Posted by: ramonamom | May 22, 2008

Reasonable Expectations – Adopting Multiple Children

It is common, when adopting older children, for them to come in sibling groups.  This situation can bring with it good news and bad news, of course.  When adopting internationally, an older child is easily overwhelmed upon entering a new culture where everything in his world is suddenly different from what he is used to.  Smells, sounds, feels, tastes – everything is different.  (If you travel to adopt your child, pay particular attention to how this feels while you are in their native country, so that you will be better prepared to help him deal with those same issues later on.)  Bringing a sibling or two with him can be a huge comfort, as he will have “something” from his previous culture to hang on to comfort him in his moments of frustration.  Hearing his native tongue spoken will be helpful, even if for only the first few months.  You have heard the old saying, “misery loves company”.  Well, even if the kids are not miserable, it can be helpful to have someone else going through similar issues at the same time, especially if that person is a sibling. 

Of course, on the other hand, some siblings do not get along well together.  Everyone knows that.  They may feel in competition with each other or they may have not lived together for a long period of time, therefore not really knowing each other.  Perhaps they do not have the same parentage (different father or mother).   Or, maybe they simply don’t get along.  It happens to the best of us, at times. 

If you choose to adopt a sibling group, you should not “expect” them to be great buddies, although you can certainly be pleasantly surprised if they are!  The older child may initially feel like they need to take care of the younger one(s), and then relax later when they discover that you will now be taking care of their needs.  Or, they may continue to want to be the “parent” of siblings they may have even raised themselves, to an extent.  Try to stand back and observe the interactions between siblings for a while, before intervening (unless, of course, you are dealing with violent behavior).  Understand the culture that your child came from and why they do the things they do.  Some cultures are rougher than others, so the children may be used to speaking coarsely to each other, or even hitting siblings to get them to do what they want.  You can do your best to untrain these ways, but first spend some time observing their interactions and attempting to understand their relationships. 

Disadvantages of adopting more than one child at a time would be centered around the added workload for the parents and adjustments necessary for the children already in the home.  Bringing an older child into your home can be challenging in and of itself, so bringing more than one will naturally add to those issues.  For some parents, it is disturbing to have children speak a foreign language in the home, not knowing what they are saying.  “What if they are talking about us, or planning some great get-away plan?!”, the parents often worry.  These are all areas that need to be carefully weighed when considering adopting more than one child at a time. 

At times, older children are adopted in unrelated groups (not siblings).  In doing this, you would provide the children with a companion from their native country.  However, being certain that their personalities meshed would be vital, as they would not necessarily be used to being around each other.  Just because two children are from the same country, do not assume that they will naturally get along just fine and dandy.  Perhaps language would be the only thing they had in common! 

So, where does this leave you, and what expectations should you have when adopting more than one child at a time?  Do you already have children in your home?  How do they get along?  Are their personalities similar, or very diverse?  Think of many of the other sibling groups of children that you are acquainted with.  Do they enjoy each other’s company?  Are they “buddies”?  Do they get on each other’s nerves?  Perhaps they even compete amongst themselves.  As many different sibling situations as you can think of represent just a portion of the possible situations you could find yourself in, having adopted siblings.  Thus, you must have very limited expectations when adopting a sibling group of children.

  You can expect them to have a similar background, if they lived in the same orphanage or foster home, although their perspectives may vary greatly.  Consider the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  They tell many of the same stories, but from a different perspective.  It is like looking at a scene from different camera angles.  One is not necessarily better than the other – they are simply different. 

Even children who were in the same environment may have experienced differing levels of care, though.  Some children are simply “cuter” than others.  Many institutionalized children have learned to “play the system” and get what they want out of the workers, while others may remain in the background, not even getting their needs met.  One of our adopted children came to us spoiled by a boarding school staff, and we were in the unexpected position of having to detox her from special treatment she had received all of the time.  She was a master at being very sweet to us, but then would turn into a nasty, mean child when left alone with the daughter who was to become her sister.  We are thankful to report that she has come very far over the years, making great strides in unlearning those behaviors. 

Adopting unrelated children at the same time can present some unique challenges.  One day these children may be playing side by side in an orphanage, and the next day they are siblings!  Think of going to your local preschool and picking two children at random.  Consider what it may be like if you bring those two children into your home and expect them to be instant siblings. It might work out just fine.  But, it might not!  God has designed a never ending supply of different personalities, some of which get along better than others.  If you desire to adopt two or more unrelated children, see if your agency can speak to the authorities at the orphanage and refer you to children who are friends already, playing together or doing things with each other (in the case of teenagers) on a regular basis. 

Prepare yourself for sibling strife, whether you adopt biological siblings or unrelated children. If you get home and discover that your newly adopted children get along marvelously, then give God the glory and go on to your next challenge! 





  1. Thank you so much for your kind words. We regret that we have not been able to post lately, but we are in the proverbial “thick of it” right now, with so many kids on the verge of young adulthood! Our job is here with our kids right now, but we hope to get back to posting again one of these days. Again, thanks for the encouragement.

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