Adopting as an Older Parent

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  • Older parents with bio kids adopting baby

    (6 replies)

    Hi Everyone!

    Our family is looking to adopt an infant/baby: We already have (middle school aged) kids and would love to to know your experiences on how your biological children handled the adoption/meeting their new sib.

    We're also in our 50's so we aren't sure if adopting a baby is a good idea due to our age. We're both healthy, working, and generally active people, with relatives here to support us. We'd love some advice!

    Thank you so much! 

    Let me preface this with the fact that I don't know you or your situation or motivations, so adopting a baby at this stage might be the perfect fit for you. My thoughts may sound mostly negative, but I'm not judging your decision at all, I just want give my perspective as someone who has been on both sides of this story. From the kid's perspective: I'm the youngest of many siblings, so my parents were fairly old (especially by the standards of a half-century ago) when I was born. It was hard always having them be the oldest parents at school (people used to ask if they were my grandparents), they didn't really have anything in common with my friends' parents, and I'm dealing with them aging/dying now, while my peers' parents are out taking their grandchildren on international trips and things like that. Secondly, as a parent of tweens/tweens myself who's approaching 50, I can't imagine going back to square one with a baby. I don't have the energy I did 10 or 15 years ago, or the same ability to get by on very little sleep. Lastly, we have an 8-year span across our 3 kids, and sometimes that gap seems huge - having a kid in college and a kid in elementary school was weird. With a very small baby you'll probably be able to pack them up and take them wherever your older kids are going, but before long you're looking at kids with vastly different interests and abilities and needs based on their ages. And keep in mind that when your friends are empty-nesters who want to go out and do stuff, you'll still have a young elementary school kid who needs a babysitter. All that is not to say that you couldn't make it work, or that you haven't already thought through these issues, or that I don't know people who've made late parenthood work, but please do give it some forward thinking about what your life and the child's will look like in 10, 15, 20 years and what your goals are as you make your decision. Good luck with everything!

    I am a person who was adopted as well as the parent to one child who was biological and one who was adopted. The biological child being 5 years older than their sibling. 

    The good part about the age difference was that our daughter was an active and aware participant in our family plan to adopt. The less ideal part is that our kids will likely not go to the same school and they are at very different developmental stages. 

    My siblings were age 9 and 11 when I was adopted at age 3. I don’t speak with my middle sibling because they did not take my adoption well. My older sibling was more like an uncle because he left for college when I was in elementary school. So, I would say that my experience was not great in my adoptive family but who knows if that was because of the adoption or because of personality or age difference or something else.

    In terms of becoming adoptive parents, we started the process to adopt internationally from the same orphanage in South America where I was until I was adopted at age 3. The process, even for someone like me who has dual citizenship, took almost 3 years to get a referral and that referral ended up being for a 3 year-old. When that referral didn’t work out, we switched to domestic, private adoption where a birth mother chose us from a selection of eligible families. That took another year to be successful for us.

    In my experience, for international adoption, each country has different rules and some adhere to The Hague convention (personally, I would not consider adopting from anywhere that did not sign on) and some countries do have age restrictions for adoptive parents. Some countries require a maximum number of years between adoptive parent and child, meaning you may only be eligible to adopt an older child as a result.

    In my experience doing private domestic adoption (not foster care or through a government agency), your file is shown to biological mothers (occasionally bio parents or their families) and it is a system where adoptive parents and biological parents mutually choose one another. I have to say, from speaking to many social workers, parents who are over 50 may not be chosen or matched as quickly. Also, each state has different laws and you should know that biological families have a legal right to not sign the adoption papers for a state-mandated amount of time. Some states are shorter (48 hours) and some can be weeks.

    I would advise that you ask yourselves why you want to adopt. There are a lot of people out there who have idealized versions of what adoption is like or who have ideas along the lines of “saving a child.” Adoption is hard and can be very messy and traumatic. Please tread carefully if you do decide to go this route. Speak not just to adoptive families but to those like me who were adopted themselves. Often, adoptive parents are not privy to the actually reality of their adopted children. 

