Sarah and Martin adopted Caitlyn through Adoption Focus just before her seventh birthday. Here Sarah talks to us about her experiences of adopting an older child and encourages other to also consider a wide range of age groups for adoption.
Were you specifically looking for an older child?
The age range we asked to be considered for was from birth to eight years. We felt that every child deserved our attention regardless of their age and it was the connection we felt when we found Caitlyn that we were looking for.
With older children being harder to place, did specifying such a wide age range mean that you were only sent profiles of older children?
No, we were sent lots of profiles for children of all ages, some as young as 12 months.
How would you encourage other people to consider adopting children over four years old?
When filling out forms, start with as wide an age range as you feel comfortable with. Keep an open mind.
Children over the age of four need cuddles, kisses and attention just like younger children. They need exactly the same love, attention and nurturing. I would encourage people to spend time with the older children of friends or relatives and see how you can bond with them.
I would say that it’s important to want to adopt an older child though because the experience will be quite different from adopting a very young child.
What do you think might deter people from consider adopting older children?
Perhaps some people might worry that they won’t be able to build an attachment with older children. This hasn’t been any problem at all in our experience. Martin and I felt an attachment with Caitlyn from the first time we met her and the bond between us grows stronger and stronger all the time. Friends often tell us how like us she has become and we love it when we hear her using little phrases that we often use! She has also developed the passion for reading that Martin and I share and we love to sit down together as a family and read.
I guess some people could be concerned about ‘emotional baggage’ and the thought that older children might have more memories of their earlier life. Caitlyn remembers the good and bad experiences of her early life very well, but she’s old enough to articulate her thoughts and feelings about these, whereas a younger child might express herself in other ways. This helps us to understand about her background and help her and it’s brilliant to hear her good memories. There are practical advantages to this too, such as when chicken pox was going around school and she was able to reassure us that she’d already had it!
Are there any other advantages to adopting an older child?
There are lots of advantages. If you are open to a wider age range then there are more children to choose from. The ease of communication, talked about in my previous answer - Caitlyn has told us how she feels about adoption and we can tell her how about our side of the process; how we came to be approved and how we chose her. There are fewer unknowns about health issues and there are no sleepless nights or nappies!
Older children are already aware that they are adopted – in our case we were able to discuss with Caitlyn whether or not she wanted us to let people at school know that she was adopted. It’s easier to return to work because they are already of school age and, because they have already started school, there is nothing unknown about any support they might need there. During my adoption leave I volunteered at Caitlyn’s new school to help her settle in and away from school we were able to spend lots of quality time together.
Can you think of any disadvantages?
We don’t know what Caitlyn was like as a baby or as a two-year old. But adoption is a lifelong commitment and we know we will make up for having missed out on these years.
We may have missed out on Caitlyn’s first steps and first words but there are still a myriad of firsts – first day at school, first ‘I love you’, first flight, first meal of a certain kind, first face painting, first time dressing without help, first tooth falling out with us etc. Almost everything becomes a first. Anything you explore together becomes a first.