Adopting Toddlers and Older Kids
Yes, at Abrazo, we work with birthparents who are placing and parents who are adopting toddlers and older kids– because adoption isn’t just for babies.
While the majority of Abrazo’s placements do involve infants, each year Abrazo also handles a number of adoptions for toddlers, sibling groups and older children, and it is a special honor to have such cases entrusted to our care.
Who places toddlers and older kids and why?
There are a variety of reasons that people find themselves needing to voluntarily arrange adoptions for children who are toddlers, older kids and sibling groups, even if they never could have imagined having to make such a decision in their lives.
For “Felicia,” adoption was something she’d considered during pregnancy but decided against after the birth of her son. “When I was in the hospital, everyone said they’d help. The dad was there with his family. My family was all over me to keep the baby, too. So I did. For the first few months, things were good. Then all the people who said they’d help disappeared. The dad got another girl pregnant. And it was just me and my son, and nothing was going right. He wasn’t getting what he needed and neither was I. When he was two, I called Abrazo back. It wasn’t easy. But it was definitely right, for him and for me and for his adoptive parents, too.”
“Inez” came to the adoption decision when a family dispute led to Child Protective Services threatening to take her children. “I didn’t do what they said I did. But I knew I wasn’t going to win against them, you know what I’m saying? I chose adoption with Abrazo so I could choose my kids’ new home. Being able to meet the parents and keep in touch, that was something I couldn’t do if CPS got my kids. It was the hardest thing I ever did. I know it was the best thing, though. They’re happy. And that makes me happy.”
Sometimes, it’s not a child’s biological parents but the legal guardian/s who contact/s Abrazo to make an open adoption plan for the child/ren in their care. The Washingtons (name has been changed) had been raising their grandchildren since their daughter’s addictions made her unable to care for her kids, but their advanced ages led them to make alternative plans for their grandchildren’s futures. “We didn’t have family who could take them in, so Abrazo helped us add new family to ours so the children have the stability they need. And we still have the connection with them that we need, too.”
“James” was a single dad who struggled to raise his son alone after his girlfriend had left the baby in their apartment, gone to the store and never came home. “I was always at work, so it wasn’t fair to him to just grow up in daycare. Your agency helped me find him the kind of home he really deserved.”
Placing children you’ve already bonded with is an intricate emotional experience for adults and children, and does entail loss and grief for both, no matter if the adoption is open or closed, and despite the potential benefits of the placement. It should be a decision of last resort, made only with ample preparation and counseling for all parties, beforehand and afterwards. Abrazo has guided many parents who were considering toddler adoption and older child adoptions; if we can offer support or referrals, please call us: 210-342-5683.
What prospective adoptive parents need to know
Adopting the children who truly need loving homes most means opening your heart and home to the children in greatest need, which isn’t typically the healthy newborn for whom 50 or more other hopeful adoptive parents are waiting. That said, however, not every adopting parent can be the kind of extraordinary mom and dad that every most needy child needs.
Parents open to such cases need to do their homework by learning all they can before matching or placing about adoption trauma and attachment issues. While not every toddler, older child or sibling group will face such issues, being educated as to what these are and how to address them goes a long way in empowering you to parent any adopted child more effectively.
Additional reading that may be helpful would be Adopting the Older Child and Helping Children Cope with Separation & Loss by Claudia Jewett Jarratt The Connected Child by Karen Purvis.
Any toddler adoption, older child adoption or sibling adoption should be handled like a special needs adoption, because there will be issues and dynamics that are different than the average infant adoption. The adopting parents will need extra support from professionals as well as relatives and friends, and this is why, at Abrazo, we take extra time to support the family after placement, delaying the finalization proceedings for 12-18 months to ensure that the completion occurs only after everyone’s adjustment can be confirmed first.
The adoption tax credit is available to families adopting children who are no longer infants. In many states, adoption subsidies may also be available to help offset any costs the adopting family may have incurred in the process of adopting a toddler, older children or sibling group. (Note: TDFPS now only offers subsidy assistance to residents of Texas, a disappointing departure from earlier subsidy guidelines.)
If you’re interested in adopting toddlers and older kids, Abrazo would be very interested in hearing from you.