Adoption by Older Parents
People in America live much longer than they did 100 years ago. Many have two and even three careers, and they also often have two families, raising one, and when those children are grown, having another.
If you are past the age of being able to biologically have more children or easily keep up with young children, you can still parent by adopting a child or sibling group. In fact, you are part of a demographic community that could solve the problem of not enough stable-family homes for older children, teens, and young adults who have aged out of foster care. Most countries that permit international adoptions have age limits, so international adoption may not be an option for you. If you seek to adopt through a birth mother or private agency, you may also find that age is a problem. However, there is no age limit for public agency adoptions.
As an older parent, you are probably more secure in your career and personal life. Financial problems don't figure as prominently as they may for younger people. With your greater experience, you may also be more adept at handling conflicts and maintaining discipline.
Jossette and Manuel, in their early fifties, decided to become foster parents. They wanted to help children using what they'd learned, and really weren't interested in starting another family. But when a sibling group of eight- and ten-year-old girls and a twelve-year-old boy was placed with them and freed for adoption, they changed their minds. They decided the three children needed a family much more than they needed to enjoy an empty nest. Now they plan to adopt their seventeen-year-old foster child, who would age out of the system within a year and had no parents or extended family.
Like Jossette and Manuel, you may be in a position to add to your family through foster care adoption. Even if you're in your sixties, adoption of a teenager or young adult could add depth to your life, and heal a very real hole in the heart of a young person who can then become a contributing member of society because of your support.
Some of the drawbacks of adopting as an older parent are health and energy issues. Martha, a fifty-two-year-old nurse, adopted a disabled four-year-old boy who had been abandoned at the hospital where she worked. Martha admits that her heart made the decision, and she didn't think through just how time consuming and exhausting caring for a young child would be at her age, especially as a single parent. She says now, “If I'd known how hard this was going to be, I might not have done it. But, now that Tracy is grown and living happily in a group home, I have all the joy of being his mom and I know that I made a significant difference in his life.”
Other drawbacks might include pressure from your adult children, who may see the adoption as not only taking time and energy away from them, but also diluting their inheritance. This can be a sensitive situation, because it can drive a wedge between you and your children, and possibly with your grandchildren as well. You should assess your relationships with your grown children and figure out how to communicate your reasons for adopting to them. Also, consider that you have the right to pursue adoption whether or not your adult children agree.