Children adopted internationally may have significant challenges to overcome after adoptive placement. These children often have special needs or health conditions that are common in low-resource countries, and these challenges may be accompanied by trauma from their early life experience as well as feelings of grief and loss. In many countries, children who need permanent families are cared for in institutions or orphanages, which may increase their risk of exposure to trauma and cause developmental delays and/or attachment concerns. Find resources in this section to help parents address the emotional/behavioral needs of children and youth after international adoptions.
All Foreign-Born Adoptees Are Not the Same: What Counselors and Parents Need to Know
Liu & Hazler (2015)
The Professional Counselor, 5(2)
Describes challenges international adoptees may face when adjusting to their new lives and examines international adoptions from China specifically as an example. The article reviews the preadoption experience, risk factors for adjustment issues, how to recognize behaviors, how to facilitate secure attachment development, and more.
Developing Emotional Attachments in Adopted Children
Attachment Parenting International
Discusses the need for parents who are adopting to be informed about their child's history and their potential for cognitive, behavior, and attachment problems. The resource reviews attachment and why it is important, what can happen when adopted children do not attach, and how to nurture attachment in adopted children.
Fostering Successful Attachment in Intercountry Adoption
Adoption Advocate, 86
Summarizes how children adopted from other countries often face multiple broken attachments, which can cause them trouble in forming meaningful relationships later in life. Because early attachments are often disrupted, it is important for these children to develop positive, consistent relationships with adoptive parents to help establish healthy attachments.
Healing the Hurt Child
Discusses ways of parenting and supporting adopted children who have experienced trauma, have had interrupted relationships, and have had no constant attachment figures.
Language Acquisition, Speech Delays, and Communication Challenges in Children Following an Adoption (PDF - 185 KB)
Hanlon & Wise (2019)
Adoption Advocate, 138
Examines the topic of speech delays and communication challenges, which are among the most common developmental issues faced by adoptive parents. Many situations can leave children delayed in their language development, especially in cases of international adoption in which early exposure to language development opportunities may have been limited.
A Matter of Attachment? How Adoptive Parents Foster Post-Institutionalized Children's Social and Emotional Adjustment (PDF - 1,249 KB)
Barone, Lionetti, & Green (2017)
Investigates the effect of parents' attachment and children's age at the time of adoption from an institution on children's attachment and social-emotional adjustment. Findings showed that parents' secure attachment increased children's likelihood of secure attachment, while age at adoption did not play a significant role.
Third Culture Kids: What Is Your Child Experiencing?
National Council for Adoption
Explores the concept of a "third culture kid," a child being raised in a culture outside of their biological culture and how this relates to adoption, especially international adoption. Parents should introduce children to their birth culture because it will bring them comfort and help prevent feelings of loss of birth culture and family history.
Provides information and resources for parents looking to understand childhood trauma. The website discusses how trauma affects children, the effects of trauma on brain development, and how parents can help children recover and heal.