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CASE: The Center for Adoption Support and Education
 

 

Children's Understanding of Adoption:
Adopted Children vs. Non-Adopted Children


ADOPTEE

CHILD WHO IS NOT ADOPTED

0-4
Generally does not realize differences. If notices them, likes to point them out. Generally does not realize differences. If notices them, likes to point them out.
Feels OK about adoption and thinks story is special. Feels OK about adoption and thinks story is special.

ADOPTEE

CHILD WHO IS NOT ADOPTED

5-6
Child begins to ask many questions about babies, birth, differences. Child begins to ask many questions about babies, birth, differences.
Likes adoption story, but does not understand concepts of adoption. Feels some differences, especially if in multicultural family. Does not understand adoption, but wonders about it when it comes up - and often asks simple questions to learn more.
Tells most people he/she is adopted. Accepts adoption as a way to form a family.

ADOPTEE

CHILD WHO IS NOT ADOPTED

7-11
Child understands basic concepts of adoption Does not understand adoption concepts, but begins to sense that it results when birth parents "give away" child
Begins grieving process
May stop asking questions/denial Reaction to adopted peers based on information from adults (if any) or media
Realizes she/he lost something in order to be Adopted
"Not everyone is adopted like me" "Not everyone is adopted like he is"
"Why was I adopted?" "Why was she adopted?"
"Why didn't they keep me?" "Could my parents give me away?"
"Did I do something wrong?" "I'm glad I am not adopted."
Increasing interest in birth parents "Adoption is OK because I like you" or "Adoption is NOT OK because I don't like you"
Fantasies about living with different parents Fantasies about living with different parents

ADOPTEE

CHILD WHO IS NOT ADOPTED

12-14
Anger stage of grieving and dev'l stage Anger stage of dev'l stage
May resist authority, try on new identities May resist authority, try on new identities
Begins separating from 2 sets of parents Begins separating from 1 set of parents
May be angry over loss of control over adoption decisions, wants more control in life Wants more control in life
Growing sense of self: identity issues Growing sense of self: identity issues
More complex reasoning about adoption story and needs to look at grays rather than black & white Sees many differences about adoptive families Oversimplifies how adoption occurs and does not understand emotional issues
Rejects kids who are different Rejects kids who are different
Generally does not talk about being an adoptee May be negative about what he/she perceives adoption reflects about adoptees
What does sex have to do with adoption? What does sex have to do with adoption?

ADOPTEE

CHILD WHO IS NOT ADOPTED

15-17
Separates from 2 sets of parents Separates from 1 set of parents
Has second layer of concerns about leaving home May face concerns about leaving home, but usually feels secure about its permanency
Copyright (c) Center for Adoption Support and Education, 4000 Blackburn Lane, Suite 260, Burtonsville, MD 20866 Reprint with permission only.  caseadopt@adoptionsupport.com

 

 

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