“Oh, I’m too old for this.”
“No, you’re not! You’re exactly what I want. I want prospective parents in their 30’s and 40’s.”
I try to bring awareness to adoption in general and how it impacts individuals and families. I want people to be aware of the millions of children who live without the care of a family and want the long-term impact may be for these children. It breaks my heart that the likelihood of a child being welcomed into a family drastically diminishes with each year of age. When children age out of a children’s home, generally between 14-16 years of age, without the benefit of education, or the social training that comes from a parent or mentor, they face a future of crime, drugs, homelessness, violence, and a short life expectancy. While a family is what is best for development, preparation for life, and even survival – I still don’t call for every family to adopt. There are millions of children without families, thousands who could join families through adoption, yet I never badger my Facebook friends or my Twitter followers to adopt – even when I think they would be amazing adoptive parents.
At MLJ Adoptions we have connected several infants and toddlers with families – yet the majority of children that need families are school-aged children. I will never forget walking into an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the 11-ish boy dropped his eyes and looked away from me and 8-ish girl handed me an infant because they both assumed the white lady was only interested in the babies. For many children this is what they have experienced. They have been taught that they are unlovable because they are no longer an infant.
While younger parents may have more energy and fewer aches and pains, there are many benefits to being an older parent. Older parents are more likely to be open to older children that desperately need and want families. This may be because they have other children at home that are older or their children have left the nest, while younger parents tend to desire younger children perhaps because they have not yet experienced the various stages of parenting. When facing the tough work of adoptive parenting, there is a benefit to being a seasoned parent. While every child is different and adoption may be new to you, there is calm that comes with a bit more confidence, and it helps to be able to think of alternatives and solutions in the midst of a “moment.” Even when an older parent is a first time parent, there is a self-understanding and acceptance that comes with age that can lead to inner peace and an ability to self-regulate. Older parents typically make more money which can also be a benefit in adoption (stick with me here….). Yes, adoption can be expensive, but there are grants and ways to save for this one-time cost. The real cost may come later when the child needs glasses or counseling or occupational therapy or specialized nutrition… Any child can have unpredicted needs, but the longer a child was without a stable family, the more likely it is that specialists may need to be consulted or a private school will be needed or any number of things. Money will not make better parents, but it will make it easier for parents to secure the things their child most needs to thrive.
Ultimately I believe that any parent committed to parenting who is willing to walk into adoption with eyes wide open can be an excellent parent. As the tide in international adoption continues to change the landscape, I am keeping my eyes open for older parents interested in adoption who just need to be supported in their decision. As it is likely to become more and more difficult to adopt infants and toddlers, we may start seeing more older parents adopting.
Photo Credit: Geraint Rowland
For more information on MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.