Older parents with bio kids adopting baby

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! 

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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 https://www.rainbowkids.com/adoption-stories/taking-a-time-in-with-your-....) 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.