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Some thoughts on adopting an "older child"

This isn’t really a post, nor is it an explanation of why we are.  It’s just a collection of some of the experiences and thoughts we’ve had that have lead us to an open heart to the adoption of the child God has called us to.

A few year back, Andrew and I took some classes in a dingy old building with no air conditioning, 80’s VHS videos as a teaching tool, and dented folding chairs to become certified foster parents.  One day, we heard from young adults who went through the foster care classes and who were never adopted.  One young women, 24 years old, shared through her shy, soft spoken voice that she knew she would be a hindrance to the adoption of her two younger brothers as a teenager, so she offered to let them be open for adoption without her, because no one wants teenagers.  Both boys were adopted together, and her soft, meek voice, almost not wanting to said, “but I still think that I could be adopted even though I’m 24 years old.  I just don’t have anyone to spend holidays with, or a mom to call about my life, or just people to be a part of.”  I hid my tears, not wanting to make her feel embarrassed.


How great are babies, right?  What a fun and special time for parents.

But my goodness, Andrew and I have been surrounded by more of an age of “‘youth” for most of our adult-ish life, from elementary age to college, and how sweet is that age?  Much less diaper poop, screaming and tantrums.

It doesn’t take much, holding hands, kind words, praise of a tiny craft, a flower necklace, not being to busy to hold a child on your lap, even if they are “too big.”  Watching them with whatever “trick” they may have, from jumping or balancing, as they steal fleeting glances at you to see if you are truly watching.  Seeing the gifts God has given them, and telling them verbally, and they look at you astonished.

 Don’t get me wrong, I know that adopting an “older child” who has grown up in an institution will be hard.  Imagine never having been in a family before, and now suddenly transitioning to one–or more being suddenly dropped in one.   But in my experience, God gives just the grace you need for the tasks he provides. 

 It seems to me, “older children” while maybe standoffish at first, only do because they are more self aware, and know first hand rejection and it can result in shyness.  But once offered, these children want love.

We are prepared for a child who may not be able to show love in a way that parents may want or expect.  Especially parents who are paying so much for adoption costs, sacrificing so much time and travel for a child, and who may then expect or of feel they deserve that adopted child to feel “grateful” or “thankful,” when they may just be feeling many other emotions.

We go into this adoption expecting to show her love, encouragement and support, and. That’s. It.  We go into this expecting a one sided offering of love.  We strive towards blossoming in her heart due to love, but not much more right away.


But, in some ways, we do wish we could adopt a baby.  We wish we could adopt Maya as a baby so she wouldn’t have to transition, to learn to love, to learn to be loved–but it’s not an option.  It’s not her reality.  I know there is a purpose to this age, and although in many ways it’s not ideal, God gently reminds us that His plan is always best, even when it doesn’t seem like it–and how much He has been preparing us for it all along, with the sweetest experiences and children you could ever have the privilege of knowing, leading us down a path to a daughter, that someone wiser may just have said no to.

But with abandon, we will just say yes, and next month we will meet her and tell her yes to her face, and tell her she is ours and that we love her and that we will return, and we will bring her home as our daughter.

It seems to me the true source of joy in this life are in places that we often don’t want to look, and that seem backwards; sacrifice and God.  We aren’t going to into this to find joy, but it wouldn’t surprise me that in the end of it all, all the tough and all the work, we may just find it after all.

**All these photos are taken from a trip we took for 2 weeks to Ecuador and lives on an orphange. 
Amábamos estos niños mas que podemos decir.  Sentíamos que eran nuestros, y queríamos llevarles a casa con nosotros, y sabemos que ellos sentían lo mismo, pero…alas.  En la misma manera que nosotros dos les enseñamos, nos enzaínan mas. 
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  • Ann May 18, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Oh, yes! This part especially resonated with me:

    We go into this adoption expecting to show her love, encouragement and support, and. That’s. It. We go into this expecting a one sided offering of love.

    That’s exactly what it is. I am much earlier in my adoption journey than you are, but this is something I am trying to remember too. I think it would be unreasonable to expect a child whose whole world has previously been in a group setting, hers a place amongst many, to suddenly understand that she can target and shower her love on a special few. And yes, for some children, that leap is made very slowly if it is ever made at all. Too often I think that a combination of lack of research and excessive idealism on the part of adoptive parents can sometimes hinder them from seeing how natural that is, given the circumstances.

    Bless you for preparing to see that from Maya’s perspective.

    Thoughts and prayers are with you as you get closer to your travel date–how excited you both must be!

  • Rachel May 19, 2012, 12:34 am

    I lot of this spoke to me. Last year I adopted my first, a two year old. Next time, I think I’ll look for an older child. Can’t wait to see pictures of you with your daughter. And did you see, Dale has a family!

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