Myths About Adopting Teenagers in Foster Care

Creating a supportive environment for children can help them handle the stresses of growing up and provide tools for maintaining mental health. 


The benefits of a loving and supportive family are clearly established. Yet, misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the adoption of older children and teenagers in foster care mean that they often face more challenges during the adoption process compared to younger children. Ensuring that these false impressions are addressed is essential to ensuring that barriers to adoption, especially of older children and teenagers, are reduced. Here are five common misconceptions about adopting older children.

Adoption is Too Expensive

Adoption from foster care tends to be less expensive than adopting via a private agency. Although it is state-dependent, the small costs involved are often reimbursable and support is also available to help ease the financial burden involved with adoption. In cases of adoption where the child is over five (including teenagers), from a minority background, or from a sibling group, the adoptive family may also qualify for additional financial support.

Adopt US Kids has much information for each state.

Teenagers Don't Want to Be Adopted

When a child enters the foster care system, it is always intended to be a temporary measure. For many children, the goal is to be reunited with their biological families. However, for about 25 percent of all children in the foster care system, reunification is ruled out as an option. Their aim then becomes finding a home through adoption.

For some older children and teenagers, their past experiences can make them distrusting of adults. However, regardless of their age, this doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be adopted. Ultimately, all children (including teenagers), want a loving, stable family and a permanent home they can call their own.

Twenty-three thousand teenagers leave foster care at 18 without ever finding a permanent family, according to Good Housekeeping.

Teenagers Won't Form Attachments

Teenagers may find it initially harder to create attachments, often as a result of their previous experiences either whilst in foster care, or those which led to them being placed in foster care in the first place. 

Every child wants to form attachments, irrespective of their age. It may be more challenging with an older child, but it is amazing what a consistent, safe, and loving environment can provide for a child. It may take time and support, but even teenagers will be able to form positive attachments to their new family.

Child Welfare says that many areas of the brain, like the parts responsible for empathy, are developing rapidly during adolescence. 

Adopting Teens is Less Rewarding

Some people mistakenly think that by adopting an older child or teenagers, they will be unable to create a rewarding and long-lasting bond. However, the bond between a parent and child doesn’t cease to exist when a child turns 18 or begins to live alone. In fact, teenagers and older children benefit greatly from having a loving and supportive family. 

The bond between parent and child, and the comfort and care a family provides, lasts a lifetime.  Supporting a teenager as they navigate through the transitions from adolescence into adulthood can be extremely rewarding. Your experience and support will help them to overcome the challenges they face as they become young adults. By providing a teenager with a stable home, you will be giving them the foundations they need to become successful adults and build a lasting connection with that child.

Again, according to Good Housekeeping, only 2 percent of the children who leave foster care without a permanent family will go on to attain college education, so when you provide a teenager with this stability, it is very valuable.

Teens Have Behavioral and Mental Health Problems

Children who have been placed into the foster care system are usually there, regardless of their age, due to the actions of their biological parents or legal guardians. Most often this is due to abuse or neglect. This does mean that, for most children, they will suffer from some form of trauma -  separation from the birth family alone is trauma, after all. 70.4 percent of this study’s sample had suffered trauma. Each child will have their own story and some may need professional intervention to help them to overcome their past experiences and successfully move on. Yet others may simply need consistency and support. Each child, however, is deserving of a loving home and family.

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