A Family For Every Child Adoption Agency

Adoption of children over age six is considered "older child adoption" While babies, like puppies and kittens, can be cute and sought-after, older children come with their own personalities and histories that can present both challenges and opportunities to adoptive families. Click here for an excellent overview of older-child adoption from the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange.
  • An older child is not a blank canvas. The child's history can include neglect, abuse, and time in the foster-care system. It takes dedication and time to worth through these issues.
  • Older children remember the previous adults in their lives. Abrupt disengagement from a foster family who may have been the only parents a child knew can be traumatic. Expect to deal with loyalty issues, as the child may feel torn between his or her previous situation and his new home.
  • Older children come with their own habits and behaviors that may have to be changed to adapt to a new environment. What was OK in one home may suddenly be discouraged in another.
  • Trust can be a particular issue with older-children adoptees. If they feel every adult they've encountered has abandoned them, they may push away any attempts at affection.
  • Adopted children can be at risk for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), in which they have trouble forming meaningful, appropriately affectionate relationships. Depression, aggression, poor peer relationships and poor impulse control are all symptoms of RAD. Click here or here for more information on RAD.

  • Older children can communicate in ways babies cannot. Whatever his or her past, your child will be able to articulate it to you. This makes dealing with issues like trauma or neglect more straightforward. Talking about hurtful or scary memories can make them easier to resolve.
  •   In some cases, it is actually easier to develop a bond with an older child than with an infant. While older children may come with more "emotional baggage," they are also able to form bonds with adults on a different level than a baby can.
  • Older children require less attention - babies need 24-hour supervision, but grade-school age children can play on their own or with friends.
  • There are greater opportunities to interact with older children. You can do things with a school-age child - art projects, hikes, baking - that aren't possible with younger children.
  • To some degree, you can match your personality to that of your child. Older children simply give you more interests and abilities to work with.
  • There are no diapers, feeding schedules or toilet training - older children tend to have already mastered these basics of life.
  • Older children know what is happening to them. Some people find it difficult to explain adoption to a child adopted as an infant who has only known one family, but even children ages 3-4 can understand that they have joined a new family.
  • Click here to read the Huffington Post's "The 7 Best Tings About Adopting an Older Child" and here to read about one family's experience with adopting older children through the foster-care system. Click here to read "Adopting Older Children" from Parents Magazine.
  1. Maintain contact with key people in the child's life from before the adoption.
  2. Expect your child to exhibit some degree of self-consciousness. Older children are more aware of feelings like "I don't belong" or "I look different from my family."
  3. Treat your child like any other family member of the same age. If siblings have chores, assign similar duties to your new arrival.
  4. Integrate past into present by writing memories down. Children may arrive with only their memories, without tangible mementos. Create "lifebooks," the adoptive version of baby books, to root children in their past and acknowledge their history. Click here for more ideas on preserving your child's past.
  5. Be patient, firm and compassionate. Kindness proves you can be trusted, establishing boundaries helps your child fit into the family dynamic, and patience with yourself and your child in this time of transition is essential.
  6. Ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in enlisting the help of professional counselors, therapists and psychologists if your child is having difficulty forming positive relationships. Click here for listings of children's therapists who specialize in adoption in the Portland area.