Older children adoption requires adequate preparation emotionally by prospective parents. While caring for an older child may seem easier in some ways, in reality, adoption of an older child requires a lot of patience and emotional maturity by a parent considering this option.
Bonding and attachment may not be instantaneous in some adoptions, but if unconditional love and support is given to the child, this perhaps will lead to a secure attachment in course of time. Older children may experience grief and loss, and this requires counselling for both parent in the initial months, to establish a healthy emotional relationship.
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Here are some Q&A which gives an insight and a deeper understanding of what older children adoption entails, with few examples.
Who can adopt older children, and of what age?
Though adoptive parents often prefer the adoption of infants, they may also at times, decide that they would like to adopt an older child, i.e. a child above the age of 4. The prospective adoptive parents looking to adopt an older child must meet some age requirements, as per CARA rules. They are as follows:
|Age of child||Maximum composite age of the prospective adoptive
|Maximum age of single
prospective adoptive parent
|0 to 18 years||90 years||45 years|
|4 to 18 years||100 years||50 years|
|8 to 18 years||110 years||55 years|
Why is caring for an older child different from caring for an infant?
Caring for an older child who is adopted is very different from caring for a young infant who is adopted as one has to keep in mind important decisions from the naming of the child to the adjustments the child has to make.
The child has been part of the outside world for longer and has his/her own idea of it. They’ve had more experiences outside and are used to certain caregivers, or institutions as well. These children have more understanding of their likes and dislikes and are able to communicate them, they have learnt a specific language already, and therefore need a whole different approach from the parents.
Parents must be willing to be patient, and allow the child to settle into his/her new environment. They must have different ways and means of communication with the child in case of a language barrier. None the less, this is completely feasible.
In the case of older children, what are the food habits that the parents must take into consideration?
Parents must keep in mind that the child is used to certain types of food, i.e., recipes, grains, etc. from the institution. It is very important for the parents to incorporate the foods that the child is used to in his/her diet in their new home. Even if the exact recipes are not familiar, even using the same ingredients will help make a smoother transition for the child.
What should parents keep in mind when it comes to an older child’s hygiene habits?
When it comes to hygiene, we must understand that the child may be used to differents standards and habits. For example, he/she may be used to Indian style toilets from the institutions and may not to be aware of how to use the western toilets in homes.
It is important to be patient and calm, and not get annoyed or angry if the child creates a mess while using the toilets. Also, the child may not have inherent knowledge of hand-wash after using the washroom. All this must be patiently, and over time, taught to the child.
How is dressing your child different with older children than infants?
It is natural for the parents to want to dress up their child in new fancy clothes, but in case of older children it is important to let them make their own decisions, and keep a few clothes from the institution so the child is more comfortable.
The child may miss the institution, so carrying their blanket from the institution may allow the child to feel a little more at home.
What should the parents do if the child speaks another language?
In case the child speaks another language, they must look for more ways of communication rather than depending on language only. With younger children, parents can adopt physical, more non-verbal forms of communicating with the child.
Also, over time the child will learn to speak the language spoken at his/her new home as they tend to learn things and adapt quickly. But to begin with, certain important words and sentences in the child’s language can be learned by the parents using some of the many available methods- Google translate, translation books, etc. to make the transition easier for the child as well as the parents.
What should be done on the part of the parents in case the child is from a another religious background and belief?
When an older child is adopted, there is a large chance that he/she comes with their own understanding of religion and own set of beliefs. for example a method of praying may already have been learned by the child. It is important for the parents to respect this.
They must not try to change this immediately or impose any new forms on the child. Slowly, over time, the child may decide to learn the parents habits, and decide to follow the new practices.
Neither of this should be forced onto the child. It is alright for your child to engage in both religious practices as long as he/she is not compelled to do either.
Should you change the name of your child?
When the child is older than 1 year, it is not advisable to change his/her name. He/she would have gotten adjusted to their name and one more change should not be imposed onto the child.
It would be changing the child’s identity, and among all the changes he/she is already going through, with moving into a completely environment, with all new people, changing their name is not advisable. In case you really want to name your child, consider providing him/her with a middle name of your choice.
They can explain to the child that his/her name was given by the institution or even the biological parents, but they would also like to name him/her now that the child is a part of their family and home and they truly love him/her and wish to name their child too.
Reference: Dr. Aloma Lobo
Psychological perspectives on adoption- NIMHANS