Written by Deann Borkowski, Carolina & ABC Adoption Services Clinical Director

Clinically, there is minimal research on adopting out of birth order.  However, if adopting out of birth order is a consideration for your family, then there are factors to review and discuss with your Social Worker and adoption agency.  As the Clinical Director, these are some of the factors I would advise you to think about in conjunction with your home study team, as well as ensure you complete child-specific training, to facilitate a successful adoption.  As always, we here at Carolina Adoption Services are here to support and advise our families and to review each case, when a family is considering an out of birth order adoption.


  1. The potential for the greatest disruption to the family system occurs when the oldest child is displaced. It is typically recommended that the oldest child is not displaced with an adoption.  However, if the oldest child is under 3 years old at the time of placement, this can be considered, as he or she has not fully settled into the position of the eldest child.
  2. Larger families may experience fewer disturbances in the family system with the disruption of the birth order of the middle children. As there are multiple children, there are many relationships occurring, which makes the change less noticeable. Families with multiple children have reported that it has been important to keep the birth order of the youngest intact.
  3. Keep a one-year age gap between the children in the home and those being placed in the home. It is beneficial for each child to have a special place in the family.  As with any adoption, try to continue with individual activities with a child, to continue building relationships.
  4. Discuss the developmental age of the children in the home, as well as those you are considering you are adopting with your Social Worker and home study agency. Developmental age versus chronological age may be another factor to consider.
  5. If you are adopting an older child, be mindful that an older child may harm your younger children in the home. Take appropriate precautions and talk with your Social Worker about completing a safety plan and sexual abuse training, as appropriate.
  6. Seek input from your children on their thoughts and opinions about the adoption. Prepare them for the adoption and be willing to accept a regression in their behavior when their sibling joins the family.
  7. Obtain ongoing preparation and education regarding out of birth adoption, if you are approved by your home study agency and placing agency, if applicable.
  8. Flexibility is crucial in all adoptive parenting, particularly an out of birth order adoption. The most successful adoptive parents are those who can tolerate change and uncertainty.  Be compassionate with yourselves when things do not go “according to plan”.
  9. Be willing to reach out for support in the community, whether it is a therapist, your friends, family, church, and adoption agency. We at Carolina Adoption Services are always happy to help our adoptive parents and children, from the beginning of the adoption journey to bring your child home, and beyond.  We are just a phone call away!