Older Child Adoption: Parenting Many Kids in One Body

Dawn Davenport


Challenge of Adopting a Toddler or Older Child

Did you find that your child was on many different developmental levels?

One of the challenges of adopting a toddler or older child from foster care or international adoption is that you are actually adopting and ultimately parenting many different kids at different developmental levels all in the same child. Your four year old may be three in her physical development, two in her cognitive development, and nine months in her emotional development. Our challenge as an adoptive parent is to meet all these developmental need. Whew, talk about a parental balancing act.

We talked about how to strike this balance and help our children heal from past abuse and neglect on yesterday’s Creating a Family show in our interview with Dr. Bruce Perry, child psychiatrist, founder of Child Trauma Academy, and author of The Boy Who Was Raised as a DogDr. Perry is a leading expert on how trauma affects children and has been consulted on how to help children involved with the following high profile incidents involving traumatized children: the Branch Davidian siege in Waco (1993), the Columbine school shootings (1999), the September 11th terrorist attacks (2001), the earthquake in Haiti (2010), the tsunami in Tohoku Japan (2011) and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings (2012).


Dr. Perry says the key is to help our child feel accepted and safe with us. He gives specific examples of how parents can build a safe and loving relationship with all the children within our child.

Did you find that your child was on significantly different levels of physical, cognitive, and social development? At what age was she adopted?

15/05/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Fostering Blog | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Older Child Adoption: Parenting Many Kids in One Body

  1. Avatar Alex says:

    Love that quote from Dr. Perry! This is the most exhausting thing for me, parenting my children. Giving them a safe place is worth the work, and yet it is intense work!!!

  2. Avatar L B says:

    Thank you for the great interview with Dr. Perry. I have a question about supporting a child peripherally when adoption is not possible. Long story short: We have had a relationship with a parentless child for several years whose extended family cannot provide adequate emotional or academic support, yet who cannot or don’t want to give up custody. The child all but lived with us until we had to move out of state for job reasons. The family sent the child to us last summer for a few weeks, & welcome our involvement. This child — now a teen — kept in touch with us through the school year via Skype & phone, & we’ve extended an invitation for another summer here.

    Trouble is, in addition to this child’s traumatic history, the current home situation is rather negative, too. This child is emotionally about 7 with the impulses of a 2-yr old, & copes by withdrawing/presenting compliance.

    My question is: Are we doing this child good by providing a peaceful, regulated & loving home environment for only a few weeks of the year? Or are we making his situation worse by adding to the disruptions he has already known? Last summer was exhausting for us because it took all of the 6 weeks for some of the destructive behaviors to stop, but it was ultimately positive for all of us. Then the kid went home & for two weeks thereafter called us 10-15 times a day crying & begging to come live with us. Then the child seemed to just give up, and failed school.

    We love this child as one of our own, & also know & respect the family despite their inability to meet all this child’s needs. I hear what Dr. Perry is saying about facilitating a child’s adjustment & healing through time, but what about when the placement cannot be permanent? Is it helping or further hurting the child?

    As a side note, my husband & I went through foster care training but had to withdraw ultimately for financial reasons. The training was so helpful in understanding & serving this child, & I resonate with a lot of Dr. Perry’s advice, too. We just need to know how to best help a kid who is still living in a dysfunctional situation.

    Thank you! LB

    • LB, what a great question. I am not an expert, but I firmly believe that any involvement from loving caring and stable adults is a good thing in this child’s life. I do understand how exhausting it must be.

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