Social Worker: Baby Veronica's Transition To Adoptive Parents May Be Rocky

Wednesday, July 31st 2013, 10:30 pm
By: News On 6

A South Carolina couple officially became parents Wednesday, after a court finalized their adoption of an Oklahoma girl.

Details of Veronica's transition timeline are still unknown due to a gag order, but the little girl could be changing hands again before her fourth birthday.

How could a cross-country transition affect a child that age?

Specialists say the first years of life are when children learn about relationships and trust. A rocky transition could affect their ability to form healthy relationships, and make them question where they belong.

Experts say, between ages 3 and 5, children like Veronica are maximizing their attachments to the people around them. Those relationships shape their growth, confidence and identity.

"It's very important to keep a normal routine and to keep changes to a minimum," said Elizabeth Hampton.

Hampton is not involved in Veronica's case, but oversees custody exchanges for Family and Children's Services.

She said caregivers shouldn't bad-mouth the other in front of the child and they must tell the same story about what's happening.

7/31/2013 Related Story: Judge Finalizes 'Baby Veronica' Adoption In South Carolina

"A lot of the time, they will think that it's their fault or that they did something bad or that they're unlovable, so it's very important that children are reassured," Hampton said.

It's common, she said, for children who go to live somewhere else to experience fear and anxiety.

"The child will remember - and will remember that other caregiver and love that other caregiver - so it's very important to talk about that other caregiver to allow the child to express their feelings," Hampton said.

But Hampton said it's hard for kids under the age of 5 to verbalize thoughts and feelings. That's where their behavior speaks louder than their voice.

"You might see some regression in the child's behavior, you might see a child start using more baby talk than usual, or the child might start having potty-training accidents again," Hampton said.

In highly emotional cases, like Veronica's custody battle, Hampton said parents can lose focus of the child's well-being.

"In some situations, where things are extremely emotional and they get heated, it can be very difficult for parents to set aside their own feelings," she said.

Hampton said every child responds differently to a new home. Some are resilient and some are more sensitive, but she said the priority is to make the child feel comfortable and safe.

Caregivers should share with each other the child's likes, dislikes and routines, Hampton said.

That's why experts, like the ones in Veronica's case, suggest taking the child's toys, stuffed animals and blanket from one home to the other.