Finding the Right Child for You
Adoption is filled with choices. One of them is deciding which child is right for you. Your search will be successful if you think beyond the obvious and are clear on your emotional strengths and weaknesses.
Infants less than a year old usually find adjusting to a new family easier than older children, unless they were prenatally exposed to alcohol or drugs. Toddlers (children between the ages of one and three) can find adjustment much more difficult. Because of their limited vocabularies, you cannot use words to help them understand their situation and all the confusing things happening to them. Children over three can have a variety of reactions to adoption, most often based upon significant experiences with previous placements, as well as other factors.
Consider how everybody's ages in the family will mesh. Maybe your ten-year-old son has a large room where a brother close to his age would fit. But a teenager wouldn't work, because your son is very proud of being the oldest.
If you are under forty and have no other children, you may want a young child. If you already have children or if you are over forty-five, you may want to adopt older children who will fit into the structure of your family or who won't require the exhaustive physical effort demanded by infants.
If you are interested in a newborn, you may choose to look for a birth mother who is going to place her baby for adoption; however, the number of healthy newborns available in the United States continues to decline. You can adopt an infant from another country, but be aware that paperwork and bureaucracies mean he will be closer to a one-year-old when he arrives in your arms; still a baby, but no longer a newborn.
A TEENAGER MIGHT BE PERFECT FOR YOU
You may think that you've postponed considering parenthood too long, that you're too old to qualify for most adoption agencies. While it may be true that beyond your late thirties or early forties you are less likely to be selected by a birth mother (unless you have a kinship or personal relationship with her), you can still consider parenting an older child or teenager.
It is possible that you've heard troubling stories about adolescents, and it's true they do have challenges. Although they don't demand the long-term physical care required by small children, they frequently need a concerned adult available to give good advice and provide structure to their complicated lives. With proper support and training, you can add a teen to your family and reap rewards that far outweigh the effort you make.
Thousands of parents take steps every year to adopt children who will shortly become adults, in order to provide continuity and stability within a permanent family. One of the big problems with the foster care system is that once children are eighteen, they are on their own, with no supporting family. Many people are not ready to be completely independent at this young age. Adopting a teen means you will be able to provide love and support for many years still.
You can help solve the problem of too many young people adrift without the moorings of a family. Go to
Another important decision is what gender you want the child you adopt to be. If you're single, you might want to adopt a child of your own gender. Or, you may want to give your daughter a sister, because siblings of the same gender often establish close relationships. On the other hand, siblings of different genders can be easier to raise because they don't compete as much.
You may be interested in adopting a child with special needs. There are many children in foster care with mental and physical special needs. Some parents find they are very comfortable with the idea of adopting a child who may need extra care. The level of care and attention the newest member of the family will require should be balanced against what the others already in the house need. A child with learning disabilities or physical disabilities might work fine in your home if your other children are self-sufficient. But if you already have a special needs child, another may add unacceptable stress. See Chapter 12 for more information.
If you love the idea of adding a child from a different background to your family, adopting a child internationally or adopting a foster care child of a different background might appeal to you. Some parents find it exciting to incorporate a different culture or heritage into their family. Other parents feel more comfortable adopting a child who has a similar background. Whatever you choose, there are children available to you. See Chapter 5 for more information about transracial adoptions.
There are many sibling groups in foster care and orphanages waiting for homes. State agencies make an effort to place siblings together so they can continue their relationship. Adopting a sibling group is a big commitment; not only do you need more space and resources, you must be prepared to welcome children into your home who have a shared history. As in any family with more than one child, you may find you are more attuned to or comfortable with one of the children. If this situation does occur, you would need to work on making sure all of the siblings felt they had an accepted place in the family.
While you should carefully consider what type of child would fit best into your family, be willing to keep an open mind — being flexible will help you avoid a lot of frustration. One family described their search for a sister for their daughter Katie, who they had adopted as a newborn and was now three years old. They had already had one adoption fall through and were considering their options, when friends of theirs who were foster parents welcomed a one-year-old girl into their foster family. She was soon freed for adoption, but their friends were unable to adopt her. Katie's parents decided to adopt her, and today, Katie and her little sister Hannah adore each other and are part of a happy family — one the parents never could have predicted.
Every day, more people are experiencing the special joy of adoption. Hopefully, one day soon, enough individuals, couples, and families will be found to give every child the opportunity to be part of a loving family.