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Reading Profiles of Waiting Children - Child Behavioral and Emotional Needs

Child Behavioral and Emotional Needs Are Often Cryptic in Child Profiles


One of the first steps toward completing a foster care adoption is to read profiles of waiting children in order to find a match for your family. Often your first introduction to a child occurs on a photolisting which will include a short introductory paragraph about the child and the child's behavioral needs. But in order to truly understand the needs of the child, one has to be able to read between the lines a bit.

Here are a few of the most common phrases used to describe child behavioral and emotional needs.

  • Help child with appropriate boundaries. This child needs help in setting clear boundaries within relationships, whether they be physical boundaries or social. This child may struggle with sexual abuse or sexual acting out behavior. Ask: Why are boundaries an issue for this child?

    Other phrases used in waiting children profiles with similar meaning include: Help child establish boundaries. Help child maintain appropriate boundaries.

  • Be prepared as the child may test your commitment to the child. - This child has probably come from a failed adoption or multiple foster family moves due to disruptions. Her behavior will be to test to see if you too will give up and abandon her. The adoptive parents need to be prepared for a possible rough ride, especially during the first year. Ask: What types of behavior has the current foster family experienced with the child? What helped the child feel more settled?

    Other phrases used in waiting children profiles with similar meaning include: Child needs unconditional love. Child needs a committed family that won't give up on her.

  • Child needs to be the only or youngest child in the home. This child may have extreme behaviors with either physical aggression or sexually acting out. The social workers may also want him to be the only or youngest child due to the child needing a lot of attention. Ask: Why should the child be the only or youngest?

  • Child needs to be supervised when with other children or pets. This child may have extreme behaviors either with physical aggression or sexual behavior. The child may also not know how to appropriately interact with others and may put herself in harms way. Ask: Why does the child need to be supervised with children or pets? How should a parent best cope with supervising a child with this need? What rules need to be in place within the home?

  • Child struggles with aggression. This child may need anger management counseling. Adoptive parents of this child need to be prepared to learn techniques to teach the child how to best calm himself and be ready to ask for extra resources as needed. Ask: What does his anger look like? What tends to set off his anger? What has helped him be successful? Is he on medication to help with his anger?

    Other phrases used in waiting children profiles with similar meaning include: Child is learning to control his anger and his aggressive behaviors.

  • Child needs help calming himself. This child may be easily agitated or emotional. Ask: What causes his distress? What has helped to calm him in the past?

  • Needs guidance and assistance with social and peer interactions. This child, like many children in the foster care system, struggles with making and/or keeping friends. This child may benefit from peer or social groups within a therapeutic setting. The child may also benefit from belonging to various sports, clubs or groups. The adoptive parents need to be ready to help this child increase in social skills and the practice of those skills so that the child can learn how to better handle social interactions.

  • Child struggles with adults and authority. The adoptive parents of this child need to be prepared to establish their role as parent to the child. Utilizing different parenting techniques beyond the traditional authoritarian style of parenting would also be wise as an authoritarian style would not mix well with this child. This child will need a strong parent and may have the diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder(ODD). Ask: What does his lack of respect for adults and authority look like? What has worked well with parenting the child in the past? What has not worked well?

  • Child requires a lot of supervision. This child's behavioral needs require that the parents be aware of and watching the child at all times. This child may struggle with making healthy or safe choices or the child struggles with behaviors. Ask: Why does the child need to be supervised? How are the current foster parents supervising the child? What is working?

  • Child has difficulty expressing needs and emotions appropriately. As with most children, this child expresses his needs and wants through behavior. He needs to learn more appropriate and healthier ways to communicate using his words, instead of, for example, throwing a temper tantrum, screaming, or pouting.

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