Adopting two unrelated children at once


Note: As of June 30, 2017 adopting two unrelated at once is no longer an option in the China program.

Many people who are in process of adopting from China join social media groups where they see that other people are adopting two unrelated children at the same time. This option is very interesting to couples and “Tell me about adopting two at once” is a frequent discussion opener in China related adoption groups. Some agencies mention this to families as a possibility, others only discuss it upon request, and a few don’t allow it at all. You might assume that if China allows a practice, such as adopting two unrelated children at once, your agency will allow you to do so. This is not the case. All placing agencies determine their own guidelines for adoptive families. Sometimes even when a placing agency will allow something, the social worker who writes your homestudy might not approve your family for that situation. For example, a placing agency might not have a problem with you adopting two at once but if your social worker opposes it she might refuse to approve you for two in your homestudy.

You mean agencies or social workers think their rules are more important than finding these kids a family!? I’m going to choose an agency that understands that each family knows what is best and what they can handle!

Before I discuss these situations, we need to understand the reason behind these rules. Generally, the older the agency the more likely they are to stick with what are called “best social work practices.”  These are things such as only adopting one unrelated child at a time, keeping birth order, avoiding “artificial twinning” (ending up with two children of the same age), etc. In most other countries these practices are not allowed but our American independent streak rebels at those sort of absolute guidelines. However, many agencies now are allowing these practices, at least in some situations.

Why would any agencies not allow these things? Because agencies which have been around for decades have seen a lot of failed adoptions. I spoke with a representative of an agency often characterized as being “conservative” and “having a lot of rules.” I was told that their top priority was finding the right family for a child. They wanted to make sure that the adoption was successful and they didn’t want to risk the child’s placement by matching them with a family with the potential for disruption.  Please take the time to read my post on adoption disruption for a longer discussion on why you need to keep this possibility in mind as you decide whether or not these special adoption situations are right for your family. What does disruption have to do with adopting two at once? Well, if you adopt two at once and one is unexpectedly difficult, it can be easier (though not necessarily easy) for the parents to say “We’ll leave this one and just take the other one home.”

IMG_5483As I mentioned in my post on When You’re Asking the Internet About Adoption, when you ask online about people’s experiences with adopting two at once please remember that these groups are full of people who are happy with their experience, and so you will most likely not hear from people who would tell you that they adopted and had a bad experience.  People will tell you how amazing it was for their family but that does not help you to know what YOUR families experience will be like.  You are a different family, adopting a different child or children.  That doesn’t mean I’m trying to talk you out of it, I’m trying to make sure that you’ve seriously considered all aspects of the situation.  Thinking about the hard aspects of adoption will only give you more tools to succeed.  Educated and informed families are the best families for children.  

Adoption involves a huge amount of stress and upheaval for a child. When you adopt two at once, the theory is that you cannot give each child the amount of attention that they need to bond with your family. Because China’s adoption program involves special needs, you need to consider that you will also be dealing with double the amount of doctor’s visits. I am sometimes concerned that there can be a subtle form of peer pressure to adopt two at once on adoption forums with many people asking “Are you going to go for two?!” Deciding to adopt two unrelated children at once should involve careful consideration. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before pursuing this option:

  • How much parenting experience do you have?
  • How much adoptive parenting experience? I do not recommend adopting two at once for your first adoption.
  • Do you have a plan for the medical care the two children will need? What if one or both needs an extended hospitalization?
  • How much of a local support network do you have?
  • Have you thought through what you will do if one or both is much more delayed than expected or has major behavioral needs?
  • Can you afford to double the fees? Most likely spend three weeks in China instead of two?
  • Have you thought through the worst case scenario? What if one or both have unexpectedly worse medical issues? What if they are both having attachment issues?
  • Be aware that you might be tempted to favor one child over the other. Children react differently to the adoption experience. If you have one who is seamlessly attaching to your family while the other is acting out and constantly causing stress in your family it can be easy to unconsciously favor the “easy” child. As much as you know that you shouldn’t compare the two children, it is almost unavoidable especially if they are close in age.
  • Are you doing this because you think it will be cheaper or make your life easier? I have seen multiple people actually say “I’m not going to go through all of this trouble twice. I’m just going to get two at once and get it over with all at the same time.”  I’m going to be completely blunt here and point out that you need to consider the impact this will have on the children involved and not your convenience.

Many people do adopt two successfully and find it works well for their family. In my book, you can find a fuller discussion of this topic including considerations on choosing special needs when you adopt two at once, how to decide which ages, and what the adoption trip looks like when you are adopting two children rather than one.

Here are some additional resources and experiences for you if you are considering this option. I’m including links to family blogs where you can read personal experiences, each from families who were experienced parents and had adopted prior to adopting two children at once.

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