    We adopted two infants (same birth mom) through private infant adoption when we were in our late 30’s. Here’s what we learned: There is a ton of legal discrimination in the private adoption world. Birth mothers choose who they want to adopt their baby from a profile you create (it’s weirdly similar to online dating). Many mothers tend to pick childless couples who “look like them”, and a lot of them may pass you over because you’re in your 50s already and have teenage kids. Someone might not. They are well within their rights to pick who will adopt their adopt child because of whatever reason—age, race, religion, professions, where you live, etc. Our kids’ birth mother said she picked us because we were the youngest she was presented with (37 and 39), she liked that I work in the field of child behavior, and we wrote a blurb in our parenting philosophy about how children need to be allowed to make mistakes. 

    Some agencies flat out will not work with you, because they don’t place kids with parents who are more than 40 years older than the kiddo. So if you’re 50, you would be able to adopt a 10-year-old. Some agencies won’t work with you unless you have “documented infertility”. Some agencies won’t work with you unless you share their religious convictions. I read for every 1 baby that comes available for adoption there are 100 waiting families. We waited 18 months before someone picked us. Some people wait longer, some shorter. 

    If you’re thinking of adopting from foster care, know that foster care’s primary focus is family reunification, so foster care babies are rarely considered “legally free” for years because it takes that long sometimes to Terminate Parental Rights (TPR). Any biological family member who steps forward will be given priority to take custody over the foster family during that time. 

    There are many “legally free” children in foster care who are eligible for adoption right now; however, those kids tend to be older or part of a sibling group they want to keep together. Once a child in foster care reaches the age of 9 the likelihood they will be adopted drops drastically, and they are at risk of being in foster care until they age out of foster care. If you’re considering expanding your family, and you’re open to an older child, contact the county and tell them you’re interested in learning more about adopting a “legally free” child.

    We are in our mid-60s and had a child at around 40. Some of our friends had 2nd children by birth or adoption in their late 40s/early 50s. Assuming you stay healthy the biggest challenge with this schedule is one or both of you is likely to want to retire or be pushed out of a job before your last child is done college/is financially independent. Other situations one or both of you can experience are major illnesses while your child is still relatively young. One of you can die before your last child is independent. Your child can have issues with drugs or be slow to launch in other ways using up the income you need for retirement. Even under good circumstances it is unlikely both of you will still be vigorous when the child is 25. The longer I go in my parenthood, the more I realize the importance of being there in early adulthood, and our child is doing reasonably well in terms of becoming independent. I recently went to a memorial for a healthy/athletic friend who died in their 60s. 

    We adopted a baby girl when I was 51 and my husband 49. We adopted from Guatemala as it was one of the few countries that would allow adoption by older parents. In the US at the time, there were four couples seeking to adopt for every healthy available baby, and we felt we had little chance of success here. If you haven't looked in to the process, both the legal and finding a birth-mom aspects, please understand that at best it's time-consuming and stressful, and at worst you will also get no baby.

    Your age is an issue. You've raised kids so you know what the work-load is like. But ask yourself if you still have the endurance for the level of exhaustion and sleep-deprivation you may experience. And once your kid is grown, he or she will likely lose you at a relatively early age. Our kid is 17 now, and while my husband and I are in good health, I think about this a lot. My mom died when I was 15, and it was (and is) really rough. These issues would matter for a biological child, but even more so for an adopted one.

    Adopted kids are at risk for reactive attachment disorder (RAD). "At risk" isn't really accurate -- an adult friend who was adopted said all adopted people have abandonment issues. RAD is a serious issue, in particular because the neurological window for developing the capacity to bond closes very early, and after that the individual may never really be able to attach to another person, ever.

