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August 2020   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Talking With Children and Youth About Adoption

Child development is typified by a series of central tensions between independence and reliance on caregivers. Younger children rely on caregivers for safety while they establish emotional regulation and self-management skills. Older youth grow their independence and autonomy, but still need social and emotional support. These developmental processes are particularly complicated for children and youth in the child welfare system.

Children and youth in out-of-home care have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) at higher rates than the general population. They have had to address the pain from ACEs while experiencing continued instability and without the presence of consistent caregivers or ecological systems that facilitate development. For these reasons, children and youth may not fully recognize the value of and need for permanent, supportive relationships. They may also be initially resistant to conversations about permanency because of their trauma, fear, rejection, grief and loss, loyalty to their birth family, or a preference to live independently. Child welfare professionals can help children and youth increase their openness to various permanency options and recognize how adoption or guardianship provide them with support and stability.

Children and youth never outgrow the need for family. It is essential that child welfare professionals continue to discuss permanency options with children and youth in order to help them explore their understanding of family and the ways in which positive relationships can support their transition to adulthood. The Belonging Matters—Helping Youth Explore Permanency bulletin explores the questions, concerns, and feelings that may cause youth to avoid legal or relational permanency.

3 Resources on Talking With Children/Youth About Permanency Options

Unpacking the No:
Helping Young People Explore the Idea of Adoption

By North American
Council on Adoptable Children


Talking With Older
Youth About Adoption


By Child Welfare
Information Gateway

"Youth Voices: Why
Family Matters"

By AdoptUSKids &
Child Welfare
Information Gateway



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