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Explaining adoption to nephews

Hi!  My husband and I recently had our foster license and PPA approved to adopt out of foster care, and we are pursuing matching with a currently 17 year old girl. 

One thing I’ve been trying to figure out is how exactly to handle the inevitable questions from our 2 nephews, especially the 5 year old (our other nephew just turned 3).  While obviously he doesn’t need us to volunteer the unpleasant details of how and why she came into foster care, I’m anticipating that he will have questions as to how we came to have a 17 year old daughter without having a baby first, where did she come from, who was her mommy and daddy before, why doesn’t she live with them anymore, etc.  Additionally, it’s very likely that she may talk about her birth family or previous foster placements (she has been in care since she was 7). 
I’m just trying to figure out how to approach all this in an age-appropriate way, answering their questions without giving too much information that might scare or disturb them.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


you might go to tapestry books and look at some age appropriate materials to explain. I think a simple sometimes parents can’t take care of a child and even though she is old she still needs a mom and dad. It would also be comforting to be able to say if that happened with your parents you would live with so and so (assuming parents have a will naming a guardian)

Posted by Regina on Sep 21, 2017 at 9:27pm

Knowing my nephew, the next question after “sometimes parents can’t take care of a child” is likely to be “Why not?”.  While I don’t really want to lie, the reality of abuse, neglect, and termination of parental rights is going to be too much information for a 5 year old.  At the same time I’m a bit concerned that “Her birth mommy and daddy had problems and couldn’t take care of her the way mommies and daddies are supposed to take care of kids” might lead to more questions that can’t be easily answered.

I thought about looking for an age appropriate book but haven’t been able to find one that seems quite right for the situation.  There’s a dearth overall of information about adopting teenagers, it seems like most “older child adoption” simply means any child over age 3, and most of it is geared toward adopting ages 3-11 or so. 

I will check out Tapestry and keep looking for books!

Posted by NPNFEEF on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:46pm

They can’t take care of children because of adult problems.

You might want to read Parenting the Hurt CHild
Parenting Adopted Adolescents: Understanding and Appreciating Their Journeys

Posted by Regina on Sep 22, 2017 at 9:53pm

or you could just say so and so is going to live with us for awhile and finish school. If he says why say because it is what is best for her. You don’t need to explain adoption, foster care etc.

At that age sge may not want to be adopted, change her mond. leave at 18, stay and finish school who knows

Posted by Regina on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:17pm

Regina as always has good advice and I agree, no need to even bring up adoption. She’s living with you is pretty much all anyone else, especially a child, needs to know.
Also, her story is hers and especially at her age she should be the one to decide how much to share and with whom and she may well resent you sharing details of her life with anyone in the family, including the adults.
and again, as Regina says, she may decide she doesn’t want to be adopted. There are many older teens in foster care who want a home and security and to be cared for, but would choose legal guardianship over all that adoption entails. Your relationship will evolve over time.

Posted by Maryam on Sep 26, 2017 at 12:50am

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