Nov 25 - Adopting an older child
Category: Submission by FoJ Counsellor
Of the 17,000 parents registered for adoption with CARA, about 70% of them prefer adopting a child below 2 years of age. They would have ideally preferred to adopt a new born baby, but the lowest category for adoption at CARA is for 0-2 years, and most adoptions take place for children below 1 year of age, with parents waiting to receive a referral for a young child. Ironically, the average age of parents registered for adoption is above 40 years of age, and at times it beocmes very difficult as a counsellor to explain to a parent why adopting an age appropriate child is best for the family, and not necessarily the youngest possible child.
There are 3 prime reasons for parents desiring to adopt a neo-natal child, as follows:
While there is nothing wrong in desiring to adopt a near new born child, the wish may seem out of place in certain situations, especially when the parents themselves have crossed into their 40's. Here are a few reasons to rethink over the preference for adopting a very young child:
- Most of them want to simulate a natural child birth. They continue to believe that social acceptance for the child will become easier if the child is new born. There have been cases where mothers have been even faking pregnancy in the garb of adoption, so as to prove to their relatives that the child is naturally born to them.
- Many parents believe that the bonding with the child is better if the child is very small. Most parents derive saisfaction out of tending to the child, changing diapers, seeing the child learn to walk, talk etc. It is attending to the parental urge in opting for a very small child.
- It is a common misconception that children repsond better when adopted at a young age, than when they carry their past with them. Some parents actually do not intend telling the child ever about their adoption, and for such parents adopting an older child is unthinkable. It is also erroneously believed that older children are stubborn, do not adapt to situation or carry residual feelings towards their past care givers or parents and fail to attach to the adoptive family. Nothing could be farther from truth.
It is time for parents to relook at the age of the child at adoption with a constructive mindset and definitely not hold the same against the child, in light of thier own prejudices and assmptions. At the minimum, we should stop using the term "older child' for children over 2 years of age, simply because some set of parents prefer to adopt a new born child and a child fo 2 yrs or above is way too old for them. It is ironic to see that in a typical Indian family environment, teenagers and even adults are often pampered with a stereotype statement, "he is too young to shoulder this responsbility or to deliver an outcome, he will learn with age" but some prospective adoptive parents tend to be ruthless in judging even a 5 year old child as too old, intransigent, stubborn or inflexible. Adoption is a life long journey with a spiritual connection. It is an opportunity to re-discover ourselves bereft of our conditioning and prejuddices.
Children are far more adaptable than adults and it is wrong to beleive that an "older" child will not bond well with the family or carry residual feelings. Older children, especially those 5-7 years of age very well understand the constraints of an insitutional environment and look forward to genuine love and care - where ever it may come from. Cases where older children have been reported to be intransigent or reclacitrant often stem from parents' own inability and lack of preparedness in adopting an older child. Parents' expectations, lack of patience and sometimes a condescending attitude towards adoption is often repsonsible for the child losing connection from the family - not necessarily its own past.
While parental urges are justified in tending to a new born child, there is no less gratification in tending to their needs of schooling, sports, hobbies and multi dimesnional personality development.
As parents grow old their energy levels decline, particularly post 40's. The needs of a very young child often stand in conflict with the capability or priority of a middle aged adult. Quite a few adults are in very responsible roles in their career, by that time, and may not find the capapcity to raise a small child. Also, as the child grows, the age difference between the child and the parent actually poses a greater challenge for the child to bond with a graying parent, than the challenge to perceived by the parent when the child was way too young. There have been reported cases where a teenage child fails to connect with a rapidly aging parent, as her peers at school may have much younger parents. If at all there are issues in bonding well by an older child, it is at later stages of life, and not when the child comes home.
Most parents completely ignore a vary vital benefit of adopting an older child. Research and Medical Rpeorts have proven the ill effects of institutional care on child's development. The health of a few months' old child is actually very frail, fragile and unpredictable - even as the child may be reportedly healthy as per medical report. This ie because the development is yet to take place and there are many unknowns. It is also imposisble to run battery of tests on a very small child. It is unethical too for children that young to be exposed to numerous diagnostics. Therefore, most parents are settling for a 50:50 chance for future health of a small child, as compared to the health status of an olde child.
The health parameters of an older child are more easily visible, salient milestones have been crossed and the health of the child is easily verifiable, irrespective of what the reports may convey. This assumes even more significance when parents are recommended to adopt an older child. In choosing to adopt a much younger child, parents are risking themselves to a larger degree than a parent who may be considered age appropriate for adopting a oyung child. Considering that some adoption agencies may not have the skills, resources or commitment to attain the desired health outcomes for children in their care, it makes sense to adopt a child whose health is self visible, than a child whose health has to be proven with half baked records.
As the child grows, if the age difference between the child and the parent is apporpriate, the life events for the family will be well tuned and the child will be awell prepared to shoulder the responsibilities, as also enjoy the family occasions, as against a very small child at adoption, who may have to witness some challenging situations at a very tender age.
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