- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 15, 2004

Parents who adopt older children are sometimes faced with adopting a sibling or two. While adopting children “in sets” can be helpful for the youngsters, it can raise distinct challenges for the parents.

“Wherever there are more children, there can be more troubles,” says Sylvia Stultz, District-based psychologist who holds a doctorate. “Their primary attachment can be to each other.”

It’s an attachment that has served them well through some pretty tough times, so it’s important for parents not to be flustered by that possibility, Ms. Stultz says.

“Letting siblings share a room is one way of honoring that attachment,” she says.

Adoptive parents of siblings need to understand and respect that bond. At the same time, it’s important to carve out time for each child. Individual time is especially important for cognitive development as well as emotional security, Ms. Stultz says.

“This is very important,” she says. “It’s so easy to treat siblings, especially twins, as a pair.”

In international adoptions, taking on a set of siblings brings special challenges.

“We don’t like to separate siblings,” says Terry Baugh, president of Kidsave International, a nonprofit group dedicated to finding homes for abandoned and orphaned children worldwide. “But we know that language may take longer to come along; they’re more attached to each other.”

Siblings also may have more difficulty socializing with other children. At the same time, the presence of a sibling helps model the kind of loving connection families want to establish with their adopted children.

Sometimes knowledge of the sibling comes after the adoption already has gone through, and not everyone has the wherewithal to accommodate the extra mouths.

Ms. Baugh adopted her son singly but then discovered that he had a sister. She arranged for the sister to be placed with a local family. Then another sister was discovered. She, too, was placed with an American family.

“There was remarkable relief all over,” Ms. Baugh recalls. “He’s the youngest; he doesn’t live with the other two, but there are frequent calls and outings. It’s really made a difference for him.”

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