Learn What Older Child Adoption
Is Really Like from Families
Who Have ‘Been There, Done That’
Adopting an older child is not for wimps. If you think trying to calm down a 2-year-old in the store is embarrassing, just imagine the stares you get when your 8-year-old throws a fit in the cereal aisle.
Older child adoption brings a whole set of challenges that rarely arise in infant adoption. Kids who are no longer babies come with histories, fully formed personalities and habits, and intense anger over what they’ve lost. They grieve, misbehave, and may feel like “houseguests” for a long time.
There’s a reason they call it “special needs adoption.” Many of these children have already lived in multiple homes, often being shuffled back and forth between their original families and foster parents. Many have been abused or neglected. Some carry the lingering effects of malnutrition or fetal alcohol syndrome. Some suffer mental illnesses brought on or aggravated by abuse or abandonment issues. Many need therapy or special needs education. Nearly all will need time—sometimes a lot of time—to feel truly comfortable in their new families.
Many kids yearn for the life they left behind—even if that life consisted of being locked in a closet and starved. They show their grief and anger in different ways. Some withdraw. Some get wildly angry.
So, you ask, why would anyone in their right mind adopt an older child?
Because these kids also bring joy and laughter, and show great resilience in the face of enormous loss. They play, love, and remind us all of what’s truly important—a family of our own. It’s hard to get riled up over the petty things in life when your daughter finally laughs for the first time since you met her or your son decides you’re really “Mom.”
Tempered by their experiences, these kids often develop a deep core of compassion. The bonds they form mean the world. And nothing is more fulfilling than knowing that you’ve made a big difference in the life of a child.
Stories from the “trenches”
In Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child, adoptive families “tell it like it is” about the joys and challenges of adopting an older child. Their stories are funny, heartbreaking, inspiring. You’ll meet:
- Jonathan, who never spoke a word the entire two years he was in an orphanage
- Shane, who’s terror-stricken when his dad drops off spare clothes for him at the preschool
- Holly, the nine-year-old whose favorite word is “No!”
- Theresa, whose four children raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night and hide food under their pillows
- Aaron, who can’t understand why his American mom gets upset when he catches a bird for dinner
- Jack, who fearlessly rappels down a sixty-foot cliff, then panics when he gets lost momentarily on the way back to camp.
To be honest, older child adoption is not for everyone. You may or may not have what it takes. Adoptive parents of older children need a thick skin, a realistic view of adoption, nerves of steel, empathy to spare, advanced degrees in intuition, and a warped sense of humor. Most of all, they need a deep sense of commitment—the kind of commitment that can weather a lot of storms.
The two dozen families interviewed for Our Own have that deep sense of commitment and sense of adventure. The book includes a twenty-question quiz to help you decide if older child adoption may be the right choice for you.
An author who’s lived older child adoption
Trish Maskew, author of Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child, knows the joys and challenges of older child adoption. A mother of three, Trish adopted two boys at the ages of five and eight. She has also been a foster mother, served as the family coordinator for two international adoption programs, and was president of Ethica, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ethics in adoption and advocating for the rights of birthfamilies, adoptive parents, and adoptees. She currently works as a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I would have given my right arm to have a book like this when I adopted my sons,” says Trish. A lot of other people feel the same way. Our Own has sold thousands of copies and become a “must-have” book in the field of older child adoption. It’s often ordered by adoption agencies and support groups that want to prepare parents for the realities of adopting a waiting child.
To round out her interviews with adoptive families, Trish conducted thorough research, interviewed adoption and medical professionals, and sought opinions from adults who had been adopted as children. Our Own covers both domestic and international adoption of children from preschool age through puberty.
It answers the questions you’ll be asking if you decide to start the process of adopting a waiting child:
- Do I have what it takes to adopt and parent an older child?
- Should we consider transracial adoption?
- What should I look for in an adoption agency?
- How do I find a child to adopt?
- How do I “read between the lines” in a waiting child photolisting?
- How should I prepare my other children for the arrival of their new sibling?
- What do I do if my own parents react negatively to our pending adoption?
- What’s involved in the immigration process if I adopt overseas?
- Are we eligible for adoption subsidies, and what kind of subsidies are available?
Of course, you’ll have even more questions after you bring your child home. Never fear—the experienced families interviewed in Our Own answer those as well:
- What should I do when my daughter throws a tantrum?
- What are some ways to build attachment with my new child?
- Is it a good idea to change my daughter’s name?
- How can I stop my kid from hoarding food?
- How have other parents handled bad behavior such as stealing or lying?
- What’s an IEP, and how do the school and I put one together?
- What should I tell a teacher who gives my daughter an assignment to trace her family tree?
- Should I let my son call his birthmother?
- How are we going to survive the holidays, which are really tough for my son?
- How do I decipher hepatitis test results?
- Is my child showing symptoms of ADHD or fetal alcohol syndrome or bipolar disorder?
Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child also addresses adoption from the other side. The book contains an entire chapter devoted to interviews with adult adoptees about their feelings and experiences and what they would like adoptive parents to know. You’ll also hear from social workers about what they wish prospective parents would do to prepare for adoption, and from parents about what they wish their agencies had told them.
Filled with compassion, humor and common sense, this is the handbook for anyone adopting an older child.