Adopting a child isn't an easy choice. It can be prohibitively expensive. It can also be quite taxing both mentally and emotionally. There's also the matter of which type of child to adopt. Do you go with a baby or toddler? How about one significantly older than that? Each child comes with their own unique parenting challenges.
After Redditor ComplexPick asked the online community, "Parents who have adopted a older child (5 and up), how has it gone for you? Do you regret it or would you recommend other parents considering adoption look into a older child?" people explained how their lives have gone since they made the fated decision.
I adopted a 15 year old, he was hell on wheels and made a lot of really poor choices. He's now 20, and I am so proud of the man he became. It was a horrible time trying to get him to understand that abuse isn't love and that we wanted the best for him, but he's doing great now and is working really hard to create a loving family of his own.
Do I suggest adopting older kids? Hell yes! The biggest reason is because I grew up in foster care, all I wanted was my own family, its hard, its taxing, and you have a lot of rewiring to treat their hurts and make them better so they know you're not going to do the same to them but every minute is worth it! TYRwargod
I adopted an older child and the only part I regret was agreeing to an open adoption with the birthparents, separate bi-annual visits with bio mom and bio dad. Each and every visit was sheer hell on earth, from the build up to the fall out after. I regret nothing about adopting an older child and would do it again in a heartbeat, but I would do a closed adoption. DavisSquared
27 years later......
I'm asking because I adopted my daughter when she was age 10. It was pure hell to begin with as it was not shared with us she had serious psychological issues. After 7 years of therapy and many many tears, we had a breakthrough. Now 27 years later, I was asked if I recommended doing it. I was at a lost if I should have been honest or just say yes because once you get past the issues that will surely arise, it's a wonderful thing to do. ComplexPick
My experience adopting is one of the greatest experiences I could describe to you, and if you want kids, I strongly recommend you look into it.
My kids were siblings aged 7, 4, and 6 months, so it was never unknown to them. The bio parents abused them and things were a bit tough at first, but other than matters of faith, it is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.
My oldest is a student at Purdue and is studying abroad in Ireland right now. My middle daughter will be attending Purdue in the fall. My youngest is learning Japanese in middle school right now, and I suspect she'll go to either IU or Purdue when she graduates high school.Proud Dad. waiform
She's now 12.
We adopted a five year old girl. She's now 12. Don't regret it at all. But it has been extremely hard.
She has been diagnosed with PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder and most recently bipolar disorder. She has been in therapy since we adopted her. Much has improved, but she still has extreme anger issues. She has run away from home three times. She has been inpatient psych twice. Her school has reported us to DHR.
(When she gets out of control we have to restrain her to prevent her from hurting herself or us. She told her teacher about an incident when we had to restrain her so they reported it and a social worker showed up at our door that night).
I wouldn't recommend adopting an older child to someone unless I know they are willing to put in the work. Love doesn't cure all. Brandysheanix
You'll be better off...
I don't regret it and I do recommend other parents look into older children. There are an abundance of children who need loving parents.
We adopted two siblings and we also have two biological children. Our biological children were 9 and 7 when we adopted our 5 & 4-year-old children. That was 11 years ago.
Best advice: embrace an open adoption BUT adopted parents fully control any contact.
Our kid's biological mother has been a huge help in counseling our kids. They misremembered so many details about how and why we adopted them that lead to blame against us and challenges in our relationship. They have a fierce loyalty to their biological mom that's decreased over time as she's openly reminded them how unfit she was.
It wasn't a cake walk, but we are all much better-off than we were when we stumbled into this. roonerspize
My wife and I adopted a 16 year old boy over a year ago. We originally went in thinking we are going to adopt much younger, but when we started reviewing profiles there were a large number of teenagers in the mix. Most people adopting children are looking for the full parental experience. For some, adoption is their only chance at raising a child, so I can kind of understand the desire to adopt a young child.
The result is that the older children are skipped over. It's heartbreaking, as many unadopted kids 'exit the system' at 18 and almost all of their supports disappear. We kept running into these profiles and it was impossible to ignore them. We were adopting to expand our family, already having kids of our own, so parenting wasn't new to us. He's been a great addition and has blended really well. bfarrgaynor
It has gone mostly well.
I have adopted six kids four were between 7 and 13 (a sibling set) and then two that were younger. 3 and 5 (a different sibling set).
It has gone mostly well. There has been a lot of therapy and issues due to past abuse.
The hardest part has been earning how to redefine what it means to be a successful parent. It is also challenging discovering deficiencies in their upbringing
I did learn how to do creative parenting. YeahIprobablydidit
We adopted a sibling group of 5. They were 12, 10, 9, 8 & 3. We are only 2.5 years in and the first 2 years were just pure chaos. It's like a cycle of trial and error as well as them testing us. Each child is growing at their own rate and making great progress and healing. 5giantsandaweenie
Never too Late...
