The numbers of children waiting to be adopted internationally are high. In 2011, UNICEF estimated there were 153 million orphans. Many of these children are older or are part of sibling groups which can often create barriers to them being adopted into loving homes capable of providing the love, structure, guidance, and nurturing that they need. In fact, the in-country professionals with whom MLJ Adoptions Inc. works in Bulgaria suggest that because there are sibling groups of three or more children waiting to be placed, there is special care taken to process these children. If families are open and willing to accept three children ages 0-6, they could be matched quickly. Your home study and dossier do not even need to be fully complete to begin the initial process with these waiting sibling groups.
Siblings who have grown up with one another and become adopted into the same family generally adjust much better, particularly if the children have been exposed to a traumatic event, as they have each other to help process the emotions associated with it. Generally, the children are also able to maintain a lasting family bond when they are placed together which offers them stability and a connection to their past.
However, adopting both multiple children and older children does require some parental “soul searching” prior to making a decision. It is very hard work! Here are five things to consider before you decide to adopt more than one child.
- What type and age of child truly fits your desires and abilities for adoption? Assess your actual capabilities. Be honest with yourself as to whether you can handle multiple children or a sibling group with special needs. Do you have the commitment to parent an older child knowing that the child may come with significant emotional baggage that will need to be “unpacked” before he or she can attach permanently to you? Can your friends and relatives who really know you see you being a good parent to multiple children at once? Do you have the physical stamina, emotional patience and financial resources to work with the special needs these children can often exhibit? How will this impact your existing children?
- Do your homework. Before you actually decide, visit families you know who have adopted multiples or older children and observe their household functioning, ask questions, and see if you are comfortable with the noise in the home and the kinds of schedules that must be maintained. Read books and articles on the subject—even the scary ones! Research and learn as much as you can before making a final decision.
- There are many basic things you will need to parent larger sibling groups: plenty of room in your home for living and playing, a great deal of love and perseverance, the available time to commit to such an endeavor, flexible schedules to accommodate everyone’s needs, community services and supports to help with education, therapy, emotional needs, and medical facilities, a wide support network of friends and family to offer assistance, a spouse or partner to help you co-parent, and financial resources to provide support for these additional household members.
- Are you flexible? Recognize that adopting a large sibling group will greatly alter your current lifestyle. You will have less time for yourself as you juggle increased responsibilities with cooking, laundry, house cleaning, shopping, and attending to each child’s needs. You will likely feel “spread too thin” on occasion and experience times of frustration and exhaustion. Marital relationships can often be tested. Your “free” evenings and weekends will now include trips to school functions, sporting events, lessons, Parent-Teacher meetings, therapy sessions, helping with homework, and medical appointments.
- The emotional needs of multiple children can be very overwhelming. Sibling relationships may not actually be well developed upon arrival if the children were in separate placements in their home country. Children require a great deal of positive attention, both individual and as a group. They may use negative behaviors to get your attention such as fighting, yelling, stealing, competing, and refusal to follow directions. They may be messy or destructive. Attachment issues will be likely and can be difficult, frustrating and exhausting. Due to past experiences, one or more of the children may not sleep well, have eating disorders, or respond negatively to over stimulation. They will not share your own value system, at least not initially, and they may not respect the boundaries you set. This will need to be taught and learned and that may take some time. There may be language or comprehension difficulties at first which will make parenting even more challenging. Those children who have primarily been caring for themselves will challenge your authority. Children who may have been institutionalized or are older may be developmentally delayed in cognition, emotion, behavior, and self-regulation. Experiences from their past will influence their adaptability to the adoption. Actually being “parented” will be a new experience for them and one they will likely challenge at first.
You will need to bring new methods of coping to your household such as scheduling, establishing a routine, flexibility, delegating responsibilities, having specific house rules, scheduling one-on-one time with each child, engaging in family activities that span the age group, and establishing firm boundaries. You will need to build in time for self-care, possibly including therapy, support groups, and relaxation exercises. You and your spouse will need to schedule time out together on occasion. You will want to arrange for child care, school choices, and medical and dental services before the children arrive. You will need to accept help from others when it is needed.
However, parenting multiples can be very rewarding and definitely does have certain benefits. Older married couples with parenting experience may be more likely to look at sibling groups and be successful with them. Multiples can offer you the unique opportunity to love many children at once and help you expedite reaching your preferred family size. The children can at times entertain each other and have “built in” playmates. They can help each other adjust to the new home. They will have another person from their country of origin with whom to identify and speak the language. The children may be comfortable sharing rooms because that is what they have done in the past. Your wait time for a referral may be shortened. Financially, adopting multiples may reduce certain fees, save money on preparing a dossier or home study, reduce your travel costs or foreign fees, and make it more efficient to complete all of the paperwork at once. You may be eligible for adoption grants to help with the cost of your adoption. And certainly, you can benefit from the federal Adoption Tax Credit. Finally, you can feel comforted by the fact that you are providing a loving home for vulnerable children who are in need of permanency and stability.
“Adopting a sibling group is an adventure. And like all adventures, there are peaceful times, dangerous times, exciting times, and times when you feel there will be no tomorrow. Most assuredly, this is not a journey for the faint of heart. But parents who respond favorably to variety, rewards, challenges, and accomplishments may find that this is the road for them.” (Adopting The Hurt Child, 1995, Gregory C. Keck, Ph.D. and Regina M. Kupecky, LSW)
There are many factors to consider when adopting multiple children at one time, but doing so may be just the right fit for your family.
There are several sibling groups listed on our Waiting Child Photolisting. Please contact us if you have further interest in adopting multiples.