Age is nothing but a number for many things, but not necessarily when raising children. While people seem to be having children later and later in life, your age can certainly affect your ability to both bear children and to raise them. With adoption, age matters much more in regards to your health than the actual number. Many adoption agencies or adoption professionals who have age caps for their prospective adoptive parents are simply recognizing the fact that parents of an older age may not be able to care for their children long-term or may be more likely to experience health issues as time passes. While some of these age restrictions may seem silly or irrelevant, many people need to look at the larger picture and take into consideration the whole life of the child.
To begin, we must define what “older” means. For some people, older might mean they are in their mid-thirties. Any mother who becomes pregnant past age 35 is considered to have a “geriatric” pregnancy. With this, older may mean anyone age 35 and above. It is completely reasonable for someone who is 35 to adopt a child. A 35-year-old has potentially many years ahead of them and will not be elderly by the time their child turns 18, even if they are adopting an infant. This would even be true to somebody in their 50s. However, someone past the age of 50 may need to consider the long term. If adopting an infant at age 55, that adoptive parent would be 73 by the time the child turns 18. While that may still seem reasonable to some, the chances of health decline have risen substantially. The energy level to care for and keep up with a child will also decline with each passing year. Any adoption professional would have to take this into consideration when placing a child, especially an infant. Adoption professionals have to look at the whole life of the child as the goal is to provide each child with a stable and life-long home.
This does not mean that adoption is not an option for anyone who considers themselves older or is considered to be older by any other standard. For many, adopting older children is an option for a much longer period of time. My husband and I do not plan on adopting any more infants, but hope that well into our 40s we will still adopt or foster children who are older. This would make sense as many of these children may be the same age as our children whom we have had since birth. We would likely be the same age as other parents who have children the same age as these children. While it is still possible for someone who is older to adopt an infant, it may be more likely and promising to look into older child adoption. This would likely not be an issue for many adoption professionals and there are many older children in foster care who are awaiting adoptive homes. Placement is often much quicker and readily available in these situations.
When many adoption agencies or professionals put a cap on the age a person can be to adopt a child, their largest concern is usually health and the risk of health deterioration that can come with age. Obviously, people of any age can experience health concerns. However, age does escalate the risk of health concerns and also the general energy needed to care for a child may become lacking. It is not anyone’s goal to have a child become a caregiver at a young age. For all of these children who need homes, the goal is to place them with a family that can support and nurture them for a long period of time.
For any person of any age hoping to adopt, adoption agencies and adoption professionals will look at that person’s health and health history. Adoption professionals want people of all ages to be in relatively good health in order to give the best care to the child possible. The good news, this may mean that even though you are at an elevated age, your health may be fantastic. I know many people well into their 60s who are in better shape now than they were at age 30 or 40. Elevated age does not necessarily mean declining health in the short-term. However, adoption is a long-term and lifelong commitment. We cannot ignore that as we placed children with older adoptive parents.
Older adoptive parents do have some advantages that younger adoptive parents may not. Generally speaking, many older adoptive parents have had the chance to gain better life experience and better financial stability. The ability to pay for an adoption and support a child in the long-term may be much higher with older adoptive parents. We often see older celebrities adopting a child. This is often due to being busy earlier in life with their careers and choosing to have children later in life. However, these celebrities clearly have the financial ability to support a child and have excellent health care to tackle any health issues that may arise due to age. For many adoption professionals, age may not be an issue.
Any adoption professional will also look at financial stability for placement of children. Prospective adoptive parents do not necessarily need to be rich to adopt, but a stable income will be very important. Adoption professionals want to see that a family can support adding a child to their family long term. For older adoptive parents, they are more likely to have long-standing employment and have achieved some semblance of financial security. This will certainly work in favor of older adoptive parents. This will also allow for less debt being incurred while paying for the adoption process and all that pertains.
