Focus on the Family by Jim Daly

Couple Considers Adopting Child With Abusive Past

Q: We're considering adopting a baby boy who was removed from his birth home due to abuse when only a few months old. He has been in the foster-care system for the past year. What kind of risks are we facing?

Jim: You deserve a lot of credit for your willingness to adopt a child from a troubled background. I want to encourage you in this endeavor, but also advise you to proceed with your eyes wide open.

Our counselors highlight that there's no one-size-fits-all pattern here -- every situation is unique. Much depends on the individual circumstances of the child you're planning to adopt and the type of foster care he received after he was removed from his home. Some children who are abused, neglected or moved from caregiver to caregiver during their first couple of years of life can develop significant emotional and behavioral problems, or even suffer from a phenomenon known as Reactive Attachment Disorder. However, some abused and neglected children are extremely resilient and display an astounding ability to thrive and grow once they're settled in a stable environment.

We'd suggest that you gather as much information as you can from the child's social worker -- and, if possible, the foster parents. This will give you some indication of the kind of care he has received and whether or not he appears to have any emotional or behavioral problems. Even if he does, that's not necessarily reason to forgo adoption.

If you do decide to adopt this child, consult with a psychologist who specializes in early childhood attachment. He or she can work with you, the current foster parents and the social worker to help ease the transition from the foster system to your home. Focus on the Family's counseling staff can provide a list of qualified child psychologists in your local area; call 1-800-232-6459.

Q: Should I tell my husband that I'm attracted to his closest buddy? I've heard that kind of information should be shared between spouses for purposes of accountability, but I'm not sure that'd be wise. Neither man has any clue of my struggle, and I don't want to jeopardize their relationship.

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Accountability is one thing, but it's something else to burden your spouse with every wayward thought and questionable impulse that passes through your mind. Each of us has to deal with our share of "internal garbage." That doesn't mean that we need to dump it on the people around us.

Being honest with your spouse -- in the sense of telling the truth -- isn't the same thing as revealing every feeling you've ever had. Yes, couples should be frank and open with each other. But in the name of openness and accountability, some people give their spouses too much information about past and present actions and thoughts. Detail and timing are always crucial considerations. Silence isn't necessarily dishonest -- in fact, sometimes the loving thing to do is to keep your mouth shut.

This is particularly true in a case like yours. If your inappropriate emotions ever do find expression in inappropriate words and actions -- and I hope and pray this never happens -- that will be the time for accountability, remorse and confession. Until then, you're better off keeping this matter between yourself and God.

That last thought -- the spiritual component -- is important. Instead of dumping on your husband and jeopardizing your marriage, confess your illicit feelings to God and seek His help to stay faithful to your marriage vows. Meanwhile, say and do only what you believe to be in the best interests of your husband, his friend and your marriage.

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at or at


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