Over 420,000 children are currently in the U.S. foster care system. Many of these children are working towards reunification with their families. But over 110,000 children legally have no family and are waiting for adoption. Each year, over 23,000 of these youth grow up and leave foster care without the benefit of a permanent family living arrangement.
All children need a home and support system, no matter how old they are. It’s been shown that older youth adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college and be more emotionally secure than their peers who remain in or finish foster care without permanent connections.
Adopting an older child can include challenges, but there are also many positive benefits that come with older adoptions. Here are five reasons to consider adopting an older child.
1. The child can actively participate in the adoption process
The process for adopting an older child from foster care varies in each state. There are both public and private agencies that can help you through it. You can contact AdoptUSKids to find one in your state.
The process typically includes a social worker or other professional meeting with the child and the prospective family to determine if there would be a good natural match for everyone.
An older child will be able to express their needs and feelings during the entire adoption process. In fact, older children must consent to their own adoptions in many states.
It can be assuring to know an older child has consciously and independently chosen you to be their new parent.
2. You and the child can build your relationship together
It takes time to develop any new relationship. When an older adopted child joins your family, you both have the opportunity to get to know and trust each other as you gradually lay the foundations of your relationship.
An older child is also likely to feel more comfortable as your relationship grows simply because they are more aware of themselves and their own identity compared to a younger child.
3. The child may be familiar with their family history
If a child left the care of their birth family when they were older, there’s a good chance they may already be knowledgeable about their family’s health and social history.
This helps the child’s adjustment to their new family in various ways. If they are familiar with their family’s medical history, it can give them a better awareness of how to take care of themselves better during youth and adulthood.
Additionally, many state government laws and regulations mandate that all known medical information is disclosed to an adoptive family. This will help fill in the blanks that an adopted child may not know.
An older child may also better understand the possible social or economic reasons their biological parents had to give them up. This can help them come to terms with their own place in life, as opposed to not remembering their parents and having questions linger throughout their life.
4. You don’t have to go through the “baby years”
Diapers, bottles and sleepless nights can all be part of the charm of raising children for some parents. But not for everyone.
And the demands of life, such as work and other commitments, can make it difficult to have the time and flexibility to properly care for an infant.
Sometimes it can be better to start your relationship with a child after their baby years. Of course an older child will continue to need your care and attention, but this is balanced by their better understanding of time, schedules and personal space.
5. The child can start out as an equal member of the household
Another benefit of older children is that once they have settled in, they are often fully able to participate in your household.
They can be responsible for age-appropriate tasks and chores, but most importantly they are able to express their desires and opinions.
When an adopted child’s cares and concerns are heard and understood by their new family, it lets them know they are a valued and respected member of the home.
They can let you know what would make them more comfortable as they integrate into your new family life. And as you move forward together as a family, they can contribute their own unique skills and work towards developing their own independent future.