Fostering/Adopting a Child That May Have Been Sexually Abused

 What issues should families consider when adopting or fostering a child that may have been sexually abused? What are warning signs of past sexual abuse? How can these children be helped, while not endangering children already in the home? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support organization, interviews Dr. Jennifer Shaw, a clinical psychologist at the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education in Fairfax, Virginia. Dr. Shaw specializes in play therapy and therapy with children and teens who have experienced early trauma, including sexual abuse.

Hit the Highlights
  • Often prospective parents are in a situation where they don’t know for sure, but they have suspicions that the child they have been matched with through foster care adoption or referred through international adoption have experienced sexual abuse.
  • What constitutes sexual abuse? Intercourse? touching?
  • What type of children are most vulnerable? In what situations are children most vulnerable?
  • Does sexual abuse cause a different type of psychological damage than other types of abuse?
  • We know that when adopting from foster care we may not know about a history of sexual abuse. What factors should we look for in a child’s history if no sexual abuse has been disclosed. What are the warning signs in information you receive about a child before adoption that might indicate that a child has been abused sexually.
  • What type of behaviors are common in children that have been sexually abused.
  • What factors should we look for in a child’s history if no sexual abuse has been disclosed.
  • Do parents often misunderstand the range of normal healthy sexual exploration and curiosity expressed by normally developing children?
  • A common perception is that most children who have been abused will grow up to become abusers— especially boys. Is this true?
  • Why do children often have mixed emotions about the abuse and their abusers?
  • What factors impact how much a child who has been sexually abused will be affected?
  • One of the biggest concerns for prospective adoptive parents is the possibility that they will be endangering children already in their home if they bring in a child that is acting out sexually and this translates often to being afraid to bring in any child with a history of sexual abuse.
  • What type of therapies work for these kids?
  • How to find a therapist to help your child and help your family with raising this child?
  • What is the prognosis for living a mentally and sexually healthy life?
  • How to set up safeguards and protections for the children already in your home?

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Image Credit: H Matthew Howarth