Ask AF: Discussing an Unsuccessful Placement

Young children don't understand the complexities of the law and "legal-risk placements." What they do understand and trust is you — their parent.

Q: Last year we had custody of a newborn for about six months via a legal-risk placement. Our three-year-old still asks about her. I’m worried that he thinks something could happen with his adoption. We tell him, “The judge said we are your parents for forever,” but we are not sure what to say about the baby.


A: A reality check here: Three-year-olds do not know what judges or the powers of laws are. Your word is more powerful than a judge’s, so your son needs your reassurance that you will be a family forever.

By asking about the baby, your son is expressing love, connection, and sadness — normal feelings for him to have. His loss is too big and too real to ignore. Tell him that it is sad that the baby was unable to stay, and emphasize that this was unusual. Show him that your family can discuss sad feelings, that his feelings matter, and that you are there for him, and always will be. When he is older, and can understand more about the law, you can explain the difference between his adoption and a legal-risk placement.

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