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Adopted Daughter Wants Answers About Her Birth Family

Question:

My 12-year-old daughter was placed in foster care when she was 4. Her siblings were adopted out to different families four years later based on court recommendations. She is starting to ask questions about why she was taken away from her biological parents. It was for multiple reasons, and we don't know all the details ourselves. We know there was abuse between the parents, drugs in the house, unsafe friends, potentially abuse to her older brother, malnourishment, living from apartment to car and to apartment again. We give her generic answers, but how much do we tell her if we don't think we truly know specifics? I am also concerned about her using the information to gain attention from friends.

Answer:

It’s natural for a child your daughter's age to be asking tough questions. Her critical thinking and ability to empathize with others is developing. You mentioned that she is no longer satisfied with your generic answers, so it may be in everyone’s best interests to give her a little more. Children often ask questions because they have heard other kids talk about it or because they saw something on TV. They are merely curious. That does not mean that since they asked, you have to tell them everything.

In your situation, it is perfectly OK to say that you simply do not know everything because that is the truth. Telling her of the drugs in the house, the unsafe friends, and the inability to provide food and shelter, might satisfy her curiosity. Make sure she understands that decisions to have children live in a place other than their original home are not made lightly. If you’re wavering on disclosing a specific detail to your daughter, then that might be a sign that your daughter can’t handle some of the information yet.

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