Adopting a Teenager
Can I adopt a teen?
Though most people think about babies when they think about adoption, there are many older children and hundreds of teens who wait for a family. Most of them have been in foster care for a considerable length of time; many have faced multiple moves and great losses.
Until fairly recently, teens in foster care were rarely considered for adoption. Thankfully, that has now changed. It is now recognized that it is never too late for someone to join a family. In fact, some individuals are adopted as adults.
When these teens in foster care are no longer the responsibility of the government, they become extremely vulnerable. Amongst the kids we see on the streets, homeless, panhandling, or involved in prostitution, many grew up in foster care and have little or no family support when they leave foster care. Most teens who have been adopted thrive in their new families and say it was the best thing that ever happened to them.
Like all of us, these kids need stability, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to develop and grow. These things are all far more likely if they are part of a family.
What sort of people adopt teens?
All sorts of people. Some have never parented before; others have seen their children grow up and leave home and want to continue being parents. Parents considering teen adoption will need to be strong, resilient, and, most importantly, totally committed to making it work.
Do the teens want to be adopted?
Yes. Here are some comments from waiting teens on what not having a family feels like:
"I truly don't feel like I've ever been loved ... there's a gaping hole in me."
"I've been in and out of foster care since I was little ... I've moved so much, I don't even remember the names of half the people I have lived with."
"I've really struggled with the idea of family ... trying to explain to people that I just don't have one."
A study on adolescent adoptions by the University of South Carolina, interviewed teens who had been adopted. This is what they said:
"It's the most important thing that happened to me."
"I've got a family and found love. I have everything one hopes for. I fit in a family."
"I have a normal life now. I have a driver's license, and I drive. I have friends, and I get to go on overnights. There is no comparison to what my life is now and what it was before."
"Before I was adopted, I was the property of the state ... just being adopted feels better."
"If it weren't for my mom, I wouldn't be where I am today. In the beginning, I had given up. I really tested her, especially in school. There was no way I'd be where I am today without being adopted. The best part is the relationship I have with my mom now."
What is the process for adopting a teen?
All prospective parents must complete a homestudy and an educational component before adopting a child. The homestudy is conducted by a social worker who interviews you and your family over several weeks. The social worker is not looking for perfection. The homestudy is not a test. The social worker is interested in why you chose adoption, your knowledge about adoption, how you have dealt with life's struggles (in particular, infertility, or grief and loss issues), and how you plan to deal with adoption or cultural issues as they arise. The homestudy process can be an excellent opportunity for self-reflection, clarification, and growth. The educational component is also a legal requirement. This series of seminars or one-on-one workshops explores the challenges and issues that may arise during your life as an adoptive family.
Teens are Waiting Children Too!