Adopting a 2nd Time

Adopting a 2nd Time

For many families, the decision of whether or not to pursue a second adoption can be a complex one. With so many factors to consider, and so many choices to make, it might come as a surprise to learn that most families' questions and concerns are remarkably similar. Delineating some of the choices, understanding many of the common questions, and thinking about how to prepare your family for the addition of a new arrival can help you make the decisions that will be right for your family.

What makes a repeat adoption different?

People often come into a second adoption with a very different focus and set of uncertainties than the ones that might have originally been part of their first adoption. Where first-time adopters might be wondering about some big questions - Will adoption work for me? Can I make it through the homestudy? Will I be a good parent? - those contemplating a second (or third) adoption usually have a different range of concerns. For repeat-adopters, the issues tend not involve the major questions of whether or not adoption works (it does), or whether they can be loving nurturing parents (they can), but whether or not they want to risk upsetting the balance of lives that have already been enriched. What's the big difference between first-time adopters and those who adopt again? It's usually the difference between actually becoming a parent versus refining a parental role.

Looking at choices

In thinking about whether or not another adoption might be right for you, consider the following questions:

Motivation - Why are you planning to adopt again? Is it for you, for your child, or both? There is a common myth that children have better adjustments with siblings, particularly siblings who are like them. While there have been numerous studies on adoption adjustment, the effect of family structure on adoption adjustment is not a common focus. One study (Brodzinsky and Brodzinsky, 1992) suggests that family structure has very little, if any, impact on child adjustment, a finding that is consistent with prior research. Ultimately, unless the primary motivation to adopt is the desire to parent another child, it might be worth reconsidering.

Timing - What will the age difference between the children be, or what do you want it to be? Given the variability/unpredictability of many adoptions, what special timing considerations should you keep in mind? Giving careful thought to the spacing of children within the family, and the anticipated time to complete an adoption, can help guide you in determining when to begin the process.

Type - Should you pursue the same type of adoption? Should you adopt from the same country or same ethnic and/or racial group? Program requirements, fees, timeframes and availability of children might all have changed since your last adoption. It might be worthwhile to consider all of your available options before making a final decision. In deciding how you might expand your family, you also need to consider how your family will need to redefine itself in terms of racial and cultural identity if you plan to adopt from a different country.

It wouldn't be an adoption if you didn't worry

Every adoption process can be a time of potential worry and anxiety. Repeat adoptions seem to have their own set of special concerns.

Feeling lucky? The Lottery Mentality

Parents and extended family often have the "lottery mentality" as a primary concern. It is hard for them to imagine that they will be as lucky in their second adoption as they were in their first. They fear that they will never love their second child the same way that they love their current child. Indeed, adoptive parents are sometimes warned by extended family or friends not to "press their luck". Why is this advice so frequently offered to repeat adopters? While the stigma attached to adoption has subsided to a significant degree, some residual effects remain. It is not uncommon to feel that adoption is a gamble. In the end, parents don't love their subsequent children in the same way as they do their first. As children are different, the feelings that we have for them do, and should, differ.

What's fair? Parents are acutely conscious of being fair to their children. They often ask "What happens if we get more information on one child vs. the other?" or "What if one birthmother maintains contact and the other does not?" It's important to understand that being fair doesn't necessarily mean being equal. Different stories have different beginnings. It is unlikely that there will be equivalent information about each of your children - even if you're adopting from the same country. Helping each child best understand his/her own story as fully as possible is the best that any parent can do.

The tasks at hand

When children are already a part of the family, they also need to be included in the adoption process. While the degree to which you involve your child is heavily dependent upon the child's age, interest and level of understanding, some basic tips apply to most situations.

  • Involving your child in the adoption process
    While children should always be helped to participate to the extent to which they are able/comfortable, the actual decision to adopt is always one for adults. Giving the child too much discretion in whether or not to pursue an adoption places an unfair responsibility on the child. Allow your child to be involved in other ways. If you're feeling brave, have current children offer favorite name suggestions. Children can also be encouraged to help select colors, toys, or decorations for the new child's room, and to decide which hand-me-downs he/she would be willing to spare.
  • Using your second adoption to talk about your first
    A second or third adoption gives parents a wonderful opportunity to speak with children about their child about his/her adoption process and the family's experience. Making use of the many adoption books written for children can help facilitate the discussion.
  • Tackling the travel issue
    One of the most common questions that repeat adopters have is whether or not both parents should travel and whether to bring a first child along. If you will be traveling to meet your child - either in the US or abroad - please remember that the time you spend with that new child before returning home will be the only time that this child will be the "only" child and gets to enjoy the full focus of your attention. As experienced adopters know, adoption travel is a "working" trip and not a vacation. The demands of the trip might be very difficult on children, especially young children. For these reasons, it is usually best to leave current children at home. Try your best to present a positive face when you leave. When you travel there are ways to keep a close connection with the child at home. Phone calls, leaving notes for your child to be shared with him/her everyday and a calendar with stickers to mark off the days until you return are all ways to maintain a connection with children at home.

The decision to adopt, whether for the first or the fourth time, is a deeply personal one. The time, money and energy that are needed to parent children are all limited resources; but for those who have carefully made the choice to adopt again, the rewards are without measure.

Recommended Readings

For children - About adoption

A New Barker in The House

Emma's Yucky Brother

Seeds of Love: For Brothers and Sisters of International Adoption

Black, White and the Cornrow In Between

Hair Care, Culture and Pride