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Adopting an older child: reflections and some things to consider . . . part 1

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

Older child adoption—“older” meaning 3 years of age and up—has become a more common occurrence in recent years, particularly for those individuals and couples who adopt domestically within the U.S. Unfortunately, as more and more families are torn apart by tragedies such as divorce, incarceration, parental abandonment and the opioid crisis, older children as well as older sibling groups are ending up in the foster care system. Some of these children eventually become adoptable when their biological parents’ rights are terminated by the courts. On the international scene, the availability of adoptable infants has drastically decreased over the past two decades; but older child adoption still occurs, primarily from countries such as Colombia, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo and China.

In these first two blogs, I will talk about what factors need to be considered when adopting an older child internationally. In blogs to follow, I will focus on older child adoption from the foster care system in the U.S.

My wife and I had to consider numerous factors when we adopted our children (Sara at age 4 ½ and Michael at age 7) from India. What impact would it have on them by removing them from their birth culture? What about the unknown physical and mental health history of their biological parents? As children of color, what will it be like for them to have white parents? My wife and I had to wrestle through these, as well as other potential scenarios as we made our decision on adopting an older child from another country. We had to do a lot of homework, which led to an informed leap of faith in our decision to adopt. As I’ve told many folks, we had to proceed with “our eyes wide open”—praying and hoping for the best for our children (and us) but also being realistic that there were going to be many question marks along the way.

Adopting an older child internationally is certainly not for everyone. One has to be wired for it internally. It’s not just about “skipping the diaper stage”—far from it!

Yes, you may skip the diaper stage, but are you prepared, for example, to take a ten-year-old child into your home who is only five on emotional level? This type of scenario, for instance, is not all that uncommon for a child who has lived in an orphanage for three years. I’ll talk more about this and other challenges (as well as the rewards) in my next blog.

Thanks for reading!


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