Adoption: in their words

I’m working on a book about adoption, and wonder if some of you might have kids adopted at age 5 or older who are willing to share about their early days home so that other new parents can be wise when helping their children settle in. I’m wondering three things specifically:

1. What were some of the hardest things about getting used to new parents?

2. What did your new parents do that made you feel most welcome and part of the family? 

3. What would your advice be to other parents to help kids settle in?

If your kids are willing to answer any or all of those questions, you can comment below (anonymously or with your own name), or email me privately with what your kids have to say.  mary.owlhaven at  Thanks so much to whomever might be inclined to answer.  I found that it was hard to speak about this topic with my own older girls.  (Oh, I was afraid to hear what they thought I’d done wrong!) But it feels to me there is probably a lot of insight out there within the hearts of the kids who’ve experienced these huge changes for themselves.


  1. Brandi Eilenstein says:

    I was adopted at 16 but came to live with my parents at 13 as their foster child. I’m 29 now but maybe you would like to know my answers.
    1. Some of the hardest things to get used to were trying to meet their expectations of me. Nobody had ever held me accountable before and it was new and unusual concept for me. It was also hard for me to have people in my business all the time. I wasn’t used to involved parents so that became very overwhelming. At first it made me feel untrusted but then I became to cherish my parents interest in my things.
    2. My parents made me a meal (creamy top ramen and grilled cheese) on the first day I came to live with them. That food is still a comfort food for me. I also loved that they called me and introduced me as their daughter from day 1. It took me almost 2 years before I called them “Dad & Mom”, but I was always their daughter.
    3. Be patient. Most older adopted kids are broken people. We don’t trust easily and we are cautious. Once we feel secure and safe, we open up.
    Be kind. Harsh words and anger tend to hurt us more than the average person. I know for me, knowing a disappointed me parents was enough punishment for me.
    Be kind to yourself. You’re going to make mistakes, but any parent will. Know that being a parent of an adopted child is harder and more emotional. Have faith in yourself and God. Know that all we as adoptees want is a loving stable home.

    There are my answers and good luck on the book 🙂

    Brandi “Denver” Eilenstein
    Seattle, WA

  2. When is your book coming out? I’m gonna buy it for sure!

  3. Very interested in the book as we are currently considering the possibility of adding our infant foster son’s 6 & 10 year old sisters to our family. I can tell you that one thing I have already heard from them is that they want to truly feel like they are a part of the family, specifically being treated equally (even if parented differently)…they are currently in a foster home where things are no where near equal & they are definitely not treated as well as the biological child (as a mama to an adopted son, 2 bio daughters, & a foster son, this not only breaks my heart, but it makes me very angry at a system that is in such need of foster families that they are willing to allow this to occur!).

  4. I am very interested!! Thank you, Brandi, for sharing your personal story / feelings! It encouraged me as an adoptive mother (our daughter whom is 7 yrs old has only been home for a year but she is very good at articulating her feelings / emotions!!) and we have had some pretty discouraging days!!

  5. Sue from Buffalo says:

    Brandi, I cherish the words you wrote. I am trying so hard to help this 10 year old boy in my care. He pushes buttons frequently. He’s not a bad kid but he acts up a lot. Sometimes I just want to put my face in my hands and cry. I feel so inadequate.

    Thank you for writing your post. I really needed it.

  6. What a great idea. Wow. I love this. Our 7-year-old has only been home a little over a year, but I would like to ask her these questions. I am so interested in this, as I think we are still learning.

  7. Casey Houseworth says:

    Hi, Mary-
    I asked our daughter who came home at age five. Here were her responses:
    1. Not hard at all – it was fun! (OH MY! Did this do my heart some good today!! 🙂 I’m thankful I saw your post today to get that little window of bonding time with her.)
    2. She remembered receiving a photo album from us while she was waiting at the orphanage – for two and a half YEARS! – for us to complete the process – and she said that was a big help to feel at home when she got here. She got to know her siblings’ faces, our faces, and even our dog’s face. 🙂 She had practiced everyone’s names from the labels we put with the pictures, and it was adorable to hear how she pronounced them all.
    3. She said that new parents need to remember that the kids aren’t used to you and that it’s okay if they’re shy. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you; it just means they don’t know you yet and they might need some time on their own to just be shy (her own words 🙂 )

    She’s happy to answer any other questions, she says. 🙂 She’s been home almost five years now, and I thought these questions were great to see how far she’s come in being able to talk about those DIFFICULT first months – even first year. It gave me a glimpse into her heart.
    Hope that helps!

