This is largely due to the idea that raising a child from a baby allows you (the parents) to grow with your child from the first days of their life. And truth be told, this does have its advantages.
Adopting an infant gives you the opportunity to form the strong attachment bond that occurs between babies and parents. Your child grows up knowing only what you’ve taught him or her so there’s no need to “undo” any previously learned values or behaviors. Babies also give new parents the opportunity to experience all of the child’s “firsts”, something that is certainly both rewarding and unforgettable.
But many families find that adopting an older child has its advantages too.
With older children, you can often quickly get a better sense of their personality. It is also easier to identify any special needs or learning disabilities in older children – something that’s much harder to do with infants. In addition, an older child is able to communicate his or her needs (barring any language barriers) and may be able to share memories and events in his life, something that can help in the adjustment to adoption.
There’s generally a shorter wait for an older child so you’ll likely be able to adopt much quicker than if you waited for a newborn. And let’s not forget that you won’t have to deal with potty-training issues, 2am feedings and other baby-related duties.
Of course, there will always be some obstacles to overcome when adopting a new child and bringing an older child into your home is no exception.
For example, older children frequently have memories of their birth family making it a little harder to let go and accept his new family. Older children are also more likely to have certain values and ideas in place, a result of his or her early upbringing. These values and ideas may or may not mesh with yours and you’ll have to decide how to handle the conflict without making your child feel as if they must give up the only identity they’ve ever known.
Older children may have some serious developmental and/or emotional issues, depending upon their homelife and how long they’ve been in an orphanage or foster care. This can make the new adjustment even harder as you’re not only struggling to blend with a new family member but the family member is also bringing some difficult life experience with them.
All that said, adopting an older child can still be a rewarding and enlightening experience and is something that all hopeful parents should consider. There are literally thousands of older children (age 2 and up) who desperately need good homes. And although the adjustment may seem a bit more difficult at times, you’ll find that the rewards are usually well worth the effort.
Understanding The Process
Adopting an older child is very similar to adopting a newborn with a few exceptions:
First and foremost, you won’t need to locate birth parents. When you adopt an older child, these children have already been placed “in the system” and are not introduced to you as a referral unless parental rights have already been terminated. In addition, most older children are available for adoption because family members have died or the children were removed from the home due to abuse and/or neglect. A number of children were placed in the system at a younger age and have grown since the time of placement. Either way, there’s often much less risk with regard to the birth parents changing their minds after an adoption has taken place. This is no guarantee of this reduced risk, of course, and there are some exceptions. For example, birth parents who have had their rights terminated because of abandoment may later show up if they know where the child is. To be sure you’re prepared for everything, talk to your agency representative about the legal status of the child before you proceed.
You will still be required to complete a home study and all the usual areas of your life will be examined however, older children present the unique opportunity to meet the child and gauge how his or her personality might fit with your family. Once you’ve been approved to adopt, your agency will present you with profiles of children available for adoption and when you’ve decided to move forward with a particular child, you, your agency and the child’s social worker can begin brainstorming on meeting the child and pre-placement visits. This is often referred to as the “pre-placement period”.
During this time, you’ll be able to spend some time with the child and get to know them a little better. Where a newborn is immediately thrust into their new environment, older children require a transition period so after you’ve committed to adopting the child, the social worker will work with you and your agency on how best to transition the child from foster care into your home.
As with newborns and infants, older child adoption also typically requires some post-placement visits and reporting. This is known as the “post-placement period” and can last anywhere from three to six months. During this time, the child will live with you but the adoption will not be final until the post-placement reporting has been completed and the court signs the final adoption papers.
Once the adoption is complete, it is strongly recommended that you and your child participate in post-placement support groups to help all your family members make a smooth and comfortable adjustment. Its not unusual for older children to have adjustment issues resulting from a sense of loyalty to their birth parents or because of experiences in their foster home, so its crucial to provide your adopted child with the support they may need.
You may enjoy this book on the overall adoption process as well as this book which focuses on international adoptions .