One of the biggest fears older adoptive parents may face is that birth parents will not choose them due to their elevated age. While older adoptive parents may experience some birth parents who are not looking for older adoptive parents for their children, they may also find birth parents who are happy with older adoptive parents who are more stable or do not have any biological children in the home. For some, this may mean more opportunity and attention for their child as they grow. This may be the biggest value to some birth parents who are hoping that their children are afforded more opportunity through adoption.
While many states do have a minimum age for adoption, there are no states that currently cap the age for prospective adoptive parents. However, there are many adoption agencies and adoption professionals who place a cap on the age for prospective adoptive parents they will take on. If you are an older prospective adoptive parent and you come across an agency that will not accept you due to your age, make sure to keep looking in your area. You may find that there are other adoption agencies or adoption professionals who will accept you as a client. Make sure to speak with others who have adopted through those agencies to ensure that all of their practices are ethical. This will be important no matter your age or type of adoption professional you use.
Another characteristic that adoption agencies and adoption professionals will look for in prospective adoptive parents is healthy familial and friend relationships. If a prospective adoptive parent is entering an adoption with a spouse, the chances of being married longer and having a more stable marriage are higher with older adoptive parents. Older adoptive parents have been given the chance to be together longer and have often been through more life experiences that have challenged their relationships. This can create healthier coping strategies and a stronger relationship throughout one family and marriage. This health and stability will not only be a plus for adoption agencies and other adoption professionals, but it may also be a draw for birth parents who know the value of healthy and stable relationships.
While there are no caps in the United States on the age a person can be to adopt a child, there may be caps internationally to consider. When considering international adoption, work with an adoption agency who is aware of these caps and who works within countries that are more lenient on the age of prospective adoptive parents. Find an adoption agency for international adoption that has had success with placing children with older prospective adoptive parents. If you go with an agency that has not had experience in placing children with older adoptive parents, you may be in for a much longer wait than anticipated to be matched with a child.
Again, when we are speaking about older prospective adoptive parents, it will really matter on how we define “older.” For people who are in their 30s, 40s, and even early 50s, there likely will not be huge issues on the horizon for adopting a child. However, for those who are in their mid-50s and above, they may find more struggle and more pushback within the adoption community and with adoption professionals. This is really just a protection for children but also a reality check for those who hope to adopt at an overly elevated age. Will you be able to care for a child 10 years down the line? While you may be fine in both health and energy now, how will you be realistically in 15 years? What hurdles do you have ahead of you and what can you realistically see for your future with a child as they grow?
The answer to “can you adopt even though you’re older?” is typically, yes. There are usually not limitations for people who are older as long as they remain realistic about the type of adoption they can pursue. There is such a need for older child adoption. Luckily, many older parents are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experience that will allow them to handle and raise these children effectively and with love. There is also usually a much shorter wait for older children to be matched with adoptive parents because of the excessive need. If you are hoping to adopt an infant, your age may be a factor that you will want to consider or a factor that may hold you back depending on the adoption agency and birth parents’ wishes and requirements.
Take some time to discuss with your family the type of adoption you hope to pursue and look at all of the factors realistically. Take a realistic inventory of your current situation and your situation 10 years from now. If your health is good and there are no factors that point to poor health or poor relationships in the future, your age may simply be nothing but a number. You may feel even more prepared to parent a child now than you did in the so-called “prime parenting years.” Older parents have many advantages and should pursue adoption if it is realistic for their situation and health.
Once you have adopted, make sure to update all of your final documents including your will so that your children are taken care of, regardless of the age you are when you adopt. Join adoption groups that have older adoptive parents so that you not only have an idea of what adopting as an older parent will look like, but also have a base for support in the future. Take the time to seek out many adoption professionals in your area to find those who have had success with older parent adoption and can also give you education that will assist you as you go through the adoption process and beyond. The more resources you have at your disposal, the better. Speak with your family and friends about your intentions to adopt and see what concerns or excitement they may have. Remaining realistic and making sure that you are responsible about adoption will make for a successful approach to older parent adoption.
Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.\
Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on www.facebook.com/halfemptymom/.