When people think of “adoption,” they often automatically think of an infant. But adoption allows families to welcome children of all ages into their lives, not just babies. If adopting an older child is a path that you think might be right for your family, you should consider adopting from foster care. Education will be the first step in any type of adoption — we have you covered.
Here are some of the common concerns, benefits and preparations involved in the adoption of an older child or teen:
Fears People May Have About Adopting a Teenager from Foster Care
There are many hopeful parents who have understandable worries about adopting an older child or a teenager. It’s true that adopting an older child through foster care isn’t for everyone, but it’s also important to clarify some common misconceptions that may be holding you back from this rewarding path:
- Older children are “damaged.” Some potential parents may fear that the older the child, the more traumas he or she has experienced. But all children adopted through foster care have experienced some loss and trauma — even infants.
- It’s difficult to bond with an older child. Some people may worry that a bond would not easily be formed with an older child, but with time and consistency, children of any age can have equally strong bonds with their parents. All children have love to give — it certainly doesn’t decrease with age!
- Parents who adopt older children miss out. Some families may not want to miss out on the milestones of early childhood, but older children and teenagers have so many exciting milestones ahead, and they need someone to experience it all with.
It’s natural to have anxieties about potentially welcoming a new child into your life, regardless of his or her age. If you’re thinking about adopting an older foster child, but have some worries, talk to a foster care professional — they’ll be able to give you answers and help you decide if adopting an older child is right for you.
The Benefits of Adopting an Older Child from Foster Care
Unique challenges and benefits can exist in adoptions at any age.
There are always some challenges involved in foster care adoption, regardless of the child’s age. There is always some amount of trauma and loss inflicted on a child when an involuntary removal occurs, in addition to any other hardships a child may have faced that led to them being placed in foster care.
However, there are so many lifelong benefits that can exist in foster care adoption, for both the child and the parent. For older children and teens in particular, being adopted can be an instant and enormous benefit to their lives. A few of the benefits of adopting an older foster child include:
For the Child
- Help through the emotional confusion of adolescence
- Educational encouragement and support through middle school, high school and onward
- Parental guidance through things like applying for scholarships, jobs, colleges, apartments, etc.
- Somewhere to come home to during the holidays, birthdays, family events and more
- Financial backup for their early years into adulthood
- A family who loves and supports them forever, and someone they can give their love to
For the Parent
- The ability to continue your life without having to adjust for a baby or young child — go on ski trips with your new child, take them with you to your favorite restaurants, etc.
- The freedom of a more self-sufficient child who probably doesn’t need your help with simple tasks, but still needs you for parenting and love
- No daycare costs
- The ability to directly talk to your child about his or her life before their adoption, and have access to more knowledge regarding their history
- The opportunity to experience amazing milestones, like their first date, car, job, apartment and more
- Someone in your life who loves you, looks up to you, encourages and trusts you, and someone you can give your love to forever
- The reward of knowing you’re changing a child’s life (and your own)
Parenthood is never easy. Adopting a child isn’t easy, either, and foster care adoptions of older children come with their own unique challenges that you’ll need to learn about and prepare for. But the rewards for everyone involved usually vastly outweigh familial struggles.
How Adopting a Teenage Foster Child Works
In many ways, the process of adopting a foster child is the same, regardless of his or her age; you’ll need to complete a home study, attend training, find a match with a child and complete the legal process to finalize your adoption. However, there is one key difference when you’re adopting an older child through foster care: the child will likely play a more active role.
Almost every state requires that children of a certain age provide consent to their adoption, although that age varies by state. So in a way, your child will also choose you. These children are old enough to have a say in their lives, so their wishes will always be taken into account.
Prospective parents often wonder if older children and teenagers will really want to be adopted by them. Is the feeling mutual? The answer is overwhelmingly: Yes, older kids and teens want to be adopted! Most of them later say that being adopted was the best thing to ever happen to them.
These children have been waiting for a loving and supporting family, and if they feel they’ve found the right one, they’ll be eager to be a permanent part of that family.
How to Prepare When Adopting an Older Child Through Foster Care
If you’re thinking about adopting an older child or adopting a teenager through foster care, you’ll need to prepare much like you would with any other foster care adoption. You’ll need to:
- Continue to educate yourself about meeting the unique needs of a child adopted through foster care, especially one who is older
- Meet your state’s requirements to adopt an older child from foster care, and complete their screening processes
- If applicable, talk to your older children and other family about a potential new family member
- Get your home equipped to handle the needs of an older child or teen, choose a school, pediatrician, etc.
In most respects, adopting teens from foster care will be similar to adopting a young child from foster care. However, if you’re considering welcoming an older child or teen into your life, you should always be certain that you’re well-educated on this specific path. Reach out to your local foster care organization and see if they can put you in touch with other parents who have adopted older children — they may have valuable insight.
Meet the Older Children and Teens Waiting to Be Adopted
Think adopting an older child through foster care might be right for you? Reach out to your state’s foster care organization to learn more about the process and requirements of this path.