How to Better Understand the Profiles of Waiting Children

Can You Meet These Needs?

Group of Little Children Holding Sign Reading ADOPT
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While searching through adoption websites or foster to adopt photo listings hosted by all of the states within the United States, it's hard not to want to open your home to almost every child you find. You see a picture of a sweet face and then a paragraph introducing you to the child, but some of the things listed may seem a bit cryptic, and you begin to wonder what exactly the social workers meant by some of the phrases.

Here are several of the most commonly used phrases on the waiting children profiles divided into three different categories: Child Behavioral Needs, Adoptive Family or Parent Needs, School and Community Needs. Remember, always ask for more details if you don't understand what you are reading about a child.

Please note that a child's profile or even their social history is a short snippet of information and is different than the information a prospective adoptive parent will find in the child's file during the file reading after being matched for adoption.

Child Behavioral and Emotional Needs

Within a child's profile or social history, you might read about the need to help a child with appropriate boundaries, anger issues, or needing to be the youngest or only child in the home.

Adoptive Family or Parent Needs

This social history about a waiting child may include phrases such as the need for the adoptive family to set clear rules and consequences, be active in the community, or be able to spend lots of one on one time with a child. Be sure to really consider the strengths of your family and home, can you be what this child needs at this time?

School and Community Needs 

Many waiting child profiles include information about a child's school needs. There are also many children that need a community or live near a community with mental health services. Most children waiting for an adoptive home in the foster care system have endured abuse and neglect and need services to help them be successful. Phrases mentioned may include, be able to access services within the community, child needs medication management, or child is under an IEP.

After reading the profile of a child that I want to learn more about, I like to send a list of questions to the child's social workers seeking more information and clarification on the child's needs. Here are examples of some of the questions I send after reading a child's social history.
Note: I edit the list of questions I send to fit the child.

  • How is the child developmentally delayed?
  • How long has the child been in this current school?
  • What issues or behaviors does the child have in school?
  • Does the school need to employ behavioral interventions to get through the day?
  • Does the child have an IEP?
  • How often does the child attend therapy?
  • How does the child get along with pets, other children, younger children?
  • Does the child share a bedroom?
  • Why do you think this placement has been more successful and has lasted for a year(specify to fit the child)?
  • Were there any prenatal drug or alcohol issues?
  • Is the child taking medication at this time?
  • Does the child understand adoption?
  • What does the child want in a family?

Final Thoughts

Don't assume anything about the child. I read a child's profile that mentioned she should be the only child or the youngest child in the home. I assumed it would be due to extreme, unsafe behaviors like sexually acting out or violence. I later learned that the social workers wanted her to be the only or youngest child due to her need for a lot of one on one attention. Also, don't let a scary sounding need keep you from taking a chance on a child. So many children need a loving home and the labels attached to them are sometimes unfair assessments.