When some people think of foster children, they think of delinquents who have been through severe childhood trauma and will never be able to fully function in society. Unfortunately, this myth is prevalent not only in society, but among some adoptive parents as well. It is true that abuse and/or neglect puts children into foster care and can cause serious emotional trauma. It is not true that children adopted from foster care will be condemned to a lifetime of maladaptive behavior.
Bad Reputation of Foster Kids Based on Extreme Cases
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented findings that suggested children adopted from foster care may get their “bad” reputation from only a few children in the system with behavior disorders. When comparing the behavior problems of youth adopted from foster care and non-adopted youth, researchers noticed that a few very high numbers in the adopted group may have affected the average. Because these scores were so few and they were so far from the rest of the group, they were removed to find a more accurate average. The scores for children adopted from foster care were identical to non-adopted children when the abnormal scores were removed. Too often, foster children are judged based on these few.
Adoptive Parents are Informed of At Risk Children
Although it is not the norm, there are some foster children with a behavior problem that is much more severe than a typical non-adopted child. These children are not hiding away in foster care waiting to go to an unsuspecting home. Typically, they are in therapeutic homes. Potential adoptive parents of at risk youth are well aware of the risks before the child is placed in their home.
Parents’ Negative Opinion Affects Parent-Child Relationship
This myth can be detrimental to the bond between the adoptive parent and child. A study from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas compared the relationship between parents and their child adopted from foster care with the parents’ beliefs and attitudes about adopted children. Those who had a more positive and optimistic view of adopted children in general had stronger, more positive bonds. If parents believe that adopted children generally have more behavior and academic problems, they will usually have a harder time bonding with their adopted child.
Research on adopted children has, at the very least, put some doubt on these myths that society takes as “facts”. More and more research is suggesting that adopted children are no worse off than their non-adopted peers, in some case they may even do better!
Brand, A. E., & Brinich, P. M. (1999). Behavior Problems and Mental Health Contacts in Adopted, Foster, and Nonadopted Children. Journal Of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 40(8), 1221.
Gillum, N., & O’Brien, M. (2011). Cognitions of Black Mothers Who Adopted Black Children From the Public Foster Care System. Adoption Quarterly, 14(1), 18-36. doi:10.1080/10926755.2011.557942