Why Must I Take Pre-Adoption Education?


I always know when I send a new international adoption family their Individual Education Plan, that there are probably some grunts and groans as they read the list of requirements. I get that. Yes, education is part of the process, possibly not only from the State you live in, but definitely from The Hague Convention for Intercountry Adoption [22 CFR 96.48 (b) and (c). You simply have to have it!

More importantly though, pre-adoption education is truly your “window to the world” of international laws, processes and requirements, as well as for better understanding the myriad of child behaviors, family adjustment, your adopted child’s culture, and specific medical and mental health needs. It provides you with more detail into this adoption journey and some insight into what might lie ahead for you, your adopted child and your family.

The benefits of Parent Education are many. In October 2016, Wilder Research (www.wilderresearch.org ) summarized the key benefits of parent education programs.

  1. Parental Empowerment and Competency. Sometimes we really don’t know what adoption can mean for us down the road. Parent Education can enlighten you, empower you and encourage you. It can trigger increases in your self-esteem and your attitudes about parenting.
  2. Child Behavior. Believe it or not, children whose parents have participated actively in parent education show better prosocial behaviors and decreases in negative behaviors! It will often help you raise a child with empathy and compassion, versus an aggressive or delinquent child.
  3. Positive Parenting Practices. What you learn in your parent education classes adds to your individual “Parenting Toolbox.” Positive practices emerge such as nurturance, open communication, varied parenting styles geared toward your individual child’s needs, and more effective discipline practices.
  4. Parent-Child Interaction. Relationships that fail are those with poor or little real communication. Parent education improves the communication patterns between children and their parents, thus enhancing relationships between everyone in the household.
  5. Social Connections. Participation in parent education can actually widen your social circle! Meeting and talking with other adoptive parents about behavioral challenges  whether in person or online in support groups, gives you new social and supportive outlets, friendships and resource options. It helps you feel connected  and stay connected during this adoption journey.
  6. Parent Mental Health and Well-Being. Isolating yourself throughout your adoption journey is not advised. It can contribute to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and anger. Education can empower you and help you attack problems more confidently, thus boosting your own mental health.
  7. Corporal Punishment and Risk of Child Abuse. Learning more about alternatives to physical punishment and proper discipline to use with “children from hard places” will help your adoption journey be much more manageable and valuable. Parent education allows you to change old habits and outdated family discipline practices that really do not work with adopted children.  It allows you to avoid any risk of child abuse and parent much more effectively.

Each of these benefits helps YOU to be a better parent. Parent Education helps YOU more competently navigate parental responsibility. It helps YOU understand where your child comes from and what he will need in the future in order to thrive and become his best self. Education helps YOU nurture your developing family into a positive, functioning, cohesive unit.  Pre-adoption education provides YOU with the groundwork for a successful adoption.  And that is definitely what MLJ Adoptions wants for YOU!

Yes, it will take a few hours to complete it. Yes, it will challenge some of your beliefs and practices. Yes, it will provide you with new insights and information. Most importantly, it will help you build a strong and enduring family bond with that child you waited so long to adopt and love.

Karlene Edgemon works as MLJ Adoptions’ Director of Social Services. Throughout her 25 year social services career, Karlene has been able to watch adoption transform the lives of children and she is always brainstorming new ways to support adoptive families before, during and after their adoption.