Never Too Old for Family: Adopting an Older Child 

When thinking about adoption, babies most often come to mind. But there are older kids who desperately need the love and stability of a family, too. In the U.S., about 45% of children who are in need of an adoptive home are 8 years old or older.  

For children and youth in need of an adoptive family, finding a permanent home is invaluable. Many of them have been waiting for years, and are longing to have a family to call their own. Belonging is a basic human need, and many of the waiting children have not consistently experienced what it feels like to fall asleep knowing they are loved, wanted, safe and secure. 

Older Kids Need Homes, Too 

Some families shy away from adopting older youth because they want a younger child to experience “firsts” with. But parents who have adopted teens will tell you that there are still many firsts to experience with older children. In fact, sharing new memories with a teen can be even more special, because they can appreciate moments in an entirely different way.  

A large number of children in southwest Ohio looking for foster and adoptive homes are older than 8 years old. And in fact, nearly all of the children and youth in HCKids — the adoption and foster care section of Hamilton County Children’s Services — are over the age of 10. “Right now, there are more than 400 children and youth in Hamilton County who need permanent families,” according to the HCKids website. “These are wonderful, loving kids who have so much to offer a family. They just need a chance.” 

 What’s Required of Prospective Families 

Applicants must be committed, tenacious, persistent and patient. Prospective parents must complete background checks, training and an interview/home study to help their social worker learn more about their ability to parent and provide a stable home. After the home study, applicants are provided with more specific information about the individual children available for adoption. Applicants will then be assigned an adoption caseworker who will help the child and family find a good match. 

Finding loving homes for Ohio’s waiting children is the priority for adoption agencies across the state. But agencies also want to be realistic and honest with families about the process — to make sure the right family is matched with the right child. Any adoption, of a child of any age, is going to bring with it challenges. But adoptive parents also get to experience the joy of helping a child with homework, practicing driving or advising a teenager on choosing a college. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about who can adopt. Many people think that sexual orientation, relationship status, or having a high income are factors that are considered, but that is not true. The most important thing is being able to provide a loving, stable, permanent home for a child or sibling group.  

Adopting a child also requires a willingness to accept a child with a complex family history, learn new or different approaches to parenting, and know when to ask for support. Families interested in adopting older children and teens need to understand that they are making a commitment to the child for a lifetime, just as they would with a biological child.  

The Foster Option 

If you’re not ready to adopt, fostering is a great way to help children in need — especially older kids. In the state alone, there are nearly 16,000 Ohio children who live in foster homes. Of those children, 3,000 of them are waiting to be adopted. Of those 3,000 kids, around 1,200 are 13 years old or older. 

All kids need people in their lives who will support them, and that is especiall true for kids in the foster system. “All of our kids have experienced some level of abuse or neglect,” according to HCKids. “They need your help to fulfill their potential and live happy, successful lives.”  

But, all of Ohio’s waiting children also have this in common: they are children, with hopes and dreams, favorite foods and sports teams, unique talents and personalities. They are also loving and resilient and courageous. Their laughter can be contagious, and they can bring incredible joy to those around them. As a foster or adoptive parent, you can help a child live up to this potential. 

Parenting means being up for new adventures. Having a good sense of humor and a talent for keeping life in perspective can go a long way and help you celebrate the successes in an adoptive child’s life. You’ll have to advocate for your child’s needs and be flexible enough to roll with unexpected changes, stresses and challenges. But children don’t need perfect parents — just individuals willing to meet the unique challenges of parenting and willing to make a lifetime commitment to them.  

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