Adopting Older Children: What You Need to Know

November is National Adoption Month, and there are over 100,000 children in foster care in the United States alone who are eligible to be adopted. The average age of children waiting for families is 10 years old. However, more often than not, prospective parents bypass older children.

In their new book, Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four, co-authors Stephanie Bosco-Ruggiero, Gloria Russo Wassell, and Victor Groza dispel some of the myths about parenting older adopted children, and delve into both its unique challenges and rewards. Some of the benefits of adopting an older child:

There are typically fewer restrictions compared to adopting an infant. While single prospective parents, lower-income families, same-sex partners, and older couples may face challenges adopting babies, they're typically much more welcome by public agencies to adopt an older child. Also, while families can wait up to a decade to adopt an infant, older children can be adopted more quickly.

There are trained professionals, adoptive parent support groups, and other help available to guide parents through the unique challenges of adopting an older child. These challenges may include past trauma, grief and loss, attachment issues, and developmental delays. Adoptive parents can feel better knowing that there is an understanding community available to answer their questions and appreciate their concerns. While love may not solve every problem a child might have, the authors contend that with adequate post-placement services, most older child adoptions can succeed.

The cost of adopting older children is considerably less than adopting an infant. Also, many post-placement services and benefits to parents who've adopted domestically in the U.S. are free or covered by insurance. These include medical, dental, and vision care; physical or occupational therapy; and tuition reduction. Most older children adopted from the public welfare system come with an adoption subsidy to help meet the child's needs. There are often reduced fees for intercountry adoption of older children.

Adopting a child of any age can help parents to grow personally and culturally, as well as to make them much-needed advocates for needy children all over the world. This type of growth is influential on all children, but especially adopted children looking for role models.

Image courtesy of New Horizon Press

Adopting a special needs child can bring challenges to a family but also plenty of joy. One mother describes the emotional journey of adopting her daughter with Spina Bifida from China.

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