Q:My 12-year-old son came home upset the other day--a classmate had told him he felt sorry for him because he doesn't live with his "real parents." We went through questions and answers when he was young, but those dialogues don't work at middle-school age. What can he say?
A:Middle school is a hard age! Any difference is noticed and magnified by other children, who are all self-conscious about their own differences. Are there other adoptees or kids of your son's race at his school? Help him get acquainted with them.
Your son is at a new developmental phase, so it's time for a "grownup" talk about his adoption. Review his adoption papers with him, including any information about his birthparents and the reasons for his placement. Let this information percolate and see whether new questions arise.
Help your son understand that he doesn't have to be a poster boy for adoption or for his birth country. Tell him it's OK to answer intrusive questions with, "Why do you need to know?" or "That's my own business." He can answer comments like the one he got from a classmate with, "I wonder why you say that? I'm doing great--how about you?" or "Don't you know that every adopted person has two sets of real parents?"
—Mary Ann Curran, World Association for Children and Parents, Seattle
Q:Our seven-year-old has to be reassured frequently that we're proud of her, that she did a great job, and so on. We're adopting a second child, and we worry that our daughter's insecurity will lead her to compete with a new sibling. Any advice?
A:To begin with, let's separate your concerns about your daughter's self-esteem from your wish to add a second child to your family. You should work on enhancing your daughter's self-esteem whether or not you expand your family. Begin praising her for her efforts, for sticking with a difficult task, and for having a good attitude. Your goal is to help her feel good about real skills that she has, so she can stop judging herself against having done a "great job." Helping your daughter improve her self-image will lay some solid groundwork for comparisons she might make to a sibling, or to anyone else in her life. With stronger self-esteem, your daughter should be able to adjust well to a new sibling.
—Joni Mantell, Infertility and Adoption Counseling Center, Pennington, New Jersey
Q:Are all children from foster care considered "special needs," and, therefore, eligible for the full adoption tax credit? I'm in the process of adopting my foster son, and I can't get a clear answer.
A:No. For a child to be considered special needs according to the IRS tax credit guidelines, he must meet all three of the following criteria:
—Mark T. McDermott, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Washington, D.C.
Q:We finalized our daughter's international adoption a few years ago, but haven't gone through the naturalization process yet. Do we have to? What forms do we need to complete?
A:First, examine the stamp that was placed in her passport when she entered the United States. If she entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, she automatically became a U.S. citizen upon entering the country. If you did not receive a U.S. certificate of citizenship within 45 days of returning home with her, request one using USCIS Form N-600. (Download the form at uscis.gov.)
If your child was issued an IR-4 visa, you will need to adopt her again in your state of residence. Once the "re-adoption" occurs, you can request a certificate of citizenship using Form N-600. It's in your child's and your best interests to complete the re-adoption. The fact that several years have passed since you adopted her shouldn't pose a problem, but I urge you to begin the process sooner rather than later.
—Peter Wiernicki, Joseph, Reiner & Wiernicki, P.C., Rockville, Maryland