Many people associate adoption with bringing a brand new baby home from the hospital. But what if the right child for you is actually a grade schooler or teenager? In honor of National Adoption Month this November, read on to find out why adopting an older child into your life could be the best decision for your family.
1. There’s an immediate need
The Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption reports that over 100,000 children in the United States foster care system are currently available for adoption. The average age for these children is 7½ years old. Per the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, more than 3,200 waiting children live right here in Ohio. Many Ohio residents have also successfully adopted older children from other countries.
Local parents Kristen and Jeff Martin are well-versed on the subject of adopting older children. In 2010, the couple adopted then 9 year-old Jesus and 14 year old Victor from Colombia. In 2014, they adopted then 7 year-old Amier and 8 year-old JD from Ohio foster care. The couple also has three biological daughters, 2 year-old Emma, 7 year-old Grace and 9 year-old Ava. They also care for three additional children. We asked the family to share their insights on adopting an older child.
2. Older kids offer unique advantages
“When the child [you adopt] is older, you can do so many things together,” says Kristen. As an avid runner, she was able to invite her sons to enjoy her hobby with her. “Jesus used to love riding his bike with me while I ran. We would talk and bond,” she recalls. Victor even completed the Flying Pig Half-Marathon with Kristen and her husband. In turn, Kristen was able to get involved in her new sons’ passion for soccer.
Adopting an older child allows you the opportunity to have conversations about what’s going in their lives and have the ability to share activities together right away.
3. Not everyone is prepared to care for a newborn
For some, the thought of being responsible for the daily care of a baby can be overwhelming. Parents adopting an older child can skip the diapers and bottles, says Jessica Parks, MSW, LSW, Program Director at Necco. Even better? “They sleep through the night,” she says.
Kristen explains that having an older child requires a different mindset, which can be appealing to many parents: “When you adopt a teen, you are ushering them into adulthood.”
4. You won’t go it alone
As a prospective adoptive parent, you’ll have many questions about the process. Necco offers weekly foster parent training classes at its Cincinnati office, says Parks. The agency can also access information about children who are available for adoption and review profiles with potential families. Post-adoption, parents can take advantage of therapy and case management services as their child adjusts to his or her new environment.
Looking for helpful reading material? Martin recommends the books The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, Adopting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck, and When a Stranger Calls You Mom by Katherine Leslie. She also urges adoptive families to seek support locally.
5. You can choose each other
While adopting older children brings its own challenges, Martin believes older kids have a better understanding of the adoption process than younger ones. In her family’s case, Jesus and Victor were able to spend several days with the Martins before being given the choice whether to go forward with the adoption. “This gave them, I believe, a great deal of control and ownership over the process,” she says. “They chose us just like we chose them.”
Do one or more of the reasons listed here resonate with you? Consider contacting an agency to learn more about the adoption process and how you might be able to make an older child’s dream of having a family come true.
Are You a Good Fit for Adopting an Older Child?
Wondering what it takes to become an adoptive parent to an older child? Here you’ll find some personal traits and characteristics that can make someone a strong candidate.
*You’re patient and understanding.
*You’re flexible and have a good sense of humor.
*You have a solid family support system.
*You enjoy spending time with older kids.
*You have past parenting experience (helpful, but not required).
*You know how to use smart phones, computers and other tech devices.
*You will be committed to the experience and will advocate for your child and seek out support when necessary.