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Wisdom Wednesdays: Adopting Two at Once

It used to be impossible to bring home two unrelated children from China in one trip. Today it IS possible and seems to be more and more common. When we decided in 2009 to once again grow our family through adoption, we had no intention to add more than one. But we fell in love with two children, and so I made the call to our agency: “I know this may sound a little crazy, but do you think it would be possible to bring them both home?” I have to say I was a bit surprised when we were granted a waiver.

Our children were 11 and 12 years old at the time of adoption. One was a boy and the other a girl. They had lived the previous two-and-a-half years in the same orphanage. We had some preconceived notions of what adopting two at once would look like. Here are three things that we’ve learned in the process.

1) Just because they speak the same language does not mean that they will speak to each other in Chinese. We thought that it would be great for the kids to have someone in the family who is fluent in Chinese. Our other two children whom we had previously adopted from China had completely forgotten their native tongue. Surely, we thought, these two will be able to keep their first language with each other to talk to. Wrong! The good news is that at 14 and 15 years of age, they both have maintained their Chinese language skills. However, they rarely speak to each other in Chinese. When they did in the beginning, it was usually in elevated voices, and we had no idea what they were saying to each other. Needless to say, this caused some problems in the beginning. We had to bring in a friend to translate for us. This friend also listened to their complaints about each other and our family — which leads me to the next tip.

2) Just because they are from the same orphanage, does not mean they are friends, or even like each other. We have been lucky in this regard. While our children were not friends (boys and girls were kept apart except in school), they do respect each other. However, we were not aware of the social hierarchy within the orphanage walls. Our son had spent many years in foster care and knew what it was to be in a family (what a HUGE blessing, but that’s for another article!) Our daughter, who lived in an orphanage her entire life, is still learning what a family is. In the first few months our older son would try to “parent” our younger daughter – at least that’s how we saw it. He could not understand why we kept asking him to stop. You see, his job in the orphanage was to keep the younger children in line. While our daughter was raging for other reasons, he was melting down because we were correcting him when he thought he was just doing his job.

3) Adopting two at once may make the bonding and adjustment period much longer for both of them. “It will be hard,” some said. We already had seven children. What difference would one more make? If adding one child to an existing family rocks the boat for a while, adding two has the potential of causing some major waves for quite some time. There just are so many factors that go into adjusting to a new family member, adding two unrelated children with varied backgrounds, experiences and personalities to your family with its own expectations, experiences and expectations can be, well…hard. Two children come with their own individual traumas, sets of needs,and ways of expressing themselves. Each child needs lots of individual attention. I often wished I had a clone! It was hard to split myself in two and still be a mother to the other children I had at home.

We have been home almost three years now, and I can say that we have settled into life with our large, crazy family of 11. Has it been easy? No, but then adoption is never easy. If you are considering adopting two unrelated children at once, you need to know it may be more than twice as hard as one. You need to realistically evaluate your resources, including your patience and willingness to devote most of your waking hours to your new children for a long time. You need to be committed to be in it for the long haul, because BOTH of the children you adopt deserve it.

~Sandi Glass is LWB’s Adoption Support Director.

Have you adopted two children at the same time? We’d love to hear your words of wisdom for others considering this path.

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  • Charmaine says:

    We adopted two at once this past year and are Very glad we did! Ours are a 6 year old girl and 2 year old boy. Our older one had a harder transition because she was older and institutionalized. Our little guy was in foster care from infancy and has been a seamless addition to our family of 7. I imagine it might have been harder if we had adopted two Older children. While our six year old needed a lot more support in adjusting to the family, she was easier in other ways because of her age. She could walk and talk. She needed no baby gear! Once she learned enough English (in four months flat!) she could tell us a lot about her past. We would definitely adopt two at once again.

  • Marie says:

    We adopted two together in 2008. They were both girls, ages 8 and 10, who were from the same orphanage and were close friends. Our experience has been almost identical to the authors. Our girls can still speak Chinese to a native speaker, but never speak it to each other, and have not since 6 months home. We too had preexisting roles from life in the orphanage to cope with; especially with the older being in charge of the younger, and both being very concerned when the other was raging. I’m not sure bonding was delayed, but it was hard to stretch to meet everyone’s need when it was possible to have two children, and not just one, who could start raging at the drop of a hat for hours. Four years later, our lives look very different. Everyone has adjusted and attached, and we can’t imagine them not being in our family. We also have PA for two boys, ages 9 and 10 who live at our daughters’ former orphanage. We’re ready to start the rollercoaster woth two all over again.

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