Older Child Adoption – Part 1

I have wanted to post on this topic for quite some time and yet where to start, what to share. How can I be truthful without hurting my child and sounding to others like I am complaining? Disclaimer I will read this to S and have her approval before I post it. I am NOT complaining, just being honest. My GOAL is to shed light on older child adoption by sharing some of what we have learned through personal experience as well as from others. This is not all inclusive. Older child adoptions are not for every family. This is what God had for us!

Pre-Adoption: About two years ago I saw a picture of a beautiful girl who would forever change my life. I knew from the moment I saw her and read her story that there was something special about this girl. You see I had looked at thousands of orphans faces from all over the world for years. Just weeks before I saw S for the first time, I had completely surrendered my will to God’s, but thought that if we were ever to adopt that surely it would be a little boy or two(not from China). God had a different and perfect plan! After 2 or 3 weeks of praying for this beautiful girl I could not get her off of my mind. When I shared her story with my husband, he said “well what do we do to bring her home”. That was Saturday….we started the adoption process on Monday, 11 months before her 14th birthday. In China once a child turns 14 they are no longer allowed to be adopted.

Adopting out of Birth Order: We were a family of 6. Mom(29), Dad(36), girls 6, 4, and 1-year-old twins! In order to adopt from China both parents must be 30 years old. I wouldn’t be 30 for another 8 months, S aged out in 11 months and we were adopting out of birth order. These three things made our adoption process much more complicated than most. We had a few other large bumps in our adoption process. I will say that I don’t recommend going out and adopting an older child just because you feel sorry for them. It was very clear from day one that this was God’s will. We did not decide on our own to adopt a teenage girl in a wheelchair, but God knew exactly what he was doing. He planted a seed deep in our hearts. He made us willing at just the right time and opened our hearts to a love towards this “stranger” that only a parent has for their child.

We did consider how this would affect our other children. We knew that we (mommy and daddy) couldn’t handle another toddler/baby. D, our oldest at the time has a caring, compassionate heart and knew this child was her sister. We knew that Pippy would struggle with a child that separated her and D. The twins were too young to know what was even going on. We handle the birth order at our house like this. D is and was our first-born, S is our oldest. We keep it simple and don’t over complicate the matter. Each child has a scrapbook with the year they were born(& adopted) and a number of what order that child joined our family in.

Adopting older than birth children can be complicated because you don’t fully know what is “normal” for this age of a child. This can also be a blessing as most likely your child won’t act his/her age. We have found it a blessing to only have younger children in our home, this gives S an opportunity to be a child. She isn’t pressured into being her age before she has played with dolls etc. This has given us a chance to “grow up” together.

Yes, there have been questions about who was our first baby….like I mentioned before we just keep it simple. Unfortunately we have heard things like your not my real sister etc. While I cringed at these comments they were short lived and are probably somewhat normal. There have been enormous adjustments for all 7 of us involved. However; no more than having twins join your family through birth! We have experienced both. For us adopting out of birth order was and is the right thing.

Attachment/Bonding with an older child: Please know that you can do everything exactly right and an older child may not be able to bond because of their past. It is harder for many parents to feel a bond with an older child than a small child. For us it has taken a bigger effort to bond and harbor an atmosphere of attachment for a 14-year-old than it would for a newborn. I highly recommend “The Connected Child” by Karen Purvis.

This process can be simple too. We co-slept for the first week(and in hind sight should have longer). After that we shared a bedroom for a month. She was scared to sleep alone, but wasn’t comfortable enough to tell us. In China S always sat by the window on the bus and I sat really close. Hugging just doesn’t happen in China, so hugs were completely off-limits. High fives work, a firm pat on the shoulder, holding hands while crossing streets etc.

I would put my hand palm up, resting on my leg, close to S. I would get an occasional tap. 11 months later I am allowed to kiss her, hugs are welcomed and sometimes even initiated by her. Sarena is in a wheelchair so if she needed pushed or carried, my husband and I were the ones to do it. We didn’t allow anyone else to give her food or have her fix her own. We did this for months(6 maybe?). We stayed home for 3 months plus, except for doctors appointments and church. After that anything we did we would do as a family. She went to VBS after being home 6 months.

Swimming is good because you can have appropriate skin to skin contact. Rough housing is a great bonding activity as you are “just” having fun, but it is really physical!

We didn’t send her to school(we came home in Feb.) until fall(home 7 months). Even after spending so much time together we saw attitude and peer pressure in the first week of school. We stuck to a schedule as much as possible and she was bored, but when she started school she at least knew us and our expectations. We had many doctors appointments, like over 30 in 8 months, this along with 3 surgeries and several meetings with teachers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s