Adopting out of Birth Order

We have heard the following “rules of thumb” from adoption therapists and families who have successfully adopted out of birth order:

  1. Pay particular attention to the displacement of the eldest child.
  2. There is less disruption if the eldest children, who will be displaced, is under the age of 3 since they haven’t settled into the power of being #1.
  3. The feeling of displacement is less if the new eldest child is a different gender than the previous eldest child.  Your son will still be the eldest boy, even though he now has an older sister.
  4. Larger families (4+ kids) experience the disruption of birth order less.  So many different relationships are already going on that this change is less noticeable.  This general rule does not apply if you change the order of the eldest child.
  5. Success depends on the personality of the child being displaced and the new child coming in.
  6. Success depends on the parent’s ability to emotionally support each child in the family.
  7. Success depends on the parent’s willingness to get help early and often post adoption.
  8. Success depends on the parent’s preparation and education prior to adoption on the potential issues for adopting an older child.
  9. Success depends on whether all family members have bought into the decision to adopt.



This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit.

Top Ten Tips for Parenting Artificial Twins Through Adoption

  1. Anticipate the constant question that your family will generate and the inevitable “Are they twins?” Decide how you are going to answer the question. It is best to have a couple of different responses depending on the circumstances (grocery store produce aisle vs. dinner party)
  2. Highlight the uniqueness of each child. Your goal should be to nurture them as individuals. Just because you are driving to Taekwondo for one kid, doesn’t mean that the other should take as well.
  3. Carve out time from your schedule to spend with each child individually. Make it a priority for both parents to establish a special separate relationship with each child.
  4. Talk with your extended family, friends, and teachers about some of the downsides of the inevitable comparisons that will happen, and ask them to work against comparing the children.
  5. As tempting as it might be, do not dress them the same.
  6. Do not always refer to them as a unit: the boys, the kids, and certainly not “the twins.”
  7. Celebrate birthdays separately.
  8. Do not hold a child back in school just because you want them in different grades. If, however, one child sits on the cusp of the cut-off date and would benefit from an extra year in preschool, then it might make sense, especially if the child is smaller in stature. If they are in the same grade, put them in different classes.
  9. If at all possible, one parent should stay at home for at least the first year post adoption.
  10. Go into this adoption knowing that you will feel overwhelmed the first year. Plan for this in advance by saving money for extra household help and by lowering your expectations of what you will accomplish.

This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit.

Parenting Tips for Older Child Adoption

Adopting an older child from foster care or through international adoption is not for the faint of heart. It can be the most rewarding and fun thing you’ve ever done, but it usually requires a special type of parenting. According to the two of the authors of A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four these five “simple” tips will help make parenting older adopted children more fun and less challenging.

  1. Assume that you and your newly adopted child will benefit from therapy and line it up before the child arrives. Research has shown that early intervention with professional services is the most effective.
  2. Join an in-person or online parent support group before the child arrives home so that your support system is in place. One of the best is the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. It’s a closed Facebook group so that only those in the group can see the posts.
  3. Positive parenting techniques based on rewarding positive behaviors rather than punishing negative behaviors is almost always more effective with children who have been abused on neglected or adopted from an orphanage.
  4. Be flexible. You will have to experiment to see what works best for this new child. It you try something that doesn’t work, be willing to shift and be open to new ideas.
  5. Maintain your sense of humor. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, and it turns out often it’s the best thing you can do!

This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit.

7 Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Child with HIV/AIDS

There are children in both the US and abroad with HIV or AIDs waiting to be adopted. The miracle of medications has made HIV a mostly manageable chronic disease, but not every family is cut out to raise a child with HIV. Are you? Answer these questions to find out.

  1. Are you willing and do you have the time to become informed about the realities of raising a child with HIV/AIDS? Education is a must and it takes time.
  2. Do you have medical resources near you that specialize in the treatment of HIV/AIDS?
  3. Are you organized and disciplined enough to make sure that your child takes her medication on time every day? It’s not a hard medication routine, but it does require consistency.
  4. Have you considered the time demands of parenting a child with a chronic illness? While HIV/AIDS is often well controlled with medication, it still requires regular visits to a doctor.
  5. Have you considered the negative stigma that continues to surround children with this virus? Are you willing to advocate for your child?
  6. Who will you tell about your child’s HIV status? By law, families are not required to disclose the HIV status of a child to schools or daycare centers; however, you may choose to tell people for any number of reasons. You need to spend the time before you adopt considering the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure.
  7. Are you able to push back your fear and open your heart to one of the thousands of kids with HIV currently waiting in the US and abroad for adoption?

This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit.

