Go to the movies, turn on the television, and more likely than not the adoption story will go something like this: a sudden desire to expand your family, a quick phone call, a little waiting, a match with an infant, and you’re home in no time flat. The legalities get blurred over, as do the many emotions, the time waiting (oh yes, the waiting), and the faces of the children that are more often waiting for their forever families.
I’m speaking of the older children.
I meet with many families at our agency to discuss adoption options, and more often than not the idea of adopting an older child is met with a pause, a hesitation, and a turn of the conversation. They are not moldable. They are “damaged goods”. I can handle a baby; I can’t handle them. The myths.
You, ultimately, know what is best for your family. After all, I know you are spending many hours online researching the legalities, reading the articles like this one, and joining all the chat rooms. I know you are speaking with everyone: family, friends, neighbors, and your grocery store bagging clerk. To support you in your endeavor to discover the truths of adoption and what direction your family should pursue, I’ve listed the top 5 reasons why you should consider adopting an older child.
#1: Needs: Many older children are put on the special needs list because of their age solely, often with very minor needs or previous corrected conditions. The number of older children waiting for families to adopt them far outnumbers the number of young children. These older children are aware that they are missing a family unit and are missing that feeling of being needed. Older child adoption involves the parents and the children realizing how much they need each other, and happily the child realizes how much they are needed. You are making a difference.
#2: History: When older children enter institutionalized care, they are more knowns than unknowns. They have more memories of birth families, and more knowledge of how they got to where they are. It has been studied and proven that children who have had strong attachments with their previous caregivers and were able to grieve that loss were better able to form attachments later on with their new caregivers. The more truths they have, the more they can, with your help, make sense of their story and incorporate them into their future with you.
#3: Quicker Process: Compared to younger children adoptions, older child adoptions typically move along quicker. Some agencies might even offer incentives to families in the adoption of older children.
#4: The Relationship Building: When you adopt an older child, they have an active role in the relationship you build together. Trust is built together once they get to learn all about you and their new home, once you provide them love, safety, and support consistency. There is a choice here that is not as present with the adoption of younger children. To add on this concept, there is so much you can experience with older children! They are more at a place to know themselves: personality, quirks, likes, dislikes, pains, joys, thoughts, and feelings. Because of this, you develop a close relationship with the little people they are, and help them continue to grow and flourish.
#5: A Different Set of Firsts: You may not be present for their first steps or their first words. However, you will be there for a whole different set of firsts: the first time they call you mom, the first time they say “I love you”, the first time they tell you secrets. Like mentioned in #4, there is a choice here, a decision to trust you. You can witness the progression from the day you brought them home until the day they know in their hearts that they are your kids.
In adoptions there are many truths, and the main truths are these: adoption is not an easy journey, every adoption story is different, and every child is different. Older children come with their own stories, and given the opportunity to blend with yours, something beautiful will surely happen.