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The blessings of adopting an older child – a Dad shares his adoption story
Published: October 29, 2015
It’s quite understandable that most people start by thinking about adopting a baby. Having a baby is the biological norm: adopting is initially about replacing like with like: I can’t have a baby, so I will adopt a baby. It would be quite a leap of the imagination to think, ‘I can’t have a baby so I’ll adopt a 5 year old.’
I’ve never regretted the fact that I never knew my daughter as a baby: she came to us fully-formed, her own little person with a unique sense of humour and the stubbornness that al-lowed her to survive her initial years which she has to this day.
Some people have asked me if I missed not experiencing those first days and months when a baby is totally dependent on their parents, subtly implying that the bond between us can’t be as good as if we’d had her from birth. They are wrong. Not only did I get off lightly – did I miss all the late-night feeds, all those nappy changes, the sleepless nights and the anxiety of babyhood illnesses? – uh, NO! – but we had had something even better instead: a daughter who right from the start broadened our horizons and let us see the world in ways a mewling baby could not.
What most people do not understand is that an older child, because they are more aware of what is happening and want a forever family, are more capable of deciding to love their new parents – and showing this – than any baby.
Although many social workers do address this on an individual basis there is little publicity material promoting the positive aspects of adopting older children or even dispelling such myths as an older child has ‘too much emotional baggage’ to connect with an adoptive parent.
In fact, there are many advantages to adopting an older child: there is usually more information about health or developmental issues and birth parent disputes tend to be resolved. Life story work is well in progress because everything about the child’s past is out in the open. Older children are often better suited to ‘older’ parents and, because there is a greater need for families for these children, the time spent matching will often be shorter than queuing for a baby.
Being a family to any child is an enriching experience: being a family to a child who understands and responds to you means you begin a real relationship from the outset..
Jon is an adoptive dad. His daughter is now 17.