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Adoption and Developmental Stages — Infant Through Young Adult [web resource] [downloadable]

Children’s understanding of adoption differs at different ages. A parent’s explanation of a child’s adoption will need to be explained more fully as the child grows and learns. The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides resources to inform families how to sensitively provide guidance to children at different ages and developmental levels.


Birth to 5: Growth, Development, and Adoption
Explains how adoption may affect child physical, cognitive, and social development in the first five years of life.

Developing Emotional Attachments in Adopted Children
Attachment Parenting International
Outlines the ways in which adoption can affect child attachment and suggests ways parents can form emotional bonds with their children.

Developmental Milestones for Your Adopted Child
Davies (2015)
Rainbow Kids
Focuses on prioritizing the sequence and tempo of developmental milestones over strict timing for adoptive children. This webpage also provides additional resources about early childhood development that help to inform parenting decisions.

How Infants Grieve: A Guide for New Adoptive Parents
Explains the ways in which infants communicate grief before language develops and provides recommendations for parents whose children are exhibiting these signs.

Preschoolers and Elementary

Birth to 5: Growth, Development, and Adoption
Radigan (2017)
Examines the physical, cognitive, and social effects of adoption on child developmental milestones.

Parenting Your Adopted School-Age Child
Factsheets for Families
Child Welfare Information Gateway

Stages and Ages in Adoption (PDF – 225 KB)
Pavao (2014)
Riverside Community Care & Massachusetts Department of Mental Health
Provides a chart comparing typical childhood development from birth to age 18 with typical development in adopted children at the same ages, along with strategies to bridge this divide.

Adolescents and Young Adults

Adolescent Development
Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Explores how adolescents change and develop as well as the issues they may face as they mature. This webpage includes sections on healthy relationships, mental health, physical and reproductive health, and substance use.

Adolescents and Adoption (PDF – 670 KB)
Singer & Riley (2016)
Center for Adoption Support and Education
Explains why adolescence can be a particularly turbulent time for adopted teenagers and goes over the ways in which parents can support their children during this time period.

Beneath the Mask: Adoption through the Eyes of Adolescents (PDF – 415 KB)
Riley (2018)
National Council for Adoption
Presents six core issues affecting adolescent adoptees in order to support parents and providers in supporting adolescents’ transition from childhood to adulthood.

Parenting Your Adopted Teenager
Factsheets for Families
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Offers information to help adoptive parents understand their adopted teenager’s experiences and needs so parents can respond with practical strategies that foster healthy development. These strategies include approaches that acknowledge trauma and loss, support effective communication, promote a teen’s independence, and address behavioral and mental health concerns.
Source: Children’s Bureau |  Adoption and Developmental Stages, https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/adopt-parenting/stages | public domain

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