The subject of adopting older kids tugs at my heart and I desperately want to share it with all of you. Did you know that many of the older kids simply age out of the system and never find an adoptive family? This is terrible! I pray that we, friends, can change this.
My prayer is that many people will step up and adopt these older, waiting kids. And, that they will walk into this ministry prepared and ready to do the hard work. It is hard work, this adopting business–but especially, adopting kiddos who lived through years of trauma. Please read this post ad pray–pray and seek God’s wisdom. Is He leading you to adopt an older child?
Adopting Older Kids Can Be Difficult
It is important to consider what older kids may have endured before entering the system. In general, children typically come into the system because their parents were abusive, neglectful, using drugs or mentally ill. Whatever their story is, an older child is carrying a whole lot of heartache.
Adopting older children can be tricky, because trauma can cause kids to seem younger than their age in many areas. At fifteen years old, for example, a young man may think he is nearly ready to learn how to drive. Sadly, his past trauma may put his behaviors closer to that of an eight year old. Or perhaps, even a five year old. It’s a challenging balance, allowing these young people to mature into adulthood–and meeting them where they are at.
Parents who adopt older kids need to let go of previous expectations about how a “normal” child his age behaves. These kids will have different ways of expressing themselves, different abilities and different understandings of the world. The trauma that they had to faced to get into foster care have shaped who they are and the lenses they see life through.
Adopting Older Kids is Rewarding
Still, it is REWARDING! Older kids have seen what it is like to live in a less-than-ideal environment, and may even remember what that felt like. They know what it is like to be in foster care and wonder if he might ever have a forever mom and dad. When older kids enter a loving and stable home that is to be their forever home, they see the contrast of their life before and their new life.
In adoption: your questions answered, I shared about a little five year old we took in who had never had new clothes or a nice bedroom. That child walked around the bedroom we had set up in awe, so grateful: “Is this MY room? Are these MY clothes? Is this MY bookshelf?” That memory will stick with me FOREVER. The child was five years old and already saw the immense contrast between their previous life and life in our home.
You don’t get these kinds of experiences with adoptable toddlers. In fact, adopting toddlers can be quite a bit more difficult, because they can’t yet verbalize the pain they are feeling. Instead of talking it out, they act out on their big emotions.
An older child may still act out in big ways–it depends on the type of trauma they faced, when they faced it, and their unique and individual personality. No one can predict the outcome of trauma on a child, even if the same trauma was experienced by two, three or four different children. Still, at the age of thirteen, it is likely that an older child would be able to verbalize, at some level, what they are feeling. Talking it out can be so much more effective than dealing with the big behaviors or screaming of a young child.
Remember Birth Order and Spacing!
Toddler mamas, I know you have such a big heart and you want to help these kids like I do–please let me encourage you this is not your season. I cannot explain in written words how negatively it will impact your family if you adopt an older, traumatized child while you are raising little ones. Please, don’t do it! Wait.
These kiddos may have suffered abuse–physical, sexual, mental, and severe neglect. Sometimes these kids will act out on what they learned. They are not bad kids–they’ve just lived through so much and they are suffering. They need everything you can give them to help them become healthy and functioning adults. If you are raising small children, you don’t have what they need. You just don’t.
Remember birth order. Keep your oldest child as the oldest–do not disrupt this. Read Kevin Lehman’s The Birth Order Book for more information about this. Don’t adopt a child who is smack-dab in the middle of your biological children, either. Adopt a child who will be the youngest. And, allow for a minimum of three years’ gap between children.
Empty nesters and mamas of teens, I’m calling on YOU. These older kids need you. Can you step up for them? It won’t be an easy life, that, I can promise you. It will be rewarding though. And you’ll be making a difference for the kingdom of God. I know you have the strength to do this. Will you, please?
Pray, Adopt, Spread the Word!
I don’t know about you, but I am simply NOT okay with kids aging out of the system, ending up on the streets and then repeating the same scenario that their parents lived out. I want to break this cycle. Will you help me? Please share this post. Please adopt. Pray for these kids and for their future families. Please, encourage your friends and family to adopt, as well.