it because there are no infants available for adoption in the country that you are adopting from?  Is it because you think that a toddler will not keep you awake at night like an infant will?  It is because you think that a toddler will already be toilet trained and more independent?  She points out that those are all poor reasons for wanting to adopt a toddler.  A toddler is just as capable as an infant is at keeping you awake at night and they may not be toilet trained.  You should adopt a toddler because you truly love that stage of development and have the resources to meet the emotional needs that a toddler will have.

Here are some notes from the book:
  • Children who have been severely neglected learn at an early age to count on no one but themselves.
  • Children can become attached very strongly to a caregiver - even one who provides a poor quality of care.  If a child is not adequately prepared an gradually transitioned to their new adoptive parents, the parents are more likely to be viewed as the enemy rather than potential love objects.  Prospective parents need to consider whether their hearts can handle unreciprocated love. Many adopted toddlers are anything but happy, sometimes for months and months.  
  • Adopted toddlers may little or no experience making decisions or playing.  Some may become alarmed at the presence of their new dad because they have never had a male caregiver before.
  • When your child asks why their birth mother could not raise them, it is important to discuss er inability to care for ANY child, not just them.  (I don't how this applies in cases where the birth mom has older children at home, but chose to part with her toddler.)
  • It may unnecessary to limit a newly adopted toddler's interaction with other adults until he becomes attached to his new family.
  • Some parents reported that their adopted toddler formed a bond with the family pet long before they became comfortable with signs of affection from their family members.  (This makes me wonder if having a pet speeds up the attachment process.)
  • Adopted toddlers may have no sense of ownership.  They may not have ever experienced having their own clothes, toys, or bed.
  • Children adopted before the age of two display similar mental health as birth children during the teen years.
  • Toddlers who have experienced hunger may be fearful of experiencing it again.  They may try to hoard food in their room.  It may be comforting for them to keep a small stash of nonperishable food in their room.
  • Having a routine is comforting for children.  They are reassured by knowing what is expected of them and by counting on their parents to respond in predicable ways.  
  • Many toddlers can be overwhelmed by their new home.  Even having an over abundance of toys can over stimulate them.  Parents can eliminate a number of behavior problems by simplifying the child's environment.
  • A portion of the book is devoted to discipline methods.  The author discourages the use of spanking and time-outs in children who are not firmly attached to their parents.
  • Adoptive parents may experience feelings similar to what is felt in post-partum depression.  This is called post-adoption stress.  Many adults have a hard time adjusting to the life style changes that parenting brings about.  Parents may feel disappointed or stressed over the physical appearance or behavior of their toddler upon meeting them for the first time.
  • The author discusses different types of therapy that might be beneficial and gives advice on choosing a therapist.
The book gave me a lot to think and pray about.  

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