Doug and Deanne Walker have 19 children, 10 of whom are adopted. These loving parents have been up and down and all around adoption, and seem to me to be an endless bucket of adoption knowledge and wisdom. On top of that, the Walkers are welcoming, inviting, and friendly! This series of articles covers everything from being an organized home executive to failed adoptions to finding the right agency. So as you read, imagine taking a comfortable spot on Deanne’s sofa as she openly shares her insight into each topic.
For those considering adopting an older child–especially one who is about to “age out” of the foster care or orphanage system–it is essential to become educated. Many of the stigmas about bringing older children into your home are based on truth. It is hard, really hard. These children have had tough lives and it shows. So, to prevent putting your aging-out child into a disruption, be sure you know what you’re getting into before committing.
Following is a list of things typical of aging-out and older children:
Lack of Gratitude
These kids have never been taught to be grateful. So no matter how much you sacrifice for them, regardless of the special things you do for them, the gifts you give them, the love you show–don’t expect gratitude.
Sense of Entitlement
Surprisingly, there’s a huge sense of entitlement in these children who, it seems, shouldn’t expect anything at all. They join your family and then expect to have everything handed to them. Many have been told at the orphanage that they’ll get everything they could possibly want when they get adopted.
Lack of Love
Many of these children actually don’t know how to love. It hasn’t been taught to them and they haven’t seen it in action. They haven’t really felt love, so they don’t know how to give it.
Because life has always been about their own survival, these children usually develop really bad habits. For example–if someone does something he doesn’t like, he’ll just take a swing at that person. Or he’s reminded to do something he doesn’t want to do–even something simple, like brushing his teeth–he’ll throw a temper tantrum. There are lots of bad habits that need tender work to reverse.
Rejection and Rebellion
In these children’s minds, your home is just another orphanage setting. They don’t know how to behave in a family. They may feel like they’re being punished or picked on when asked to do chores or when you limit what they get to buy when you take them shopping. And so they reject you, your authority, and your love. And they rebel. Sometimes to the extreme.
Concerned about Perfection
In Chinese orphanages, many adults tell the children who are leaving to go to adoptive homes that they need to behave extremely well. They must do well in school, help out at home, and be very, very good . . . or they won’t be loved. This results in one of two ways: either these children focus so hard on being perfect out of fear that they can’t relax enough to be a real family member, or they completely rebel and don’t try at all. Either way is tough. As a parent you work to convince your child that she doesn’t have to be perfect, that you will always love her, that this is permanent. No matter what. She will need constant reminding.
They Don’t Want to be Parented
They have survived on their own for 14 to 16 years . . . accepting someone actually parenting them is a difficult process
Even with all of these concerns, Deanne and Doug would have you know that there are many joys that come from adopting a child who is in danger of aging out. And the Walkers aren’t the only ones who have found joy. Many educated parents who adopt older children are so thrilled with the result that they do it again. And then they start advocating. The joys come when the parents are rewarded with tender experiences: a hug, seeing growth, watching change. The Walkers’ experience has proven to be worth it. They feel blessed and grateful for their son who joined their family just before aging out.
More from the Walkers: