Over the last decade and a half, I've come to the conclusion that the most challenging adoption situation for both the child and the adoptive parent is that of a toddler. During the toddler years, children start to express themselves and use a variety of different methods to do so. Children over the age of five or six have a much easier time expressing themselves, even if they are speaking in their native language to a translator. When a child is adopted as a toddler, they need to express their feelings and fears about new surroundings, new people, new smells, new food, new everything. And this need to express is hindered by the fact that they are still learning to communicate. Children born to and raised by their biological parents have difficulty communicating and expressing their emotions (biting, anyone?). Throw an adoption into the mix of this crucial developmental stage, and you've got yourself one terrified and confused kid that is not apt to attach to his or her new parents with ease.
Toddler Adoption - The Weaver's Craft, by Mary Hopkins Best, is my second favorite adoption resource out there. Thorough, clear, and - best of all - frank, this book spends a large portion of the book asking parents the hard questions, summarized by the chapter title: "Is Toddler Adoption for You?" The book then explains the development of a toddler, how a toddler grieves having to leave familiar surroundings, and how adoptive parents can attach to a grieving two- or three-year old. Dr. Hopkins-Best gives examples of specific toddler adoptions and clear guidance as to how to best parent these children in desperate need of attachment to their parents.
Ten years ago, I hesitated to recommend this book to potential adoptive parents because I was afraid that it would scare them away from adoption. I had seen my share of orphanages around the world, and I wanted (still do) every single child languishing in an orphanage to have a loving family. What I understand now is that, while every child needs a loving family, not every family is capable of providing the environment that these children need. So in order to advocate responsible adoption, the best thing I can possibly do is recommend Toddler Adoption - The Weaver's Craft when I meet parents who are considering adoption. Note that this book has portions that are applicable to the adoption of a child at any age. Knowing what they will face when that grieving child enters their home is the very best thing that parents could do. Realizing that parenting an adoptive child takes many additional measures of patience, perseverance, and kindness toward these hurting children is what adopted toddlers need most during the transition into their new families. Adoptive parents need to know. Reading this book will do just that.