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

This is the first part of two on how adoptive parents can help a child adopted from another country adjust to their new surroundings. Although it’s not a legal issue, I’ve found in my capacity as an immigration lawyer that children who come institutional settings face extreme challenges in adjusting to family life in another country.

Often such children have limited or no family experience and they are used to their own culture and to a life that involves schedules and experiences that are disconnected from what one would consider normal family life. Here are five strategies that you can use to help your new family member adjust.

Daily Routine is Important

Creating a daily routine will give the child confidence and help them adjust. If they are constantly regulating their daily schedule to a different time for dinner, bed, bath or other such activities or situations, then they’ll be confused. Along with a routine, you need to make the child feel at home and make them a part of the family. They should not be the center of attention.

Make them Part of Your Extended Family

Slowly but gradually make sure that they get to know various members of your extended family such as uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, etc. This will help ground them and give them reference points in terms of their new family and setting. Don’t do this all at once. You may have good intentions, but it’s very easy for a child to be overwhelmed. It’s essential that the new family member is welcomed by and interacts with all close family members.

Use the Home as an Anchor

Make the home the central part of their existence. At first, you should avoid big trips such a going to Disney World, travelling to the Grand Canyon or going on some other such adventure. These types of trips and activities will come in time.

At least one parent should be at home with a young child at all times. Do not enroll the child in daycare or hire a nanny. Older children should be mainstreamed into your local school system but when at home one parent should be with them. For how long should you do this? The minimum would be at least the first two to three months. But it is partly dependent upon the child and the situation from which they have come.

Language Transition

Speak to the child in their language as much as possible while also engaging them in English. Don’t insist that they learn English immediately. That will happen in time and often it happens fairly quickly.

Food Transition

Try to include foods that the child is used to eating. Slowly add new foods to their diet. Don’t ban junk and fast food but set limits. Children coming from institutional settings tend to want foods that they have not had access to, including sweets, foods high in fat and sugar drinks. Be responsible in allowing these items.

Stability is Key

Each of these five areas focuses on providing the newest member of your family with a home that can serve as an anchor, offering consistency and stability.  As an immigration lawyer, I know the first part of adopting a child from another country is ensuring that they can come to America and be part of a loving family. The second part is that all-important period of adjustment for all.

Contact the Ranchod Law Group in Sacramento or Stockton. If you have any questions regarding intercountry adoption.  We represent clients throughout the fifty states.  To schedule a consultation contact us at (916) 613-3553 or at