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Adopting Out of Birth Order

Adoption Process Adoption Advocacy

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  Written by NBICFS on 11 Jan 2017

In the past, adopting out of birth order was universally discouraged by adoption professionals. However, we find very little research showing that it causes any longstanding problems. Even so, many countries still do not allow for children to be adopted out of birth order internationally. If you are considering adopting internationally, you will need to check the country requirements.

Your position in your family is important. Some research even suggests that birth order has profound effects on personality and psychological development. Successfully interrupting that is difficult, but many factors go into how easy or difficult it can be.

A lot of it depends on the personalities of the children involved and whether the entire family has accepted the adoption. It is especially important to pay attention to the child who is going to be displaced. Has your oldest child accepted the adoption? Has he/she come to terms with the fact that he/she will not be the oldest anymore?

What about the child coming into your family? Does she/he have a clear understanding of what life in your family will be like? With international adoption you also have to consider that your newest child probably won’t speak English very well and will have life experiences that he/she will need to work through once arriving in your home.

The gender of both the children already in your home and the child being adopted may affect how difficult adopting out of birth order may be. We have found placements of a child of the opposite sex have been very successful in comparison to the difficulties of say two boys that constantly struggle for dominance.

Another factor that goes into easing the transition when adopting out of birth order is the parent’s ability to ask for help if it’s needed.  Parents who open themselves up to receiving help early in the adoption process and often during post adoption have an easier time helping their family settle into this new way of life.

  • Tip #1: Treat each child as an individual. Understand that your children are going to develop and mature at different rates. Encourage them to explore their own interests, talents and opinions.  If one is interested in soccer and the other is interested in karate, don’t force them to all take karate just because you already drive to the dojo twice a week.
  • Tip #2: Educate yourself and your family about age-specific problems of the child you are adopting. Talk with your children beforehand about their concerns. Try to give them a clear understanding about how your family will look once the adoption process is complete. Role play through some scenarios and talk about and plan for specific problems your family might face.
  • Tip #3: Plan on one parent staying home as long as possible to help the children adjust. If necessary, get help with house and yard work so that the two of you can focus on the children for the first few months. Remember, your family is the most important thing in which to invest your time and energy.
  • Tip #4: Assign chores and privileges based on maturity level and responsibility and not on birth order. It is not uncommon for the new child coming into your home to be less mature than the other children in the family.
  • Tip #5: Lastly, have your support group ready! If you’re prepared when problems arise, your support group will already be there for you. You won’t have to go through the process of finding help when you’re in the middle of a problem.

We are not trying to convince you that this is something you should do; neither are we trying to discourage you from going for it. We are simply saying that if this is the path you choose, there will be difficulties – especially in the case of an international adoption. If adopting out of birth order is something you are considering, talk to our social workers. They are equipped to help make the best decision for your family.



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