    A baby starts bonding in utero, and recognizes when the mom they were inside of isn't there. Even an adopted newborn is scared and grieving when placed in your arms. Many kids available to adopt are older and may have been in difficult circumstances before being placed for adoption, which will add to attachment challenges.

    Managing attachment issues means being there with and for your kid much more than you need to with a biological kid. The literature says to get a co-sleeping crib (we did), and never use discipline that implies rejection, like time-outs. Instead, discipline involves "time-ins." (See And forget about day care any time soon.

    Our kid never took a nap except on top of one of us (too scary), and we slept in the same room, largely in the same bed, until she was 6. She has never had a time-out. She invented all kinds of attachment-related games. I can't tell you how many times she was the little-lost-bear I took home from the woods. At 5 she started disliking her birthday, when she realized it's the anniversary of the day she was given away. We said she was our "forever child" over and over, but it was only in middle school that she realized we weren't ever going to send her away. None of this is unusual for an adopted kid. She loves the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge, because it put so much of what she was feeling into words.

    I can't speak to how having an adopted child would affect your bio kids, but it seems critical to have them participate in both researching and making the decision.

    I don't intend to discourage you, but only to say that adoption and being an older parent both have serious challenges. A child you adopt may become the light of your lives.

    We adopted an infant when I was 45 years old.  Now I'm 60, my daughter is 15.  I would say to keep in mind all the curves that life may throw you.  And, take your tweens' feelings on this into consideration.

  • Hi, we're older parents, both working with a stable income and 2 bio kids (preteens)- We've considered and tossed around the idea of adopting a third child, and are considering a child between the ages 5-8 but aren't sure since we're in our early to mid 50's. Any experience for older parents going through the adoption process- is it possible to adopt given our age? And what's it like to adopt a 5-8 year old from your expierence?

    That would be great, thanks! : )

    It's definitely possible to adopt an older kiddo in your 50s. You can either adopt a child of that age through the foster care system or internationally.  For international adoption, there are age cutoffs depending on the rules of each country but generally there are no age cutoffs for adoption from foster care.  You can either register as a foster parent through your county of residence directly (ie Alameda County Social Services Agency) or go through what is called a "Foster Family Agency"  (FFA for short). There are a number of different agencies including:  Family Builders, Alternative Family Services, Seneca, A Better Way to name just a few of the big ones. Each agency has their own process for licensure.  Generally you would go through a home study process and then become licensed as a foster/adoptive parent.  There are often waiting children within your desired age range who are legally free for adoption or you could opt to foster a child who may become adoptable in the future. To start the process, try reaching out for an orientation with your county social services agency and also with a foster family agency or two.  You can only be licensed with one agency so check out your options as you learn more about the process.  

    For a child that age you would be probably be adopting a “legally free” child through the foster care system. Cases who have moved their goal from reunification to adoption have  gone through Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) process (which often takes a long time), and the child has become legally free (available) to adopt. 

    Prepare yourself for parenting a child with a pretty significant trauma history. Foster youth  frequently have Reactive Attachment Disorder, and other diagnosed conditions related to mental and behavioral health. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it, but you should take steps to educate yourself!

    Children over a certain age (I think it’s 9 or 10) are considered to be “special needs” adoptions because children don’t often get adopted from foster care after they turn 9. You may get a monthly stipend for adopting a children that age, which would make for a nice savings for your kiddo. I’m not sure if there would be an age limit to adopting a younger child, but the case workers at the CA Department of Child/Family Services will be able to help you figure it out!

    We are in our 60s and adopted three elementary age kids. They have had severe trauma in their life and there are days...then there is the pure joy as they discover new things, learn at school, make new friends....Worth the effort.   They are teaching us so much.  

    If you have questions, feel free to contact us.   We used an agency in Martinez and they have been wonderful.  

    I imagine it's possible - many things are possible - but what would be the motivation to adopt a child, even one 5-8, at the age of 50?  You have other children as stated who are about to enter THE most difficult years in my opinion of child rearing.  They are close to high school and it's a different ball game - a child you adopt on the older side will potentially have a great deal of trauma. Are you willing to sacrifice the attention your biological children are certainly going to need and potentially resent not having?  I suppose if you didn't have other children sure but my opinion is you are about to make a problematic stage of child rearing even more difficult for your own bio children which face it should at the end of the day come first.  Maybe I'm projecting but I am in my early 50's and the thought of a 5-8 year old (my own are 17 and 19) running around my home full time is exhausting.  You perhaps have a bigger heart than I.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice Related Pages

Adopting later in life

July 2014

My husband (45 years old) and I (46 years old) are considering open adoption and are looking to connect with other couples who are older and have adopted or are considering adoption. We're hoping to meet or talk with folks who are willing to share their experiences of being older parents of an infant & beyond. We live in the East Bay.

My husband and I adopted an infant when I was 48. Our son is now 13. I also have two bio kids from a previous marriage, so I have something to compare it to. Being an older mom meant I had less energy. It was harder to get up at night with the baby. By the toddler years I was going through menopause. Fun!!

But these disadvantages were balanced out by a number of advantages. My husband does as much or more parenting than I do, so parenting has never been overwhelming for either of us. Being older parents, we were further along in our careers, so we could afford to have a nanny, afford fun stress-relieving vacations, and when our son started kindergarten we had a lot of school options. Both of us have a lot of flexibility in terms of work schedules and taking time off because our careers are established, so I didn't have to make the hard choices I had when I was 30 with a baby and a career that hadn't taken off yet.

By the time we were in our 40's, we knew what we wanted and we knew what our priorities were. We didn't get hung up on all the trivial first-time parent stuff that consumes tons of worrying and unnecessary stress. Another plus is that by the time our son started preschool, I was well in to my 50's and had already been exposed to practically every virus out there, so I wasn't laid low every time a new cold came home from school.

As for being older than all the other parents at school and preschool, this has been a non-issue. Other parents generally don't notice it, or if they do, the difference in ages doesn't matter because we are all focussed on our kids, who *are* the same age. If anything, I think it is the very young parents who have the toughest time assimilating into the school parent community. Older parents have decades of experience socializing with all different age groups, while a mom in her 20's is new to all this.

All in all, adopting later in life has turned out fine, and I recommend it. Our son is in middle school now, I work at home more than I go into the office so I'm home when he is, and we have a lot of fun together. I can't imagine not having kids in the house! local mom

It is very normal in the world of adoption, for adoptive parents to be older. It is really rare that people adopt before 40s. My baby arrived when I was 46. I am definitely one of the older parents in his elementary school environment, but not the oldest, esp in this area. There are dads in their 60s for sure. As the previous post said, there are many advantages (social/emotional, financial, logistical) to being older in addition to having had some experience. I never feel ''too old'' to parent, though sometimes I am too tired to run around with an energetic kid after a long day of work. But I think anyone would be. It's so worth it at any age.

We have 2 teens - are we way too old to adopt a third?

Feb 2005

Maybe I'm insane. We have two girls -- one 15 and one 13. I'm 45 and my husband is 46. I keep wishing we'd had a third child (we tried without success). Are we just way too old to try to adopt? Would the addition of a baby throw our lives into chaos? Would that be bad? Has anyone done this? just wondering

