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Characteristics of Successful Adoptive Parents


"What are the requirements to adopt?" is one of the most commonly asked questions by those considering adoption. Most agencies can easily spell out a few parameters − age requirements, length of marriage and the like. But adoption social workers look beyond the surface information in order to assess a family´s readiness. They also look for certain personal qualities which bode well for the success of a special needs adoptive placement. Just what does it take to parent a child who has been in the state´s system, a child who will bring with him or her certain behavioral, emotional, or developmental challenges? What qualities should adoptive parents strive to develop in order to equip themselves for this enormous task?

Readiness For Parenting

To begin, adoptive applicants should evaluate their level of readiness for parenthood in general. The basic requirements include emotional maturity, stability, adequate health and energy, good communication skills and problem solving skills, and the ability to adjust ones expectations. Another key ingredient is sound motivation. Becoming a parent in order to feel fulfilled, to win approval, or to improve a faltering marriage, are never good reasons for bringing any child into the home, either through birth or through adoption.

Readiness For Parenting Through Adoption

Next, the prospective adoptive parent needs to look at his or her ability to parent a child through adoption, as adoptive parenting has some important differences, along with its many similarities, to parenting by birth. Is the parent able to accept, to cherish, and to make a permanent commitment to a child not born to him or her? Can the parent accept the child's past? All adoptive children have a set of parents, and a genetic and family history, that is separate from the adoptive family's.

In addition, older children often bring with them memories of their time spent with their birth family. Can the adoptive parent accept these aspects of the child, while honoring a child's loyalty to his or her birth family or perhaps to a previous foster family? Finally, if infertility or loss of a child has been a part of the adoptive parent's history, has it been adequately dealt with and put to rest? Few experiences can be more detrimental to a child than to be placed adoptively with a parent who is still grieving the loss of either an actual or a fantasized birth child.

Special Qualities For Adoptive Parents

The parent of an adopted child should be aware of several additional assets commonly found in successful adoptive parents. Few families will possess all these qualities, but motivated parents can work towards developing them. These qualities are:


As you reflect upon these qualities, remember that few of us who are parenting children posses all of the desired qualities. They may best be seen as goals to strive toward. Often in two parent homes, one partner may excel in the areas where the other is weaker, thus providing balance. Researching this article was a humbling experience for this writer, who sees many shortcomings in her own measuring up. As I strive for self improvement, I can only hope my critics will at some future time recognize my efforts. But isn't that what we hope for from all our children?



Article taken from Family Matters, February, 1993 by Claudia Hutchinson

Sources: Barth, Richard and Berry, Marianne, Adoption and Disruption
The National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoption,
Characteristics of Successful Adoptive Families (video)

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