Things Parents Need To Consider When Adopting Older Children

family in the sunset
Photo by Mike Scheid on Unsplash

There are roughly 100 thousand children every year, in the United States alone, who are awaiting adoption.

And not just babies or infants.

This includes children in their teens and pre-teens.

They often need to be adopted owing to sad circumstances, like being taken out of homes where they were neglected and abused.

Sadly, the transitions into their new life are often turbulent, and while the eventual outcome is often happy, that sadly isn't always the case.

Redditor ComplexPick was curious to hear the first hand experiences of parents who adopted older children, as well as any advice they might offer those considering it, leading them to ask:
"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?"

If You Want To Do It, Be Sure You Want To Do It For Them.

"Adopted a child who was 11 when I was 21."

"He was my wife's younger cousin and his household was marred with substance abuse, filth, instability, and mental health issues."

"Knew it was bad but didn't know how bad."

"Took him (11) and his brother (14) for a summer once, just to give them a break from, what we thought was, a dirty house with an overwhelmed parent."

"Until I took them back the week before school started and saw the filth first hand, the smell and the random people coming in/out, the wreckage we were about to have to leave them in, the fact that in this time his Xbox and games, I had hand-me-downed him, has been sold along with their TV."

"The two had 1 mattress on a floor and the younger one said 'I can't wait for school to start back' and when I asked why, he said 'Because then I get to eat every day, like when I'm at your house'."

"I told them to just get back in the car."

"His mother never even called to ask why he or his brother didn't come home until tax season, to make sure we didn't claim them on our taxes, etc."

"Never wished him a happy birthday, Christmas, nothing."

"My wife and I grew up very quickly."

"We worked hard and got full custody about a year later when he was 12."

"He grew up healthy and happy, successful with great grades and a good head on his shoulders."

"His brother who was 14 lived with us for the first year then would go back and forth trying to help his mom get her life together before returning again, but for the most part during those years, the younger child we had full custody of and the older child came/went as he needed."

"It wasn't until years later when the younger of the two moved out with his friends, instead of taking our offer to go to college right after school, and began having substance abuse issues of his own that we learned the extent of the abuse he had endured at home for nearly his entire childhood and kept inside."

"Sexual and physical for years starting when he was about 5 from his mothers 'friends' and boyfriends and even a family member due to their terrible situation."

"It was heartbreaking."

"He ended up going through a pretty severe addiction period in his early to mid 20s and regardless what we've tried and how many small successes we've worked with him to reach, he always ends up in a severe depression and turning back to drugs again."

"The last time I talked to him, about a week ago, I told him I loved him and would help him get into a very nice rehab community when he's ready and help him get a good job and place for himself, but only when he's ready to be clean and until then, we simply can't do anything with/for him..and it was hard to do."

"I am in the 2nd half of my 30's now, have 3 children in grade school who need me like he did then who also love him, our oldest looks at him like a big brother, but unfortunately we have to keep our distance a bit so they don't have to see close-up the ugly side of addiction in someone they love."

"Now that he's an adult in his mid 20's himself making these choices, we can't have any real relationship other than the occasional call or letter until he's done."

"He loves them too, but he's got some demons that we cannot possibly understand and until he's ready to get help for them or help for his addiction, we don't have much of a relationship."

"His brother worked hard and straightened their mother out over the years into a functioning adult and mother, got her life together, a job, a place, everything and as adults, never left her."

"In fact, due to him, his brother spent the last year of his teens sharing our household and hers back/forth which wouldn't have been possible without him."

"The older brother and her are roommates now and we are very proud of him for the man he's become, what he's persevered, and the incredible progress he's made with their mother and how he's stuck by her side now providing as equals."

"I never realized it, but he and I really grew up together, only being 5-6 years apart in age and were best friends for years as young adults even after his younger brother moved out."

"One of my biggest regrets is somehow letting those days end."

"He loves his brother too, but his and his mother's relationship with his brother is the same as ours, the delicate balance between helpful/love vs enabling due to understanding the pain he's probably trying to understand/repress, until he's able to beat this, and he will."

"Nothing is perfect, just what you make of it I suppose, but it has highlighted to us how important the early years of a child's development are and how damaging all forms of abuse can be, regardless how much effort you put into trying to change things afterward, and also how important it is for a child to have an adult who genuinely cares about them, since sadly many don't."

"Would I recommend it?"

"Yes, but be honest with yourself why you're doing it and know what you're getting into."

"You're not getting a good/bad kid, you're getting an opportunity to be a good/bad parent."

"Children this age need you as much as a baby does, they bring happiness the same as a baby does and also present their own unique challenges the same as parents do, which is what they're signing up for too without knowing, and most importantly the reason you should be adopting is for them."

"You get to give your love, time, affection and a portion of your life, and heart, too."

"Would I do it again?"

"Every single time."- saaatchmo

Be Prepared.

"My wife and I adopted an older girl from our state's foster system."

"The girl was 13 when we adopted her and we were told she had a rough childhood full of abuse and she had been diagnosed with 'general mood disorder'."

"Little did we know that the psychological assessment was done by an unqualified state doctor and this little girl had severe issues that required more care than my wife and I were prepared for."

"We spent 5 years dealing with fighting, arguing, run away attempts, drug use, alcohol abuse, constant emotional manipulation, constant lying, stealing, etc."

"She was also in constant contact with her schizophrenic birth mother behind our backs, the woman kept feeding our daughter conspiracy theories and lies and constantly making the situation worse for all of us."

"We tried the best we could for 5 whole years, trying various different therapists, trying different parenting methods, seeing different doctors, all to no avail."

"It wasn't until about 5 months before her 18th birthday that we had to have her committed and we finally got a proper diagnosis."

"She was diagnosed with bi-polar and BPD and we finally had an answer to the years of hell we all had to go thru."

"We did our research and learned the proper way to parent a child with these conditions and things began to improve over the last few months she was with us, but on her 18th birthday she bailed and we haven't seen her since, that was 5 years ago."- Dragonace1000

The Love They Never Knew

"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

Have Absolutely No Doubts.

"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'.”- camilouwhooo

Not Everyone Is Meant To Be A Parent

"I adopted a 7 YO from foster care in 2017."

"It was an absolute failure."

"My wife pushed me to choose this child even though I didn’t feel the 'sparks' everyone talks about when meeting or hearing about their kids."

"I separated from my wife in 2018 and we shared custody for about a year."

"I asked her for a short break, and she took the child and never returned him."

"I can’t say I’m unhappy about her choice."

"I didn’t really fight for her to bring him back."

"I have seen him only a few times since then."

"I care for him as a human being and of course wish no harm upon him, but I’m not his parent."

"It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve been through."- bearbearbare

Older children who are hoping to be adopted need love above all else.

Sadly, love can't solve every problem.

But any parent committed to loving their children, no matter how difficult things might get, will ensure that they will somehow, in some way come out on top of all their troubles.

Even if it sometimes takes more love than you can possibly imagine.

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