  8. Casey, that’s just wonderful! Her responses really blessed my heart. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask her and to respond.

  9. Mary,

    Thanks for the questions. I was curious to the answers myself! :). My son has been home from Ethiopia almost a year and came home at 5. Hands down for him the hardest thing for him has been the rules and how to live here. He says in his broken English that food and his home made him feel most welcome. When I clarified he smiled and said story time with the whole family. Can you tell food is huge to him?! When I asked him the last question I had to laugh because he said, “I don’t know Mom! I don’t know everything! “. It’s amazing to me how much he doesn’t remember of those first couple of months.l

  10. My son is 8.5 and adopted from foster care at age 7.

    He said:
    1. I was afraid they would be a bad family. I was a little bit scared, but not too scared. I did want a new mom and dad, but I was scared to see what color they were. I wanted to be white but I couldn’t because God made me what I was. I thought maybe you wouldn’t like my color.

    2. Take care of me in love. It was fun to cook pancakes and tortillas with Mom and tickle with Dad. Play games every day.

    3. Take care of them.

    It was interesting to me to hear him bring up skin color in this way, and he used the words “take care of me” many times when answering. My heart breaks for the rejection and neglect he experienced. He is healing and we are so thankful to love him and take care of him. (and I love his beautiful light brown skin!)

  11. What a wonderful talking point this has been for us this afternoon!

    Our girls came home at 10 1/5 and 8 1/2. Biological sisters from the foster care system. They are now 14 1/2 and 12 1/2. Later this month we will celebrate 4 years of being together! Time has flown!

    This is what our oldest daughter shared:
    1. Calling them Mom and Dad. Finding out about their rules. Having to eat different foods.
    2. They played games with me. They let me help in the food preparations. They let me help with car related stuff: Washing, changing oil, and rotating tires.
    3.Let your children be involved in what you are doing. Watch movies or have family night. Play games with them. Give equal attention to all your children.
    This from the younger sister:
    1. Getting used to their rules. Secondly, when I came to their house, I felt I was in a strange place. That was hard getting to know them and our new home with them. Thirdly, their kindness and love and Godly actions.
    2. They gave me love notes (notes in my lunch box, scripture notes on my headboard)and hugs and kisses and made me feel good in their home.
    3. My advice would be give love notes and hugs and kisses and make them feel good in their house. Give them time to settle in their house. Talk about Jesus who died for everyone because we all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Talk about their rules or tell them a story.

    Shortly after our girls came, I started telling them the following: You are safe, you are loved, you are wanted and you belong. I soon typed this up and posted it on their headboards for them to read whenever they wanted to. They have really appreciated those messages.
    Thank you!

  12. Hi,

    I know I’ve shared with you before. Our kids moved in and the oldest was 14 – girl, 10 – girl, 7 – boy and 5 – boy. They had been in foster care for years… almost 5 years actually. The oldest has now moved out… she wanted a really different lifestyle than us and just didn’t want to be in our home. Our other three are adopted now and they’ve been with us for 2 and 1/2 years. That sounds so crazy.

    Things I would have done differently… there’s a huge list. They went from a home where the parents were not actively involved in their lives to us so it was a really big change. The oldest who was with us had already began using drugs but we didn’t have a clue. The parents allowed them to watch any and all movies, regardless of their ages… our youngest had seen horror movies and ‘Taken’… at FIVE!

    And our house is animated disney and veggie tales – huge change. The kids were used to being told that God wants them to be hit and they would throw things at them and do horrible things to them. Especially the boys. Horrible things that make me ask God to help me forgive them.

    Had I to do it over though, I would have let them transition into being into our home with movies and tried to bridge the gap a bit. Not that we would have watched things that are completely inappropriate but we would have not made it as drastic. I also would have done the same thing with food. Worked on making non whole wheat stuff and things that were more familiar to them. I think that might have helped.

    This is really hard because the oldest wanted to go back to the previous home (I think she loved the “freedom”). She was constantly convincing the kids – with force if necessary to say that they wanted to go back. So maybe nothing would have helped bridge the gap.

    I am going to ask my kids what they think too and post it.

  13. We’ve adopted two older (girl that came home at 6 and boy that came home at 10) internationally. I would be happy to talk with them if are still in need of research.