My husband and I unexpectedly adopted a 17 year old. She was on drugs and a downhill spiral. So we gave her a place full of love, therapy, help, therapy, rehab, and more therapy with love.
She healed and became a part of our family.
It is kinda odd being only nine and ten years older than your kid but she is still our kid.
Also we are a gay couple and knew basically next to nothing about females and their "monthly needs". She never had a loving and stable household with men that didn't hurt her in emotionally and physical ways.
So it was one big old learn process for the three of us.
But we made it work and now we are like any other family. SurpriseThere1
Worth the Pennies....
My wife and I took in a 17 year old 4 months after we got married at 24 and 27. 2 years in, we are very happy with our decision. We walked her through everything: learning to drive, getting her first bank account, getting enrolled in college, the death of her father and mother, getting counseling, estate planning, taxes, and numerous health issues. It has been worth every minute and dollar we have spent to know we have gained a daughter and changed what life will look like for her and generations to follow. ThisIsNowAUsername
He was 9...
I feel I got lucky. He was 9 when we adopted him, but he was just grateful to have a home and people who loved him. My wife and I love him dearly as he does us. TyrannoDragon
"My son has complex trauma..."
My pre-adoptive son just moved in 6 weeks ago. He's almost 10. Him getting here has been a bit of a long and wild story but he's been in care since he was 6. It hasn't been easy but there's SO many older kids who need families. My biggest thing is just to make DAMN sure you're committed. Know your limits. Be honest with yourself and your adoption coordinator. And demand honesty from the social worker as well. Ask for psych evals and treatment histories. Because if you convince yourself "Oh I can handle this" and you change your mind? You are re-traumatizing that child.
My son has complex trauma from years of abuse but the thing he talks about most after his meltdowns? Having to leave his first pre-adoptive home because he kept losing his temper and throwing things. He's been in 4-5 placements and a PRTF since then.
I work with girls involved in juvenile justice so I felt uniquely prepared for this situation and even for me, it's been physically and emotionally exhausting. I'm a single parent and we're in the middle of a global pandemic so I'm sure that's a factor. But if you choose to adopt there shouldn't be any "changing your mind" or "this just isn't working out". That kiddo is part of your family. My son and I have a little mantra "together forever. Even when things get hard, even when things get sad."
"I took guardianship..."
I took guardianship of my sons half sister when she was 14. Her mother was a pushover who didn't know how to handle her so she was put into the system.
I knew she wasn't a bad kid, so I stepped in and said I'd take her. It was rough that first year. She tested the boundaries a lot until she realized that I wasn't going to give up on her. I think it also helped that her baby brother adored her and my parents welcomed her with open arms. We found her a good therapist that she clicked with and that really helped her work through her issues. She finished school with good grades, met her boyfriend who is wonderful with her. She has kids of her own now and is a fantastic mother. Best decision I ever made was taking her in.
We adopted a 15 year old girl, after raising three bio kids to adulthood. It has been good but quite different from what we expected. 15 year olds are not " fully formed" but almost. She is a nice smart kid. But also got pregnant, hid it for 4 months. Had a beautiful baby. We expected to finish high school and hold down a part time job, save some money which she would need to become independent after graduation ( her goal) She moved 1000 miles away. Took up with kind of a rough crowd. Was immersed in a druggy thiefy homeless group that made her fear that her son would end up removed and back in the foster care system.
For now the baby is with us. Almost 2 Babies are a lot of work but also a lot of joy and laughter. We are about 60. Occasionally I think " this is not what we signed up for" but in reality it is exactly what we signed up for. Most folks when they have a kid or multiple kids have a bunch of expectations. Part of what makes it interesting is that the kids come with their own personalities, software, journeys, whatever you want to call it. Can make for a wild interesting 20 years.
"She was challenging to raise..."
We adopted our eldest daughter at 10. We actually adopted her baby half sister first. After the mom met us (since we were doing this via foster care) she asked if we'd adopt her other daughter too. She had been in and out of foster care most of her life, and her bio mom selflessly made the decision to let her go for stability and safety. We definitely weren't planning to adopt an older child, we already had a 6 year old biological child, but after meeting the 10 year old, we knew we'd want her to be a part of our family. It's been 16 years and it definitely hasn't always been easy, but we have no regrets. We love our daughter like our "own."
