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Bonding with adopted children

Whatever your reasons are for adopting, you may wonder if you will have the same bond with your child as a biological parent would expect to have. See if any of these feelings resonate with you:

1) You might think you’ve missed your chance to bond

You may be concerned about missing out on the initial bonding that takes place during and after pregnancy. Some mothers also worry that missing out on the bonding experience of breastfeeding will be detrimental.

2) You may worry about the child’s history

The majority of children awaiting adoption have experienced difficult childhoods, often coming from families with a history of drug or alcohol problems, domestic violence, neglect or abuse. Knowing this, you may worry that their history and experiences will make it difficult to bond and establish trust.

3) You may have initially hoped to adopt a young child

The majority of couples are likely to be matched with a child between the age of one and four, and around 20% are five and above. If you and your partner were hoping to adopt a newborn, this might come as a disappointment.

You are not alone. Around one in five parents come to adoption hoping to be matched with a baby, and many others express a preference for being matched with a child as young as possible [1].

It may help to know that, throughout the adoption process, lots of potential parents compromise on at least one of the criteria they started out with, usually related to the age of the child. Some parents even open up to the idea of accepting two or more siblings, having started out wanting to adopt a single child. Most parents who change their criteria report being happy with the decision and see it as a natural part of the adoption process [1].

You will have an opportunity to learn about the case history of a child before and after a match is made. During the matching phase, take the opportunity to ask questions about the lives and experiences of potential matches. It’s important that you’re happy with the match and it’s OK to ask for extra information at any time.

Once a match has been made – and this can take several months – there will usually be a handover phase where your child makes the transition from a foster home to living with you. This is a further opportunity to learn about the child’s background, but also about their routines and current lifestyle, so you can help them adjust to living with you.

Remember that nothing is yet set in stone, and that a match won’t be made until you are happy to go ahead. If you need some time to adjust, you can take that time, and make your own decision. The more active you remain in the process and the more information you have about the child you are adopting, the more likely you are to find the process a positive one, and help to create a successful match for you and your new family.

How do parents bond with adopted children?

Allow the time and space to get to know your child and build up a bond. Even with a natural birth, bonding is not automatic, and many adopting parents find that they feel the same way about their adopted children as they would a biological one. Your concerns over parental bonding may start to ease when the child comes into your care.

If your child has been in a difficult or unloving environment, it may take longer to establish trust, so be prepared for the bonding process to take a bit longer. But have faith – even if you are adopting a child who’s a bit older, you are not necessarily at a disadvantage where bonding is concerned. Children develop attachments with the people who offer them a sense of security and support, consistently over a period of time.

Sharing your feelings with your partner could provide an opportunity for you both to talk about any concerns or questions you might have. Remember to explain that these worries you’re having are not an indication that you’re questioning your decision to adopt, but rather, that you’re just looking to explore and make sense of your feelings. 

For more information on adopting, take a look at: and


[1] Selwyn, J., Meakings, S., & Wijedasa, D. (2015). Beyond the adoption order: Challenges, interventions and adoption disruption. London: British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).

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