As we celebrate all families formed through adoption during National Adoption Month this November, we turn a particular focus on parents bringing home older kids. Currently, there are countless children waiting for families around the world, including 104,236 in the U.S. foster system.
When you bring home an older child, instead of diapers and night-time feedings, those first months (or even years) bring another set of new-parent challenges. The transition period is hard, but parents who have chosen this path say that the rewards — that first true smile, those glimpses of your child’s personality — are incomparable. In this special collection, Adoptive Families offers real-life wisdom on that initial adjustment period, when you and your new child shift from separate individuals to being parts of a whole — and emerge as a family.
The Truth About Older-Child Adoption
I get asked all the time: “What is adoption really like?” Well, sit down, because I’m going to walk you through the first year of adoption, with only a moderate amount of hyperbole.
Of course, our story is not everyone’s story — we adopted unrelated five- and seven-year-olds from Ethiopia, with no major health issues, after we already had three biological children. But whether you’re adopting from foster care, from another country, adopting children with severe needs, or don’t have other kids at home, some stages are universal.
No matter how much parenting you have done in the past, adopting an older child will be different. Not negative, just different. It’s closer to the adjustment you make when you marry than when you go from childless to being the parent of a newborn; in marriage, each person comes to the relationship with preferences, positive and negative life experiences, and expectations, so each one has to learn new ways of doing things, and give and take. At some point, the good days begin to outnumber the bad, and you realize that your family is going to make it. Adoptive families at this stage often lament, Why didn’t someone tell me? If only I had known…. Here are some of their lessons learned, their older child adoption stories.
We came into our new daughters’ lives on a rainy spring morning, under the promise and blessing of a rainbow. Two hours later, we were as close as we would ever get to abandoning the whole project.
Alexandra and Angie were sweet children, who were obviously trying to be as relaxed as possible, considering they were meeting the people who might turn out to be their parents for the rest of their lives. But as they towed us into their bedroom at their foster home, the meeting veered quickly into the unexpected.