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I plan on becoming a foster parent after being adopted myself. However, I went through a lot of abandonment issues that my parents didn't see as I had changed hands a few times before I was adopted.

How can I ease the foster/adopted child's abandonment issues?

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    Welcome to Parenting.SE! Thanks for asking a great first question, I look forward to hearing responses. – Acire Jun 30 '15 at 11:49
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In most jurisdictions, foster parents must take a class in which they cover this topic in some depth. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot you can do, other than being aware of the problem, recognizing it as a result of abandonment, and being there for the child. You will be much better at empathizing in that area than most foster parents, and I'm sure you'll do fine.

The two concrete recommendations that stood out for me from the class are to be very respectful of the child's private property and private space, giving them a clear permanent area of your home that belongs to them, and to be reassuring when they test your resolve, letting them know with your words and actions that no matter what they do, you will still want them.

It's not something that goes away easily, especially if the abandonment happened as an infant, when your brain is forming the pathways related to attachment. My eight year old still shows many of the signs, and he doesn't even remember his birth parents or the very loving foster family he had for his first year before us. The very fact you're worried about it tells me you'll be great.

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  • I was 2 months old when I was put into foster care, and then two years old when I was adopted by a different family. I dealt with abandonment issues even though my parents allowed my foster parents to stay in my life. (They still give me birthday presents every year). That's what made me concerned. My parents also had a few foster kids after having adopted me. They did the permanent space for them and it seemed to make them pretty secure. I'll definitely do that if/when I foster any children. – SolarLunix Jun 30 '15 at 15:01
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Read books by experts in the field to understand the why's behind the behaviors of children adopted out of foster care, which will give you a foundation for finding solutions. Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky is a good one to start with.

Find foster adoption mentors and supports. Mine is the former director of the agency we adopted our son through; she and her husband have 5 bio children, 8 adopted children, and have fostered 80 + children. They've seen it all, are surprised by nothing, are non-judgmental because they've "been there," and have had great experience and insight to share with me when I've encountered situations I didn't know how to handle.

Have age-appropriate, honest and open dialogue with your child. We adopted our son when he was 7, and I've always let him know that if he ever had any questions or concerns he could tell me and if I didn't have the answers, solutions, guidance, etc., he needed, I'd find someone who did.

Find an adoption competent therapist and attend sessions with your child. Find an adoption support group and if you can't find one, start one. It doesn't have to be big. Mine started with two other moms, we've added a 4th, and we have helped each other through many a struggle. (Dads are included, too, in our family-oriented gatherings and in whatever other way they'd like to participate.)

Have a spiritual life. Doesn't have to be organized in any way, but believing in something bigger than myself to call on for help when I'm overwhelmed has kept me from going over the edge more times than I can remember.

Work on yourself. In my experience, if I'm being triggered by my child's behavior, likely it's touched on something within me I need to get to the root of and address, with the help of all the above supports.

Practice gratitude. In the low moments find something to be grateful about. The sky. The air you are breathing. Your cup of coffee. Having a toilet. It's impossible to be negative and grateful at the same time.

Most importantly, take it one day at a time, remember parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, and put your own oxygen mask on first. Taking care of you by getting enough rest, exercise, healthy food, quiet time, and relaxation will help you be the parent your child needs and deserves. Being my son's mom is the best gift of my life. I wish the same for you and your future foster adoptive child!

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  • Welcome to Parenting.SE, Michelle! This is a great answer and has some very comprehensive advice; thank you for your contribution. – Acire Aug 1 '15 at 23:16
  • Thank you, Erica, and I appreciate your edits. Thank you for making them. – Michelle S. Aug 5 '15 at 21:36
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One additional suggestion: educate any other adults who will be spending a lot of time with the child, such as relatives, teachers, or respite providers.

One of the issues that you see a lot with attachment issues is a highly developed ability to play adults off each other so that the child remains in control. Letting people know up front can help prevent situations where the child gets another adult to work against your rules, which can lead to both setbacks for the child, and removing your support base.

I'm a foster mom myself, and had to do this with my family, because none of them understood the rules and consequences I had in place for the kids, which seemed mean, or just crazy to them, not having any knowledge of attachment issues prior to me starting fostering.

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