Adopting Older Children

Have you thought about adopting a school-age child or are you planning to adopt an older child? With preparation and patience, a few adjustments on both sides, and some unconventional parenting methods, you'll find that bringing home an older child can be a deeply rewarding way to form a family.

Most waiting children are school-aged or older. There are several brothers and sisters who need to stay together. More than 60% of the children come from minority cultures. The majority of children are boys and many children have emotional, physical, learning disabilities or mental retardation. All are waiting for the love and security that only a permanent family can offer.

Older children, though often unable to verbalize their needs, long to be part of a family and need love like any other child. Conflicting emotions are often present, and an older child may still have ties to a biological or foster family, or be grieving over the loss of biological and/or foster families. More than anything else, these children need strong, permanent commitments from their adoptive families. An older child may have lived in several foster homes along the way or have had disrupted adoptive placements. These children have never had the support or the opportunity to build positive relationships and, as a result, may suffer from low self-esteem.

Every parent considering older child adoption needs to read, talk with other parents, and read some more. And, one of the most important pre-adoption projects is to convince yourself that, “Yes, it WILL happen to me.” Some older child adoptive parents may deal with developmental delays and challenges. Children may act younger than their chronological age. And, they may not be consistent i.e. they may speak at age level, be two years behind socially, and be physically three years behind. For children coming from orphanages, the rule of thumb is one month of delay for each three months spent in the orphanage. Parents will need to work on these child development gaps with at-home activities, or possibly with the help of physical, occupational, or other therapists and specialists.

Some older adopted children slide into their new lives with little difficulty. These children joyously participate in their new family’s activities. They quickly learn the rules. They bond strongly, showing positive interactions with other family members. However, many older, special needs children, due to a combination of biological, emotional, and neurological issues, present challenges to their parents.

Educate yourself. Be committed. Maintain hope. With these, parents will successfully face down the ugly and the bad aspects of older child adoption, fully appreciate the good, and love their older adopted child with all of their heart.

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