The first thing to remember when you adopt an older child is that age doesn’t mean anything. Just because the child is younger, doesn’t mean the adoption will be smoother. Any child of any age can suffer from a myriad of different behavioral, attachment, and adjustment issues. There is no way to predict how, when, and where a child might struggle.
Find out all you can about the child. The more information, the better. Sit down with their case worker and discuss the child’s positive attribute, what they struggle with, their likes and dislikes. If it’s possible, speak with past foster parents and past foster siblings. Ask why the child had a hard time adjusting to their home and why the child was removed.
Most older children are adopted via the foster care system. This means the child will have experienced rejection and constant insecurity. If they have bounced from foster home to foster home, those feelings are compounded. Your child may push boundaries in order to test you. Their thinking can follow the lines of, “Other foster homes sent me away, this home won’t be any different.”
Whether the child is 14 months or 14 years, they will grieve. Even if their birth parents neglected and/or abused them, they are still their parents. Even if the home was dangerous, it was still their home. Children have an amazing ability to love, even if the person they love (like a parent), hurts them. Give them the space they need to move through the grief. Find ways to help them cope with it.
Attachment & Behavioral Issues
When you adopt an older child, there is the possibility that they will have attachment issues. More common signs of attachment problems are difficulty connecting with others and not being able to manage their emotions. If the child isn’t able to trust, and has a fear of getting close to anyone, he or she will only feel more isolated and alone. Attachment issues can play a role in other behavioral problems as well.
Talk about what behavioral issues you feel you can handle, and those you can’t. Behavioral problems don’t arise only in adopted children. The chance is just the same with biological children. It’s still important to discuss what you feel you are prepared to take on.
Their love for you (and your love for them) may not be instantaneous. Be patient with them and with yourself. Adopting an older child can be an amazing experience!
Written by Kenna Shumway