Adopting A 'High-Risk' Child

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Adopting a high-risk child can be both challenging and rewarding.

As a former social worker with Kentucky's Protection And Permanency, I saw first-hand the struggle and success experienced by families who adopt a high-risk child.

First of all, what is a "high-risk" child? Some of us know, from adoption training or being around "the system". But for the newly prospective adoptive parent, it may not be a familiar term.

High-risk means that a child is a high risk for placement disruption. Usually the child is older, has experienced more severe forms of physical and sexual abuse, may have multiple mental or physical challenges, and have lived in several different foster homes.

The high-risk child has great difficulty communicating, bonding, and trusting. They can be defiant, angry, and even abusive to other children or pets. Some have even experienced failed adoptive placements.

Why choose a high-risk child then? Why put yourself through the heartache of a difficult relationship where the odds are stacked against it for succeeding? Where a child will strike out against his new parents to make them prove their love? When a child may say spiteful things just to see how his or her new parents will react? Who
will push every button a parent has just to see if they're real?

Because, although the challenges are great, the rewards are even greater.

Though it is extremely difficult for a high-risk child to bond, it's not impossible. It takes time, patience, understanding, and lots of professional support from therapies and programs. But once the attachment happens, it's usually lifelong.

If prospective adoptive parents understand the dynamics of the high risk child going in, they are better equipped to meet the demands of parenting a high-risk child. The rewards far outweigh the risk.

The high-risk child is usually bright, creative, independent, and energetic. The attributes that make them seem "difficult" are the same ones that have helped them survive overwhelming odds, and will help them assimilate into a new, loving family.

So if you've ever wondered if you can parent a high-risk child, speak to an adoption agency representative, or another adoptive family who's welcomed one into their home. You won't go into it unprepared and untrained. You will learn to parent the neediest children of all, and they will touch your lives in profound and unforgettable ways.
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