The Role of Birth/previously Adopted Children in Families Choosing to Adopt Children with Special Needs

By Mullin, Ellen Steele; Johnson, LeAnne | Child Welfare, September/October 1999 | Go to article overview

The Role of Birth/previously Adopted Children in Families Choosing to Adopt Children with Special Needs


Mullin, Ellen Steele, Johnson, LeAnne, Child Welfare


Engaging birth/previously adopted children during the adoption process is crucial to laying the groundwork for successful placements. When families choose to adopt children with special needs, however, the role their other children will play in the adoption's success is often overlooked. This article presents a practical model that recognizes the dynamics of strength and vulnerability in adoptive families, then applies this model in preparing and supporting the family through the changes that are inevitable in special needs adoption. The model can also be used to assist adoptive parents in identifying and developing the skills they need to manage these shifts within the family.

Families who already have children (either by birth or adoption) and who are adopting children with special needs* must be aware of the significant role that their birth/previously adopted children can play in "making or breaking" the adoptive placement. Preparing children and families to identify and deal effectively with the changing family dynamics that accompany adoption can ease the transition for everyone concerned, and help ensure a successful outcome.

A review of the literature makes clear the emotional complexities that attend the adoption of children with special needs by families with birth/previously adopted children. Reitz and Watson [1992], citing the 1982 Delaware Family Study by Hoopes, pointed out that families who had children both by birth and by adoption were at greatest risk of difficulties. Churchill and colleagues [1979: 96] viewed the adopted child as a new member of the family whose arrival is bound to "disrupt an established system of relationships." In situations where children who have special needs are added to families with birth/previously adopted children, the equilibrium of the family is subject to disturbance. Reestablishing a level of comfort and "normality" in such families, which are critical to the success of the adoption, requires additional preparation and support.

Inevitably, the adoption of a child with special needs will have an effect on birth/previously adopted children. The emotional atmosphere in the home may be altered, energies drained, parents' attention diffused and diminished for each child, and life, as it was known, changed significantly [Keck & Kupecky 1995]. Many prospective adoptive parents already anticipate this impact. For example, prospective parents with birth/previously adopted children who are enrolled in the adoption education classes required by the Children's Home Society of Minnesota are often anxious about the potential negative impact and even harm that might befall their children should they proceed with their plans to adopt a child with special needs.

When birth/previously adopted children live in the home and the parents are prepared to recognize and handle the behavioral and emotional responses of those children, the addition of a child with special needs can be smoothed and adoption outcomes enhanced. Melina [1986] emphasizes the need for agencies to prepare children for the arrival of an adoptive sibling with special needs. Barth and Berry [1988] identify aspects of adoptive family life that serve as potential indicators of adjustment and outcome. They found that disrupted adoptions occurred more often when families did not receive sufficient training.

Family Dynamics in Special Needs Adoption

In examining the dynamics of adoptive families, two concepts stand out-strength and vulnerability. Jewett [1978] cites the parents' sense of "being out of control" as a major cause of adoption failure while noting that birth/previously adopted children can relax when they see their parents "in control." Being "in control" implies strength, while being "out of control" implies vulnerability. Parents who sense that they have sacrificed the well-being of their birth/previously adopted children in attempting to meet the special needs of their adopted child may feel vulnerable, and they may communicate this feeling of insecurity and ambivalence to their youngsters [Rosenberg 1992]. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Role of Birth/previously Adopted Children in Families Choosing to Adopt Children with Special Needs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.