She was challenging to raise the first few years, definitely had some trust issues with us and some deep seeded abandonment issues. Family therapy helped. Every once in awhile (like once every few years or so), these issues resurface. She still struggles with depression and anxiety. Id be lying if I said this doesn't worry me, it does, but she seems to have a handle on it. She's always been incredibly smart and talented. She just finished her masters degree, has had a successful career thus far, and she's engaged to a wonderful man (they were supposed to get married this summer, now we aren't sure. Thanks covid!) It's almost odd that she has really excelled in everything she's ever tried (she thinks it's mostly due to good luck). We call her (half jokingly) "our achiever". Some of her success was due to our parenting I'm sure , but most of it is just her and how she's wired. I'm proud to be her mom.
"We chose to adopt..."
My wife and I are a little older, so when we decided to adopt we opted for an older child for a host of reasons, one being it made more sense for us financially (healthy infant adoptions are crazy expensive for average people like us, plus the long waits, etc) and also because our hearts went out for older children whom society generally wants to look over and forget. These kids need a home too.
We chose to adopt from the foster care system. This meant taking the same set of classes as standard aspiring foster parents, so even though we had no intention of becoming actual foster parents we learned what they learn and became legitimate foster parents.
We took in a troubled 13 year old girl. I won't tell her personal story of how she got into the system, except to say it was not as one might expect. We stuck through it with her. There were lots of twists and turns in her story and we found out the hard way that she was not, in fact, clear for adoption months into the process; so we became what we wanted to avoid, foster parents instead of adoptive parents. I'll never forget during one of the regularly scheduled court appearances we were obligated to go to, of having the court workers review her story to the court and later having random people sob in the back from listening to it, and tell us "We will pray for you."
She was angry at the world for her situation. Angry at her bio mom for abandoning her. Angry at the system for 'forgetting' her for so many years. She lashed out at us many times as well, thinking we would just give up on her. I'll never forget her slamming the door to her room and screaming at my wife "I HATE YOU!" over and over, and my wife barely holding it together and saying "I love you anyway" each time.
My wife and I had moments of despair. When one of us would grow weak and say we couldn't do this anymore and maybe we should consider giving up, the other would remind us well what would we do in this situation if she were our child? and we would nod, and press on.
One day, about a year and a half in, this child turned to me while I was driving her somewhere and said, "I don't want to go back to my bio mom. I want you. I want you to be my dad" and I, a grow man, broke down and wept.
The adoption went final when she was 15 (yes, it was that long of a process, but the actual adoption took all of 5 minutes in a judges chamber, for which this girl quipped, "That's it? Just the stroke of a pen? Hell I'd have lent you a pen years ago!") People who didn't know us back then honestly are surprised to learn she was adopted. She's an honor graduate from high school now, and is planning to attend college in the fall for nursing. We couldn't be more proud of this child, our daughter.
"Even with the struggle..."
Teen years were rough. It's hard to be a kid again after having to parent yourself and younger siblings. But now that she is an adult, things are better and calmer for us all.
I would 100% recommend it. Even with the struggle, my child is a huge blessing and I can't imagine life without her in it. She is one of the strongest people I know.
I've been a foster parent for four years (have fostered birth to 15, about 20 kids total) and I've worked as an advocate for foster/adoptive parents for two.
I adopted my son last year after he had been with me for almost a year in foster care. He was 5, so still pretty young. He is autistic and nonverbal. His mom has severe mental health issues and he had been homeless his whole life before coming into care. He was wandering the street in a diaper and nothing else in November when he was found by police.
I've never regretted adopting him for a second. He's wonderful. He's ridiculously bright and funny and sweet. I love him more than I knew I could love anyone. We have many difficult days (or weeks). I gave up a lot of things to be his dad (I'm only 27) - it's hard to find a sitter for him, his daycare keeps him in the baby room, he can't always go out to the store or anywhere loud/crowded, etc. But I adjusted and I don't regret it.
From my work side, I can say I have encountered many adoptive parents who regret adopting. Usually these are folks who adopted little ones, like birth to two, and when those kids start exhibiting "big behaviors," having trouble in school, needing psych hospitalization, getting involved with juvenile justice - that's when they call me and ask how to give them back. (Jsyk, there are no givebacks unless you're willing to accept criminal charges.) [Edit: This is not true for all places. Some places have civil charges and some have nothing.]
I often see people say they want to foster teens, which is amazing and I will never get in the way of that because it is so needed. I want those people to talk to people who foster teens before they do it. It's very hard. Not just "hard" like remodeling your bathroom or getting a work project done. There's no finish line. It's always a struggle.
There are lots of good days and happy times and it is worth it. But people who talk about their kids going on to law school or even college, in my experience, are the minority. Kids with trauma often need lifelong support. That means when they're 20, 25, you're still lending them money or driving them to rehab or dispensing medication. And if they have kids, they may not be able to parent appropriately without a lot of help. I know lots of adoptive parents now raising their grandkids as well.
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