In all of your planning and discussions about beginning foster care, you envisioned a baby or a small child in need that would arrive at your home. There would be long nights but you would be able to cradle and console them, and you would teach them kindness and love and trust without worrying too much about whether your feelings and actions would be validated or reciprocated.
But there is an entire world of children in foster care that have passed that “cradling age”. They don’t fit the mold when it comes to how we traditionally welcome new family members into our homes and lives because they are not “new”. In fact, some of them may be growing rapidly into their own adulthood and could possibly care for themselves acceptionably, though not ideally.
So what is the point then of adopting a child from foster care that has already reached that stage and why should you do it? Why is it so important?
It all comes down to these simple truths. Because even though they are not babies, they are still children. Because we know based on statistics that none of us are as successful alone as we can be when we are together. Because everyone needs and deserves a family.
According to Childrensrights.org, more than 20,000 children age out of the US foster care system each year once they turn 18 years old.
Do you remember yourself at 18 years old? Or 16? Or even 14?
Did you have the skills and abilities and the judgment to handle the next phases of your life?
Did you know how to drive, get an apartment, finish or begin college courses, have the interview skills to land a decent job?
Did you know how to get your credit score? A new car loan? A mortgage?
Where did you spend Christmas or Thanksgiving? Or your birthday?
Childhood doesn’t stop when you stop being little. It stops when you have become a successful adult and often that is not at 18 years old.
Still not convinced that you could take on an older child, consider this;
- They sleep through the night, and sometimes most of the morning too.
- They don’t need shots and checkups as often as a new baby.
- They often are great conversationalist; you will enjoy their company and companionship.
- They tie their own shoes, button their own coats, and wipe their own noses.
- No potty training.
- No bottles, sippy cups, or diaper bags.
- They are eager to learn and will teach you some things too.
- You won’t have to guess favorite colors, favorite foods, and favorite songs because you can just ask.
- They enjoy being with friends, playing sports, attending clubs and other activities independently so you won’t have them “underfoot” as often as their younger counterparts.
- They know how to be “real”. They can read your emotional cues when you have a bad day or a fantastic day that deserves celebration.
There are so many benefits to adopting an older child from foster care. If you still need some more convincing, a good place to start is with mentoring to this age group through local clubs and organizations. I think you will be absolutely convinced after just a few visits.
Or, take a cue from your brave and fearless teenage self and just jump in.