Re: considering adopting a third child: I am an adoption professional for an agency in Oakland and want to share that you are definitely not too old to consider adopting. Most certainly, your family as you know it will go through an initial upheaval of some kind. There are many important factors to consider: are both you and your husband/partner equally commiteed to the idea, what do your two children think/feel, do you have a good support system in place, are you stable financially, emotionally, and otherwise. You don't mention what kind of a child you are thinking of adopting: if you are considering an infant, then you will be raising that child almost as an only child due to the large gap between it and your current teens. If you are considering an older child, then you will definitely have adjustments to make and will likely have a child with special needs-emotional, educational, abuse history related that require extra attention and understanding from everyone in your family. Any type of adoption is a process and takes quite a bit of time, so I'd advise you and your partner to begin talking these areas out. Best of luck! Melanie
I know a woman, who, through wide age gaps, ended up parenting from birth to age 18, for 32 years. She was tired and falling apart at the end. She had been ready to finish her parental obligations when the youngest was 12 or 13, and it was quite difficult to trudge through it - she ended up far more permissive (or resigned) with the youngest's behavior because she simply didn't have the energy to fight or enforce rules. Children suck the life outta you. To add... 18 is ! not a magical age where kids stop having needs. Quite the contrary, and she still has an older one she really wants out of the nest - but that one can't manage to get a job. I know many will disagree with me, but I think it is a little unfair to the potential 3rd child to begin their life in the parent's waning years. There simply isn't the same energy, in many cases, to keep up with them. It is usually embarrassing for children, as they progress, to have parents that are ''grandma age'' as well. That said, there is the beautiful other side of it, where you are wiser, with more experience, more secure in who you are, and hopefully more relaxed as well. Seems there is a larger push in the 20s and 30s to make a name for oneself professionally, whereas in the 40s and 50s, one has reached a nice comfortable point in the career. So there would likely be less financial stress, and perhaps more focus available for childrearing.

If it is just wanting another person... there are many non-babies who get ignored in the system and never adopted, because everyone wants a cute baby. Perhaps you would adopt an older child, who is still younger than your current kids, thus extending your parenting years. If you get a child a good 6 or more years younger than your two, they will be doted on and the older siblings will likely enjoy their roles.

If you really have baby fever (which is understandable, so many women have it), why not become the neighborhood mom-helper? I'm sure there are plenty of parents nearby who would love to let you coo over their little one while they get a well-needed break. Could be as little as a couple hours here and there, or for a weekend getaway for mom and dad. Could be on your terms, never more than you can handle. You can continue this role, picking and choosing the families/children's ages, for years on end. Then, (hopefully) many years from now, when you feeled tapped out energy-wise, you don't have a whole other child you're obligated to full-time. Good luck with your choice.

In general, the adoption world prefers that the difference in age between the child and the parent is no bigger than 50 years. So you are all right on that aspect. I'll let others answer the rest. good luck
I can't answer your questions about the affect on your family of having a third child, but I can tell you that when my husband and I adopted our first (and only) child, we were (respectively) ages 43 and 46. And the birthmother chose us happily. In independent, open adoption of an infant, the birthmother usually chooses the adoptive parents. And birthmothers have all sorts of reasons for the choices they make--they're not all looking for the same type of family. As far as having a baby at our age (now I'm 50, with a 4 year old)--well, I find parenthood wonderful and frustrating, exhilarating and tiring. If we hadn't become parents at our age, we'd probably be travelling more and planning an earlier retirement--but we'd be missing out on things that are much more important to us. It's absolutely worth it to me, but anyone making the decision need! s to think about what they're giving up, too, so they don't regret it later. (That's true of anyone planning to be a parent, but remember the pattern of your life is going to be different from the patterns of many other people your age--how much does that matter to you? If you stay around here, you'll definitely come into contact with plenty of other ''older'' parents of young children, too.) Good luck in your decisionmaking! Happy about my choice
I can't speak to the issue of what effect it will have on your family to adopt a third child, but I can tell you that we have a number of friends who have adopted infants at the age of 50. I have also recently been to an adoption orientation with Adoption Connection when we were considering adopting again (I am 48) and they said that there are LOTS of people around that age who adopt and that it generally wasn't even an issue in terms of whether a birthmother would pick you or not. I realize that is not your question, but thought I'd throw that part out at least. The people we know who adopted infants at age 50 are also both generally very energetic people. So, it works for them. Best of luck whatever you decide! Older adoptive mom