Extended Family Matters in Adoption
A strong support network is crucial for all families, but especially for families formed through adoption. Extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, often provide essential support to children and their families—both birth and adoptive. As we recognize the need for adoption competence in services, we should also acknowledge that children who are adopted will be better cared for and supported if their extended family have at least a general understanding of the lifelong journey of adoption as well as the impact of trauma and separation and loss. While birth and adoptive families likely receive education and support to learn about adoption and how it will affect their lives, extended family members are typically not given the same preparation.
Professionals can help families strengthen their support systems by identifying ways that they can talk about adoption with relatives. A holistic approach to adoption preservation and support—focusing on the needs of the whole family, including birth families and extended family members—is key to strengthening adoptive families. This can help prevent adoption disruptions and family misunderstandings in the long-term. It is in everyone's interest to be committed to creating a safe, loving, and affirming environment for the child to thrive.
Professionals should take time to guide and support parents on how they want to respond to questions and concerns raised by their relatives and loved ones without shame in their adoption choice. Professionals can equip parents with skills and strategies that can help them overcome potential challenges, including:
- Addressing and dispelling common myths about adoption
- Explaining to relatives that their child's story is personal, and their child can share the details when he/she is ready to
- Helping extended family members to understand how aspects of their child's behavior may be related to experiences he/she had prior to adoption
- Educating relatives about the child's cultural/ethnic background, including their cultural customs and traditions that should be honored and incorporated into family life
3 Resources for Both Professionals and Families
For more information, visit at https://www.childwelfare.gov.
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