Older Foster Child and Teen Adoption
Advice from an experienced social worker for parents considering an older foster child or teen adoption.
Interview with Pamela Lowell, a clinical social worker and author of
What types of isssues do older adopted or fostered children and teens most often struggle with?
They have to separate from two sets of parents, birth and adoptive so this can be difficult. Certainly identity issues "who am I", questions around why they were given up, all the tasks that non-adopted teens must achieve on their way to adulthood, but just a bit deeper and more complex.
What advice do you have for someone considering adopting a fostered or older child?
I can't think of any segment of the population that could benefit more from adoption than older waiting children/teens. Especially in today's world of many states setting these kids adrift at age eighteen.
If you are flexible, don't take yourself (or them) too seriously, and can negotiate firm but loving guidelines, this would be an ideal situation. Although it may seem less time consuming, since they are more independent, until the teens are successfully launched it may require more emotional work for a time. Experience with what's "normal" teenage behavior either through a therapist or parent of a teen mentor would be essential.
Probably raising most teens into adulthood have bumps along the way, however, I think the rewards can be very great.
How can parents help their older children and teens who are struggling with issues of anger and self acceptance?
I would recommend reading more about anger and anger management tools from a cognitive behavioral approach, which basically means what you tell yourself dictates your feelings and behaviors and that if you can change negative thought patterns and responses that you can change how you feel and behave.
In terms of self-acceptance, I always work from a strength's based model, so I urge parents to do the same. Instead of telling the teen/child what's good about them, encourage them to find these strengths and a personal "mantra" so that they are giving themselves this message...example: "What do you think you could be saying to yourself right now that might help you better deal with this situation?"
What books do you recommend for parents adopting older children and teens?
The best book I've read on this topic is Beneath the Mask, by Debbie Riley of C.A.S.E. which really outlines issues that adopted teens struggle with, and is a wonderful guide for parents and therapist alike.
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