Have you ever wondered what happens to the kids who are in the system until they age out at 18? Has it ever occurred to you that those kids don’t disappear? For me, it was more or less a non-issue. It wasn’t something I really gave much thought to.
For a long time, when I thought about adoption, I only pictured little kids or brand new infants. I pictured happy couples smiling down at their little bundles of joy. I thought of the announcements, the celebration, the milestones. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Babies are cute for a reason. You’re supposed to want to care for them because they can’t care for themselves. Not everyone has that impulse, but many people—by default—picture a baby when they consider what age range they’d like to adopt.
There are a number of reasons for that. There is a general misconception that if a child is adopted at infancy, post-adoption life will be easier. While there are aspects that are true, it is false to claim that an adopted infant will have no issues as they age and learn of his or her adoption. Some of my friends have children they adopted at birth and were in the room with the birth mother when she gave birth. They cut the cord. And still, they were struggling with difficult behaviors a few years down the line dealing with attachment.
So before we get way into discussing why teen adoption could be right for your family, let me dispel a few myths first.
Babies are easier.
Okay, there is a small window of time where this is true to a degree. It’s a very small window—maybe a few weeks. A newborn baby can be pretty easy to care for. But babies get up several times a night to poop, pee, eat, burp, and cry. There are some things you just can’t completely anticipate.
Teens did something to end up in foster care.
Nope. No. Sometimes CPS will intervene if there is a domestic problem that escalates between a parent and a teen, but most of the time if there is a teen in foster care waiting for adoption it is because they were removed years ago and no one adopted them. Am I saying teens are easy? No. But I am saying it isn’t their fault if they are in care.
Teens don’t want to be adopted, they’d rather age out.
No. Can you imagine your high school graduation with no one to cheer you on? Entering your college years with no safety net to go home to if things get too hard? What about holidays? Would Christmas alone really be better? No. They are kids who need support and love, all the time, but especially for the big moments and holidays that they’ve likely missed out on to this point.
You won’t bond with a teen as well as you would with a baby or younger child.
Look. I’m not saying it is easy to have a heart-to-heart chat with a teen you’ve just met. It isn’t. That would be a stupid thing to promise. However many teens are craving connection and support. You might not end up with a typical parent-teen relationship but you will absolutely bond. Younger kids are sometimes harder because they don’t understand why they are in your care and not their birth parents. A two-year-old will simply cry because they miss mama, but they don’t have the words to express that so they just scream and throw things. A teen can at least say “hey I’m having a bad day.”
I know the idea of welcoming an older child to your family is a lot. I am aware that there can be serious issues that arise in any adoption situation, so promising it would be better or worse than an infant adoption isn’t something I can do. However, I think it is worth it. I think children need and deserve families.
They need someone to teach them to drive a car. They need someone to help them pick a prom dress or tux. They need someone to teach them how to survive on their own in the world before they launch out to it. When I was a teenager I was a wreck. I leaned heavily on my mentors. I have parents. I had a home to go to and I was a disaster emotionally. So the thought of not having had people around me to help me through that time is devastating. And that is the situation for hundreds if not thousands of kids around the United States.
Your adoption may look different than what you’ve seen before. Your life might turn more chaotic than you’ve imagined it could be. I’m not a fortune teller or psychic. I cannot tell you what your life will be like if you adopt a teen. I can tell you that when that teen knows and understands that you care about them and love them? That will change their life for the better.
So what do you think? Do you think adopting a teen into your family is something you could consider? Could you be a mentor to a child who is in desperate need of one? Could you help them go into adulthood knowing they are loved and not just left to the system?
Hundreds and hundreds of kids end up homeless after they’ve aged out of foster care. They don’t have direction or the ability to function as adults because no one showed them. Teen adoption isn’t for everyone but I think it is something that everyone should consider. I think that while it can be a difficult road to walk it is worthwhile. If you’ve never considered teen adoption before I hope you will now. There are children right now that need a family and you could be it.