The Topsy Turvy World of Toddler Adoption

Dawn Davenport


7474722444_1df1edffd1_nToddler adoption is NOT the same thing as infant adoption, but it is also quite different from adopting a school aged child.

All children register the changes and losses brought by adoption, but infants, especially newborns, are less aware, and older kids can  be prepared, at least to some degree, for the impending changes. A child that is just beginning to walk and talk is caught in between. They certainly know that their world is being turned upside down, but they don’t have the language to express their confusion and sadness, nor the cognitive ability to process what is happening. All they know is that nothing is as it should be.

Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft

I loved this interview with Mary Hopkins-Best, author of Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft. The interview was first recorded in 2008, but is spot on for today’s parents adopting kids between the ages of one and four.


She originally wanted to title her book “Forged Steel: Adopting a Toddler” because these little beings go through the hottest fire, but the resulting attachment can be so strong. Beautiful analogy, if not so great a title.

Mantra for Adoptive Parents

Every child and every adoptive parent is different, thus every adoption is different. No single trick exists to guarantee an easy adjustment for the child or the parent. Gradual transitions are best, but not always possible. If I had to share just one piece of advice for families adopting toddlers, I would suggest simplifying your life once home and establishing routines and structures for the day. You won’t be wedded to these routines for life, but at the beginning  they provide your child with predictability when everything in her life feels very very out of control.

If you adopted a child between one and four, how was the transition? What worked to make it smoother?

Image credit: A.MASH

17/10/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 7 Comments

7 Responses to The Topsy Turvy World of Toddler Adoption

  1. Pingback: Books on Toddler and Older Child Adoption for Adoptive Parents – Hopscotch Adoptions

  2. Avatar ChristyC says:

    We adopted a 25 month old from Ethiopia last year. Overall the transition was fairly smooth, but obviously it was very difficult for him. Here is what I think helped the most:

    – We visited him for six days at the orphanage prior to him coming with us. This allowed him to develop some familiarity with us in an environment in which he was comfortable. If you can negotiate a longer transition, I would do it.
    – I learned as much Amharic as I could in advance. I studied for months so I could speak “toddler Amharic.” I think this helped make the transition slightly less jarring and scary.
    – His five year old new sister (also adopted from Ethiopia earlier) helped a lot in Ethiopia, simply through her presence. He had an instant playmate and I think it helped his stress level significantly.
    – We ate Ethiopian food multiple times per week when we first got home (and we still eat it frequently now.)

  3. Avatar Penne says:

    I love this page. You are amazing.

  4. Avatar cherylann says:

    We adopted a 3 year old from Ukraine, we kept his world and ours small for almost 1 year. We only went places we had to go out to do, grocery shop etc. It was basically just me and him, then in afternoon our older children came home from school. He bonded very well with me, and then our family. I am strict with schedules so keeping him on a schedule was a great thing to do, in the orphanage everyday was the same…so once he was used to our schedule it helped. He was and still is very curious kid, so branching out to church and other activities has always been fun with him, but you quickly knew when he was out of his comfort zone, and time to retreat home. NOw 3 years later he is in 1st grade and doing great.

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