The age of the child doesn’t matter when adopting; but at the same time, it does.
Contrary to everyone’s notion about adopting an older child, adopting an older child is the same as adopting a younger child—not easier, but definitely not more difficlut.
As long as we give the appropriate support to the needs of everyone involved (your family, the child, and even the child’s biological family), then a smooth adoption process can happen. To help, here is some advice, insight, and information you need to know when adopting an older child.
Does the Child’s Age Matter When Adopting?
Every child adapts to his surroundings and his new family differently. Even the existing dynamics of the family should be considered. It would differ from family to family. Is the child going to be an older sibling to your two-year-old toddler, for example? Or is he going to be the youngest among five children at home?
Sibling relationships are one of the most important foundational bonds any individual can have. As much as possible, as parents, we want to be supportive while we create a positive environment. Respecting the individuality and preferences of each child should be a priority, as you create a memorable experience with the new child.
For working parents who can’t stay at home, adopting an older child—maybe one who’s ready for school—might be a better option.
How Do I Connect with My Adopted Child’s Heritage and Culture?
Of course, a prospective parent would say, ‘My love doesn’t choose; it knows no gender nor race.’ And there should be no question about that. However, cross-cultural adoption needs some awareness and a different level of sensitivity.
Most likely, for an older child, his/her heritage and culture have been a significant part of their identity growth. And as his/her new family, it should also be to you. Don’t ever change them, and more importantly, don’t ever ignore this part of them. From this point forward, your care for their community of origin, their language, and every part of their culture should already be a given.
How to Build Trust With An Older Adopted Child?
Before we go on and start building trust with the child, we must know how to listen. In this way, you understand their sentiments and you communicate with them clearer. They are maturing and are playing their part in shaping their futures. In fact, in certain states of the United States, a child of 10 or older can already consent to the adoption. This is great, as we’d want an older child to want to be part of your family before adoption.
For those children who didn’t have supportive adults around them (e.g., those who grew up in foster homes),it's easy to be anxious, feel isolated, andhavetroublerelatingtoothers. Building trust with children from foster care just needs patience and understanding. They need to feel they are safe first. The best way is to be consistent—to show them your care, affection, and honesty unconditionally every single time.
Lastly, an older child has more consciousness and has more awareness of the surrounding happenings. They also are growing to be more independent and more involved in day-to-day decision-making. Though they need our unfaltering guidance, they also need the space to grow. We should be ready to give the child that, especially if he/she is old enough.
Why Do I Need to Set Aside a Lot of Time for Bonding Activities?
There are straightforward pieces of evidence that when young people are connected to at least one parent, they do better across different aspects of their life.
As a parent, we take responsibility to prepare them for adulthood and in facing the world. We are their guiding lights, so as much as possible, we fill every moment with positivity and inspiration.
In addition, everyone should know about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), where eligible employees may take leave for family reasons, including the adoption of a child. You can use this to finish the placement process, introduce him to his new home, and, of course, to get to know your child better. Settling in is an important step, and you must be there to guide and make him feel safe.
An Older Child May Have His Special Needs
Every child will have very specific emotional and physical needs.
But if you’re considering a special needs adoption, there would just be a few added worthwhile challenges. First and foremost, if you’re adopting an older child with special needs, you must do your research. Know about their medical conditions, their history, and the future treatments they’re going to need. Ask if your insurance company covers checkups and treatments. Prepare a routine for you and your child that will be for their wellbeing’s best interest.
No doubt, it’s going to be a lot on your plate, but it’s going to be very rewarding.
You and your partner must be ready with the big responsibilities. Know what you’re willing to handle and what you’re capable of.
Decide On What Adoption Method is Best for You
There are so many adoption methods available if you want to adopt an older child. It’s now time to decide what suits you best.
Throughout the years, adoptions from foster care and international sources have grown significantly.
Foster care adoption is great if you want to get to know the child better before the placement. Frequent bonding time is great since most of the children from foster care have grown hostile because of the trauma they may have experienced. If it’s an older child with special needs, you’re entitled to monthly subsidies.
International adoption, on the other hand, is preferred by most because of its more predictable wait time and costs. Intercountry adoption is not easy and not cheap. But there are many resources online that can help you decide on what process works for you.
Sometimes, Blessings Come in Twos, Threes, and Even More
Children with siblings are more often overlooked for adoption, and because of this, they also fill a chunk of several ‘hard to place’ children.
Not everyone is capable of adopting siblings. And not everyone knows that adopting siblings has its benefits. It might double or triple the responsibilities, but the joy is magnified more times than that. Sibling adoption offers more placement success, according to research. Siblings have known each other for their whole lives. When placed together, they feel more secure and protected as they have each other as they move into a new chapter of their lives.
Name Change: Is it worth considering for an older child?
The name change is part of the adoption process and it’s definitely within your decision. However, when it comes to adopting an older child, you might want to consider their thoughts about it. Older children have already developed individuality and identity—and their name is a big part of that.
Most adoptive parents choose to change the child’s last name as a big sign of welcome to their family. On the other hand, some adoptive parents are okay with keeping the child’s previous surname to honor his background. And some even consider hyphenated surnames—with their previous ones and new ones.
However, if changing his first name is what we’re talking about, you may have to take a step back. Unlike with adopting an infant, there’s no luxury of naming and developing a whole new identity with him/her. They have spent their foundational years going by a certain name and even have made some memories with it. Would they be comfortable with this big change? Consider opening this possibility to him/her, and no matter what, you have to honor their decision.
Open Adoption for Easy Adjustment
As a child grows, they develop attachment behaviors, which are very difficult to gauge as they also vary from culture to culture. We’re talking not just about the bond they grew with their biological parents, but also with their neighborhood, including mentors and friends.
Open adoption is a kind of adoption where each party (biological and adoptive parents) must agree that they maintain open communication throughout. This can help the child adjust faster, as they won’t suffer from too much loss. He/She also gains peace of mind that their history and background stay connected with them.
There are different levels of openness you can choose from, so know what works best for you.
An Older Child Needs a Stable, Positive, and Prepared Parent
Maintaining a great relationship with your child is a lifelong process, so a sizable chunk of it is that you stay healthy and committed to it.
There are many resources available, but seek as much professional help if you need to. Adopting an older child poses a few challenges, as mentioned before, so your mental preparedness and emotional stability are also your priority. To add, keep your support system close—you need people who can hold your hand during the adoption transition, and to celebrate your every child’s success with!
In conclusion, no matter what statistics say or what others do during their adoption journey, your decision lies on what’s best for you, your family, and your future child.