Part Two: Intercountry Adoption—Helping a Child from an Institutional Setting Adjust

This is the second and last part of a post focusing on how adoptive parents can help a child from another country adjust to their new surroundings. In working as an immigration lawyer, I’m often called upon to guide families through the process of intercountry adoption. Families who come from institutional settings may face special challenges in adjusting to family life in the U.S.

The first five strategies that I discussed focused on home and family life. These next five are concerned with adjustments to the outside world.

Finding a Friend

Connecting with a child who is going through or has gone through a similar experience can be very helpful. Your new family member will have someone in their life with whom they can readily identify and who will understand what they are going through.  Try to help them connect with that person.


If the child is middle of high school age, then they should be enrolled fairly quickly. Do not have them put into classes that offer English as a second language. They will adjust much more quickly if they are mainstreamed. With elementary age children, you may need to take some time before enrolling them. But you do want them going to school as soon as they can.

Set Limits

All kids need limits and a child coming from an institutional setting to a new country certainly requires a strong framework in which they can function. Don’t buy them everything they want or let them do anything they want. Treat them with respect and set reasonable limits that will allow them to develop confidence and be a part of the family. With older kids, set limits as to how long they can be out and where they can go. Get to know their friends. Remember, you are the parent.

Television Vs. Extracurricular Activities

As far as television goes, you have to make sure that the child is watching programming that is appropriate. Violent, over stimulating programs or shows that teach or show irresponsible or inappropriate behavior should be avoided. Television sends cultural messages that influence all children and that can be especially influential to kids who are experiencing our culture for the first time.

Involve the new member of your family in a sport, art or craft. Maybe they’d love to play soccer, basketball or hockey? Perhaps they’d like to learn to play the guitar, paint or dance? Or maybe they’d enjoy a craft? By the way—video games don’t count.


Set rewards for progress in school, good behavior and being involved in chores. Punish bad behavior but don’t go overboard. You’re trying to help the new member of your family adapt to family life, learn limits, build self-confidence and learn responsibility.

Common Sense

The families I’ve worked with as an immigration lawyer all acknowledge that using common sense in this process is essential. I understand that the initially parents involved in intercountry adoption are focused on making sure that the child can immigrate to America and have a good family life. Then there is the essential time of adjustment, which will determine future success.

Please contact the Ranchod Law Group with offices in San Francisco, Santa Clara Bay area, and Sacramento California, if you have any questions regarding intercountry adoption.  We represent clients throughout the fifty states.  To schedule a consultation contact us at 415-986-6186 or at

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