Adopting a Child Who Has Been Abused

In today’s fast-moving culture, it’s challenging enough just to raise a biological child or an adopted child who hasn’t been abused. Adopting a child who has been abused requires parents to have extra stores of emotional intelligence and availability — and a large and strong support network, as well as significant amounts of resilience and flexibility.

Adoption of an abused baby or child is often a tough ride, maybe the toughest of your life. It will test you, and it will test your relationship with your partner or spouse. And, if you can maintain your steadfast love, you will find that it’s probably the most rewarding, life-enhancing experience you could give your adoptive child, yourself, and your family. Just ask the vast majority of parents who have stepped in with big hearts and raised kids who were abused as their own, and you’ll see how profound, and life-deepening an experience it can be.

However, you need to be committed to this experience down to your bones, because you will be tried in ways that you hadn’t even thought possible. For example, a child who was abused will have to fight hard to work through that abuse and heal. This will not be pretty. In fact, kids who have been abused have all sorts of behaviors that they use to keep themselves “safe.” They may hoard their food. They may never be willing to hug. They may have huge control issues that drive you crazy. They may not even be willing to speak to you except in flat monosyllables. They may act out by destroying absolutely everything in their room or threatening to hurt you — and then they’ll expect you to abandon them. This is a common theme in fact.

Just when you think you’re making headway, when a child seems to be adjusting well, something else will happen and their behavior will go off track again. But really all they are doing is working off the old hurts so they can truly receive the love you have to give. They need to release those old hurts from their systems to be able to think well and to heal. And over time, they will heal all the way and have a wonderful life full of possibilities.

But they need parents who are up to the task. Parents who won’t blame themselves. Parents who can set firm boundaries in a loving way. Parents who won’t feel guilty when they experience the opposite of love for a child who has just destroyed something. Parents who will see beyond the destruction to the heart and potential of the young life they have taken into their family.

An abused adopted child’s sometimes awful behaviors are in fact smart ways they have figured out to cope at a very, very young age when their world was out of control and life was very threatening. It takes a big heart to see your child from this perspective, all while the other “bad” behaviors are going on.

You can pretty much assume that your adopted child will need to fight hard to work through the abuse to heal. They may also have attachment issues, which simply means that they were not able to develop a healthy connection with a primary parent or caregiver at critical windows in their early years. They may have allergies, sensory issues, or other concerns. These can be addressed, too, through a strong network of support specialists. You can visit the Handinhand.org parenting website, which has forums that address many issues involving adopted children who have been abused.

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests. Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

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