Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breakin' the Rules: Adoption and Birth Order (the Obvious)

If you have children already in your home and start looking into adoption, one issue comes to the forefront fairly quickly - birth order.  Now, if you are simply seeking to adopt younger than your (current) youngest child, the issue is simply brushed aside (or never acknowledged) and you go on your merry way, able to use pretty much any placement and homestudy agency, etc.

However, if you in the position that we were for both adoptions, the birth order issue is front and center and caused its share of discussion.  With our first adoption, Ally was only 6 months old and we wanted to adopt a toddler boy (in between Al and Grace).  This was at the very beginning of our research - little did we know at that time how much adopting out of birth order was frowned upon and how it might limit our options. For example, there were a number of agencies (both placement and homestudy) that just simply refused to work with us.  Fortunately, for us, not every agency has an absolute bar to adopting out of birth order. :)  For our most recent adoption, we really upset the apple cart with the biggest no-no of all - adopting older than our oldest.

What did all this mean for us?  In other words, is this adoption "rule" a valid one?


Yes and no. :)

First, let's look at it from the perspective that most parents and agencies do - disrupting the birth order for the kiddos at home.  With adopting 2 kids right in the middle of our 2 bio girls, we actually didn't have much stress that I would specifically attribute to adopting out of birth order (but we had other stress...).  That being said, Ally will still submit to Grace's authority before any of the other kids, even though all 4 are older than her.  That may be a personality thing, but I suspect it goes a bit deeper. It's getting better, but she still really struggles to listen to and obey Selam (which is why we rarely have Selam babysit her).

Adopting out of birth order is very kid-by-kid specific.  While we had very little trouble in this area, other children and families struggle greatly.  Know your kids and what they can/cant' handle.  To be honest, even though it was discussed, I still think that the first time, we adopted out of birth order because that is what we (as parents) wanted for our family rather than truly deeply debating how it would play out with our kids (old and new).  Fortunately, it has worked out wonderfully.  

But there are struggles - your natural instinct as a parent is to protect the youngest, especially when they are still young (e.g. 18 months, like Al was).  Was that fair for Abi and Hana to have to deal with? Really, your newly adopted children are the "infants" in our lives during that tumultuous time and should be treated accordingly - that is tough to do when you have younger children at home. 

The part that is hard to acknowledge...
There is always the risk with any new child - ESPECIALLY one coming from trauma (and all adopted children suffer trauma, even small infants, don't kid yourself) - there is always the risk that the child will act out, perhaps physically or sexually and younger children are the obvious targets.  There are steps you can take to protect against this, but to sweep it under the rug can be very dangerous.  

Adopting older than your oldest is even more complicated and I've already rambled enough... perhaps another post.  :)  There are also the less-obvious concerns with adopting out of birth order - the ones that no one seems to discuss - but that also probably deserves its own post as well...

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