As adoption gains more visibility and social acceptance, more and more families are welcoming adopted children into their homes. Typically, these children are too young to remember their original homes or their biological families-but this is not always the case. Many older children, such as orphans or refugees, are alone and in need of new families to care for them. These are the ones who have the hardest time being adopted, because most parents are only comfortable taking in very young children who will grow up recognizing them as their real parents. Adopting can be a truly brave and altruistic act; however, hopeful parents should consider the risks and realities of this before they make their decision.
It is well known that older children without families often fall through the cracks. Some cycle through foster care throughout their entire adolescence, moving from house to house without ever finding a permanent home. Joanne Feldmeth, former executive director of the Child S.H.A.R.E. organization, says that adopting older children is not common. Feldmeth explains that for any child older than two years of age, “it’s very tough to get adopted out of the foster care system. After you’re [five years old], it’s extremely difficult. And after you’re eight, ten or twelve, it’s almost impossible” (CBS News).
There are a few reasons why adopting older children seems like such a daunting prospect. First of all, parents have a difficult time imagining having a new child who has already lived part of his or her life separate from them; some find the idea alien and intimidating. Another issue that often arises is the possibility that these children have had extremely bad experiences, which may have resulted in some emotional scarring. Many parents do not feel equipped to handle the possible psychological damage that they can expect if they adopt an older child with a turbulent past.
However, these are often the very reasons why some parents choose to take the more complicated path of adopting older children. These are the people who want to help those who need it the most. They recognize that the older children trapped in often uncertain and inconsistent foster system need safety, structure, and love if they are going to have a future with hope. Adoptive parents definitely face unique challenges, including the possibly of being rejected as the loving leaders they are striving to be. But, with enough dedication, adoptive parents can make a real difference in the lives of older children, and often just when those children need that love and care the most.