Adopting When You Have a Birth Child - and Vice Versa
A Guide to Raising Both Adopted and Biological Children
There are many ways to build a family. Children often join their families by birth, IVF, surrogacy, various types of adoption, and a variety of other methods — and many parents use a combination of these methods to grow their families.
Whether you’re considering adopting when you have a biological child or having a biological child after adoption, you may be unsure of whether mixing biological and adopted children is a good idea. Know that many of American Adoptions’ families have done just that — and, with a little bit of education and preparation, you can do so successfully, too!
Our adoption specialists are always here to provide guidance and suggestions on this topic. We believe family is based in love, not genetics, and our agency’s families are beautiful no matter how they’re created.
Before you choose adoption after having a biological child (or having a biological child after adoption), learn more about the journey ahead of you with this helpful guide.
Adopting When You Have a Birth Child Already
There are many reasons you may be considering adopting a child after having a biological child. Perhaps adoption has always been something you’ve wanted to do, or maybe secondary infertility made having another child too difficult. Either way, adopting when you already have a birth child is definitely possible, and our agency will be happy to guide you through this process.
But, before you get started, here are some important things to think about:
Consider birth order.
Children naturally develop their own roles in the family, due in part to the order in which they were born. For this reason, many adoptive families choose to adopt a child younger than their youngest biological child. This maintains birth order and existing familial roles.
Parents who are considering adopting an older child should pay special attention to the displacement of their oldest child and consider their children’s feelings and personalities before adopting out of birth order.
You should also think about the age gap between your children. While there’s no guarantee that children closer in age will be best friends throughout childhood, it may be easier on you to deal with the same developmental stages at the same time.
Think about your adoption options.
If you’re considering adopting after having a biological child, you have a few paths available to you:
Many families decide private domestic infant adoption is for them; it preserves birth order and avoids many of the challenges that come with foster care and international adoption.
For example, when you pursue foster care adoption, you will need to prepare your biological children for foster placements that may result in reunification with birth parents; if you choose international adoption, you may have to wait years for a placement, increasing the age gap between your children.
Like all would-be adoptive parents, research your options before deciding which path is right for you.
Explain how adoption works.
Explaining adoption to your biological child may seem overwhelming at first, but there are plenty of resources out there to make it easy. It’s important that your older children understand what adoption is, how it works, and what a normal, beautiful path it is. An adopted child’s siblings should never treat them “different” because they are adopted, and that starts with you instilling pride in your adoption journey.
Here’s how to talk to your biological child about adoption:
- Introduce the topic with books and movies.
- Ask their opinion on adoption as a whole, before you apply it to your family situation.
- Involve your older children in the adoption process, telling them what you know about an eventual adoption opportunity.
- Explain that family is made of love, not blood.
- Normalize any feelings your child may have before, during and after the adoption is complete.
- Be age-appropriate.
Your adoption specialist will always be there to provide guidance for these conversations. To learn more about this and other aspects of adopting a child when you have a biological child, please request free information online or call our agency at 1-800-ADOPTION.
Having a Biological Child After Adoption
You’ve heard the stories: “Once you start the adoption process, you’ll get pregnant!”
While this is certainly not the case for most families, there are circumstances where having a biological child after adoption is possible. It might be an unexpected pregnancy, or you might be ready to pursue gestational surrogacy. Perhaps you felt called to adopt a child early in life, and now you want to explore the unique joys of pregnancy and/or genetic connection.
Whatever your personal journey may be, there are some important things to consider when adopting and then having a biological child.
Consider your adopted child’s feelings.
Sibling rivalry is normal when you add any child to a family — but the differences between siblings can be highlighted when you pursue adoption before a biological child. A biological child will be connected to you in a way your adopted child will never be, and it can be hard for an adoptee to have that reminder in their daily life.
If your adopted child is older, they will have grown up knowing that their differences are special and that blood is not what makes a family. But this can understandably be confusing when you have a biological child. It may make your adopted child question everything you’ve told them; they may feel “second-best” to a biological child.
Talk at length with your adopted child before having a biological child. Emphasize that your love will never change, and they will always be a special part of your family. If you need to, don’t hesitate to reach out to an adoption counselor for suggestions and advice.
Think about your current children’s needs.
Your adopted child may require love and attention your biological child will not. Maybe they have developmental or medical needs, or maybe they’re of a different race or ethnicity than your biological child will be. It’s important that you still provide for those needs when having a biological child after adoption.
Your adopted child will continue to need reassurance that adoption is beautiful and they are just as loved as any biological child. Let them know that while they may not receive as much one-on-one attention as they did in the past, you will always be there when they need you.
A new baby can strain your time and energy, so create a plan with your spouse for ensuring your adopted child’s needs are met — directly after the baby is born and in the years to come.
Can You Raise a Biological and Adopted Child Together? Yes!
If you are raising biological and adopted children in your home, you may wonder how to meet each child’s unique needs while making them all feel equally loved and welcome in your family. While all children have the same basic needs for a safe, loving and harmonious home, there are some guidelines to keep in mind as you add to your family.
1. Prepare your children for a new sibling.
Whether your older children were adopted or biological, and whether you are giving birth or adopting their younger sibling, it is always important to prepare everyone in your family for a new member. Regardless of how your family is formed, older children sometimes feel insecure or jealous when a new child joins the family. Assure your child that you have enough love and attention to go around, and involve them in your family’s preparation for a new child, whether it’s picking out toys for the new child or drawing pictures to welcome him or her to your family.
For example, if you are adopting when you already have a birth child, you could involve your child in any pre-placement open adoption meetings with the prospective birth parents.
2. Avoid favoritism.
Do not give any child special treatment. Divide chores fairly, and praise and discipline all children in a consistent way. Also be aware of displays of favoritism from extended family members. If a family member seems to be favoring one child over another, share your observations with them, educate them about adoption and ask that they treat all members of your family fairly.
3. Address physical and cultural differences.
Children who are not genetically related to their parents or siblings often do not resemble their families. Physical and cultural differences can especially be emphasized in transracial adoptive families. Teach all of your children about adoption and diversity, and remind them that these differences are beautiful and something to be celebrated. If your adopted child comes from a different cultural background, celebrate their heritage and incorporate those traditions into your family celebrations.
4. Expect a normal sibling relationship.
While it may initially take some adjustment, most adopted and biological children will have no problem getting along. Soon, your children will develop deep bonds — and likely, the expected sibling rivalry. Allow your children to develop their own special relationships, complete with all of the normal joys and challenges of growing up with siblings.
5. When in doubt, consult an expert.
If your children are having trouble adjusting to your new family dynamic, or if you notice significant changes in a child’s behavior or personality, it may be time to consult a professional. Consider reaching out to a family counselor or adoption professional for additional help.
The most important thing you can do for your children when blending your family is to set the tone. Make it clear through your actions that you don’t see your children as “adopted” or “biological” — they are simply your children. Your children will pick up on your attitudes, follow your lead, and the blend will happen naturally.
More Resources for Raising Adopted and Biological Siblings
There are many additional resources with information about parenting both adopted and biological siblings together:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Creating a Family – The National Infertility & Adoption Education Nonprofit
- Adoptive Families
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.