Virtual Twins in Adoption
Have you created artificial twins (or triplets) by adopting a child that was the same age as a child you were already parenting or adopting two same aged kids at the same time?

I received an email the other day asking about adopting “twins”. The would-be adoptive mom didn’t really care if the kids were actual twins, she was perfectly happy to create virtual twins through adoption.

I’ve always been fascinated by twins… wished I were a twin, always had twin baby dolls as a kid. We are thinking about adoption and want to adopt twins. Waiting for actual twins to adopt could take a while, so we have decided to adopt two kids the same age that need a home. I think it will be easier having kids the same age and they will have that twin bond. Twins are so cool. How do we adopt them?

Fascination with Twins

Our society is fascinated by twins. I get it. When I was a kid Hasbro came out with quintuplet dolls, and I begged for them every Christmas and birthday for years. I mean really, who doesn’t find pictures of two babies dressed in identical adorable outfits irresistible?

Adopting Twins

It is possible to adopt twins, but the wait may be longer than you want. It is also possible in some countries (and in rare cases in foster care or domestic infant adoption) to adopt two similar aged children at the same time.  Our Adoption Comparison Charts list which countries allow this practice. More common, however, are people adopting a child that is a similar age to a child they already have through birth or adoption.

Artificial or Virtual Twins

We call the practice of either adopting two similar aged but unrelated kids at the same time or adopting a child that is within 9 months of a child already in your home artificial twinning, virtual twinning, or forced twinning.

Instant Family

People adopting two at the same time are often attracted to the idea of getting an instant family. Many times they’ve waited a long time to be parents, so the temptation of starting and finishing their family building in one fell swoop is mighty attractive. It’s harder at times to stop and really think about what is in the best interest of the child/children.

Pros and Cons

Before you adopt a child that is a similar age to a child you are already parenting or adopt two same aged kids at the same time, it’s important to think through the advantages and disadvantages to your family, you, and especially to the children involved.

As always, the best people to learn from are those that have lived this experience. Here are a few that have written about parenting virtual twins through adoption.

KJ Del’Antonia, editor of the Motherlode column in the New York Times, adopted a toddler from China that was the same age as her youngest bio child. She wrote an essay on artificial twins when her kids were school aged. While she talks about the guilt she felt and sometimes still feels, on the whole she believes it has more positives than negatives for her family.

My two youngest children are close in a way that’s distinctly different than with the other sibling relationships in our house. They have something their older brother and sister do not.

Donna, a blog contributor at the No Hands But Ours blog on special needs adoption, adopted a second child 5 weeks younger than her first adopted child. She wrote a great blog on the advantages and disadvantages of having virtual twins.

  • We thought it would be cool to have twins. Wrong. It’s interesting but it’s not cool. It’s not even, especially, fun.
  • It’s annoying when people ask if they’re twins because it either requires that we lie (and say they are twins) or explain that they’re adopted and not biologically related. That’s more information than we’re comfortable sharing with strangers but we don’t like to lie so we’re stuck. The other option is to say “No, they’re not twins” and walk away before they can ask the obvious follow-up question.
  • Even though it’s fun to dress them alike, it makes the twin question come up even more so we don’t usually do that. At age two, they were the same height and weight but now they’re five years old and Gwen [her first child] is 25 pounds heavier and four inches taller than Maddy [her second child that is 5 weeks younger than the first]. But people still ask if they’re twins — and it’s still annoying.
  • Every child deserves to be the baby of the family but Maddy never got that and I feel bad about it. I think she’d have been happier if her “big” sister was at least one or two years older instead of just 36 days older. I think I would have cut her more slack too. This isn’t a minor point — it’s HUGE.
  • Bonding with Maddy was harder because she was the same age as our Gwen. Love isn’t something that happens immediately so there was a gap because I already loved my other kids. I was, understandably, very protective of them and that interfered with bonding because Maddy was frequently mean to her “twin” (biting, hitting, etc). Oh boy — we had LOTS of that! I found that many of my maternal instincts were working overtime against each other for the first six months that we were together. When I wasn’t actively angry at Maddy, I was consumed with guilt over ever having been mad at her in the first place.
  • For better or worse, I find that I’m constantly comparing the girls. My expectations of what one “should” be able to do is based on what the other is doing. Whether it’s coloring inside the lines or knowing her ABC’s or reading words or riding a bike or being dry all night – the skill comparisons and expectations are there so I have to constantly struggle to not send signals that I’m disappointed when one can’t do what the other is doing. They each have wonderful strengths that are uniquely their own. But they also have shortcomings that are amplified because their sibling is a living breathing walking measuring stick of what a kid that age can do. Even though I’m very aware of this “comparing the kids” trap, I fall into it often.

Stacey, at Any Mommy Out There, adopted a toddler that was a couple of months older than her eldest bio child. She writes about both the pros and cons of forced twinning, but on balance things have settled well for her family. The first 6 months, however, were very tough.

Honestly, it was a really, really difficult transition. Far more difficult than I had dared to imagine. She [her newly adopted daughter] cried whenever I put her down to hold my son. Screamed, actually, with anger and outrage. I felt angry at times and overwhelmed. Couldn’t she just give me minute? Must she hoard every single second? Her brother needed time too. He cried as well those first few months. His new sister took his toys and sat in his mother’s lap. He didn’t understand. None of us did really, we had a lot to learn. I cried a lot myself.

Have you ever considered creating twins through adoption? Have you done it? What was your experience?

P.S. We have resources on Artificial Twinning on our website, including a 1 hr radio interview with experts, a chart comparing the advantages and disadvantages, and our Top Ten Tips for Parenting Artificial Twins (Virtual Twins) Through Adoption.