Tips for Surviving the Transition Home with Newly Adopted Kids

We spend so much time, energy, and often money on the process of adopting a child that it is tempting, once the child is finally in our home, to sigh with a sense of “Mission Accomplished” and give ourselves a mental high five for a job well done.

Far be it from me to rain on anyone’s parade, but…

Getting the child home is the beginning, not the ending of your adoption journey.

Now is where the rubber meets the road–the actual raising of this beautiful child. If you are lucky you will have a period of relative calm while both you and the child figure each other out and learn each other’s expectations.

If you are really lucky, this calm turns into a smooth transition with both you and your new son or daughter gracefully moving into your new roles.

If you are in the majority of people adopting an older child (child past infancy), however, the honeymoon period is followed by a rough patch of testing and pushing limits on the child’s part, and often fear and questioning on the parent’s part.

This is not an indication that the adoption is doomed or that you are a failure or that the child is bad. It’s simply means that you and your child are both human and going through a huge transition. Here are some tips to help you survive this transition home.

  1. Do something that you love or gives you pleasure every day. This is not a frivolous splurge; it is a necessity, and you need to budget for it or call in favors to have time for it. Read a few chapters of a book with a cup of coffee, go for a run, schedule 1-hour of guilt-free time on Facebook, try out a new recipeDo not be afraid to take a little time away from the child each day for some restorative self-care.
  2. Do something with your new child each day that you both enjoy. Curl up and read together; play a video game together; go for a walk or bike ride together. You need to create a pool of shared good memories for both of you to draw upon when the going gets rough. Schedule time for this to happen daily.
  3. Do something with your spouse (if married) once a week that you both enjoy. It’s easy for marriages to be forgotten in the crunch of early adoptive parenthood. Nurturing your marriage is time well spent.
  4. Look at your expectations. If you find yourself overwhelmed and questioning why in the world this seemed like a good idea, go back to your expectations. Were they realistic? Did you think you would automatically fall in love or feel like a mom or dad to this child? Did you think this child’s temperament would mesh smoothly with your temperament? Did you think that this child had miraculously escaped developing any annoying coping behaviors? Time for an expectation re-boot.
  5. Reframe in your mind the child’s annoying behaviors. Chances are good these behaviors were successful coping skills she learned to help her survive in her prior life. Your goal is gradual improvement as she becomes stable in this new life. This takes time.
  6. If one parent is struggling more than the other—don’t panic. It is common for one of the parents to not feel the same level of connection at first or to be more irritated by the child’s behavior. Nonjudgmental communication is crucial. The parent that is not struggling must listen to and support the parent who is struggling with extra help and more time off. This unequal division of responsibility won’t last forever, but is
  7. Schedule a few appointments with a therapist for yourself. It is easy to assume that all the adjusting is on the part of the newly adopted child; therefore, the child is the one that needs therapy. While the adjustment for your new child is huge, parents too are going through a lot of change and often need the wise supportive ear of a trained counselor. Creating a Family has resources to help you find
  8. Join an Adoption Support group. If you can’t find an in-person group (and even if you can) join an online support group such as the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. People are available 24/7 who have likely experienced exactly what you are feeling, and they can help without judgment. We promise.
  9. If you think you might harm the child-get help immediately. Call your spouse, family member, social worker, or child abuse hotline.  You are not evil; you are not a bad person. You are someone under a lot of stress that needs help immediately. Help is available. You are not alone.

This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit.

Meet Elizabeth!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?

This month we talked to Dr. Elizabeth Studwell, Psy.D., Manager of Mental Health Services, about her work.

ElizabethStudwellWhy did you want to work at the Modern Family Center?

I specifically wanted to work at the Modern Family Center because I believe very strongly in the freedom and acceptance to have and be a part of a “Modern Family.” I want to provide support to individuals and families that find themselves feeling different than the norm. I feel very passionately about adoption and feel that it often takes extra strength to be a part of a unique family structure, whatever that might be. All children deserve a family and all families deserve to be happy and healthy.


What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is the consultation work that I do for foster care agencies. I help to support children whose parents have not been able to fully care for their needs.

Describe your job in 3 words.
Dynamic, rewarding, humbling

Describe your experience in mental health counseling.

I completed my doctorate in clinical psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and have been engaged in providing mental health services in a variety of settings for almost ten years. I have volunteered and worked at a residential institution in Colombia preparing children for adoption. I have provided coaching, counseling, and consulting as well as psychological assessment in variety of settings including inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, behavioral day schools, and foster care agencies. I am clinically trained primarily in attachment based psychotherapy, relational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and trauma focused psychotherapy.