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Adopting Older Children

Adoption

Adopting older children generally means adopting from foster care, or from institutions in other countries. Adoptive parents may hesitate at the idea of adopting an older child, and there are some issues you must be prepared to face. Older children, though, also have real advantages and could be exactly the addition to your family that you've been looking for!

For adoption purposes, an older child is one who is at least two years old at the time of adoption.

There are definite advantages to adopting older children.
The wait is shorter. It's not uncommon for couples seeking to adopt a Caucasian infant in the U.S. to wait for two years or more. Adopting an older child can take place in well under a year.

Older children, especially those in foreign countries, have been cleared for adoption. Their parents, through death, voluntary relinquishment or court-ordered termination of parental rights, are out of the picture. In adoption terms, this eliminates risk, the chance that an adoption may fail to be finalized.

You can tell more about an older child's personality, abilities and interests than you can with an infant. You and your child can share activities and pastimes, and do things together right from the start.

Medical problems that may not be apparent in an infant can be diagnosed in a child over two. Special needs won't be a surprise.

Older children require less intensive caregiving. Depending on the child's age, they'll enter your home being able to dress, bathe and feed themselves. You may also escape potty training!

The older child will be able to share his or her past with you. You'll know more about their culture, the relatives they remember and life experiences. This knowledge can be extremely beneficial in helping your child deal with grief over the loss of their previous life.

Which points out one of the major issues in adopting older children: they have a past, and it is significant to their present. An older child has learned values, behaviors and habits from their previous situation. You may have to devote significant time and energy to helping your child reverse or modify them into something more productive. Establishing a bond can also be difficult. The first few months of life are important in forming attachments. You've missed that opportunity and must find other ways to help your child form a bond.

Children who have been housed in institutions may also be slow to develop. The routines of orphanage life often do not nurture intellectual and emotional development. You may find yourself having to work to get your child caught up, emotionally and educationally.

One important point to remember with older children is that there's a reason they're no longer with their birth family. Whether it's because the parents died, or there was abuse or neglect, or if the birth parents simply found themselves unable to care for them, the child has been hurt in some way. Adoptive parents must be prepared to help their child work through their grief and whatever other issues arise.

Adopting older children does involve challenges. From attachment disorders to behavioral issues, older children may need special help fitting into your family. It can take a lot of work. But on the up side, the wait is shorter, there are fewer risks of the adoption failing, and you can even select a child with a personality you find appealing and interests you share.

So despite the challenges, it's worth your while to look to foster care or international institutions when you decide to add to your family. Adopting older children may be exactly the right option for you!

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