Adopting an older Ukrainian child can be extremely rewarding. My
husband and I adopted an older child and it has been a wonderful
experience.We were very concerned about the health of the
Ukrainian child we adopted. It is always a concern that any child
was exposed to alcohol or drugs during the prenatally. Most
children in institutions are developmentally delayed due to lack
of stimulation. Developmental delays can be physical, speech
related, and many others. Originally we wanted to adopt an
Just like when giving birth to a child, in adoption you never
know what you will get. Our concern was that if we took a very
young child, we would not be able to judge if there were true
cognitive issues or if the child was just displaying the expected
developmental delays. After understanding the risks, we knew we
did not want to adopt an infant.
Unlike in an infant, with an older child, you can already see
their personality, intelligence and emotions. Nearly every child
that grows up in an institutional setting, especially
internationally will have developmental delays as a result of
lack of stimulation. When adopting an older child, it is somewhat
easier to tell if there are cognitive problems, illness or
behavioral problems than a child under the age of two, since at a
very young age, it is hard to distinguish between developmental
delays and all the other potential issues.
Healthy children in Ukraine are available for international
adoption at the age of 5. You can adopt younger children if you
adopt siblings and one of the children is 5 or older. Children
with special needs are also available for international adoption
from 12 months old.
Often adoptive parents worry about bonding with an older child as
well as any traumatic or just negative experiences they may have
experienced and remember. One of the best things in my opinion
about adopting from Ukraine is that we get to spend time with the
adoptive child in his or her environment. We could see how our
son interacted with us over weeks. Our bonding was almost
immediate. He started calling us Mama and Papa from day 2.
Studies have shown that attachment is not about age, that the
critical factor is how many different places the child has lived.
Our son was a happy little boy when we met him and he still is.
We adopted him when he was three and after early intervention
provided by our school district to address his developmental
delays provided by the State and our district, he is an A student
in second grade.
Enjoy this article by Ellen Singer of the Center for Adoption
Support and Education
Adopting Older ChildrenBy Ellen Singer, LCSW-CThe Center for
Adoption Support and Education, Inc
There are many reasons why prospective parents choose to adopt
children who are older (defined as typically three and up.) For
some it is their own age - because they are "older parents" -
either first-time parents, or having already raised
biological/adopted children, it makes sense to them to parent
older children. Marla, 47 mother of two adopted children, ages 8
and 10 says, "I didn't want to have children in college when I'm
getting ready to retire!" For others, there's a feeling of
wanting to provide a home for a child who really needs one.
"Everyone wants babies," says, Rebecca. "We felt that older
children are sometimes forgotten. They need good homes, too!" For
others, caring for infants and young children is either not that
appealing or doesn't feel practical. "Doug, Rebecca's husband
says, "My wife and I work full-time and have no family in the
area to help out. We felt that an older child would fit more
easily into our lives."
Whatever the motivation, the decision to adopt older children
must come after careful consideration ( KNOW THYSELF!) and
education as to both the many rewards as well as the challenges
involved. Older children come with histories - whether having
lived in foster care, orphanages, or with birth family. Their
pre-adoptive experiences may leave them with unresolved emotional
issues. Such issues include significant loss - of birth family,
possibly including siblings, previous caregivers, and sometimes -
culture, religion, etc. In addition, some children may have
experienced trauma - physical, emotional, sexual abuse; neglect,
witnessing violence, substance abuse, parental psychiatric
Walking in the Child's ShoesAll adopted children need help to
grieve the losses they have experienced. Placed in permanent
families where they experience their new parents' commitment and
loving support, they are often able to address their issues.
Empathetic listening, compassion, and patience from their parents
can help them further develop the resiliency they already have
that enabled them to survive difficult life experiences.
Parenting older children is therefore a very special and
important job. Key to the success of older adoptive placements is
preparation, according to Madeleine Krebs, Clinical Coordinator
at CASE. She notes, "Both the parents' and the child's
expectations need to be carefully explored and adjusted for what
the realities are likely to be. For example, a child coming from
an orphanage may never have lived in a family and therefore may
have no idea as to how a family functions. Having experienced
multiple caregivers, he may have no model for being able to
understand what a "Mom or Dad" is. On a practical level, for
example, he may never have ridden in a car with a seatbelt, or
been to a grocery store. And of course, he is experiencing these
cultural differences in a foreign language."
Ms. Krebs notes that children may be very excited, and/or scared
about the new changes, and have difficulty adjusting to parental
expectations. They may be confused by how the reality differs
from their fantasies of what life would be like after adoption.
Ms. Krebs describes how one seven year old girl moving into a
family with older siblings was terrified of them because in her
orphanage in Russia, the older children were often in charge of
the younger ones and were quite hurtful to them. The parents'
knowledge of their daughter's orphanage experience enabled them
to prepare the older siblings to adjust the ways they interacted
with their new sister until she grew comfortable with them. This
meant a great deal to the girl and enabled her to learn that the
roles of older children - siblings - in her family included that
of protection of younger siblings, helping her to feel safe.
An older child coming from foster care may have multiple models
of what parents are like and unfortunately, some of their
experiences may not have been positive ones. They too, may have a
mix of feelings of excitement, fear and confusion. Ms. Krebs
says, "One little eight year old boy with a history of physical
abuse, adopted by a single mother, would hang his head and become
mute whenever he was upset, and then later get into trouble with
aggressive behavior toward peers at school. It was likely that
his birth parents told him to keep quiet and that his silence
kept him from further abuse." With therapeutic support from his
therapist and loving encouragement from his mother, he learned
how to verbalize his feelings. He eventually became more
confident in expressing his feelings in new and positive ways.
Children involved in concurrent planning, where the plan may have
been reunification with the birth family are likely to be quite
confused about this plan and show signs of anxiety that may be
difficult to understand. Again, parents need to take into account
the earlier chapters of their older child's life experiences for
clues to make sense of present day behavior or emotions.
What Parents Can DoMs. Krebs notes that in light of this
understanding, parents need to be very patient with themselves
and with the children. Older children will go through many
changes as they learn how to develop reciprocal relationships
with their new family members. "It just takes time," she says.
"It helps tremendously if parents have a good understanding of
the child's pre-placement history and are prepared to listen to
their child's stories from the past. They must be also be
prepared to do a lot of teaching about what is expected in their
family - Parents must continually state, 'In our family, we don't
do___. This is what WE do. One ten year old boy stated that in
previous placements, everyone ate dinner in their own rooms. He
had to adjust to the fact that in his adoptive family, family
members were expected to eat dinner together. Of course, it is
equally important that parents be open to incorporating some of
the child's wishes (such as traditions and rituals) into family
One of the most difficult aspects of parenting older children is
the patience required for the time it may take for a mutually
satisfying attachment to occur. In her book, Attaching in
Adoption, Deborah Gray notes that it can take up to one to two
years for the love to come. Many children who have been
traumatized may be quite resistant to love for fear of being hurt
and rejected. When parents can remember how long their courtship
took to lead to a committed relationship, they can have more
realistic expectations of themselves and their child.
Parents often report feeling guilty when there are times when
they have negative feelings about their children. Others feel
lonely when family or friends do not understand how hard it can
be sometimes. Support is critical for parents to know that what
they are experiencing is normal, and important for helping them
Adopting an older child can bring great joy to both parents and
the child. The willingness to work with unique challenges is not
right for everyone, but for those who choose to bring an older
child into their lives, the hard work can bring great happiness.
Adoption Services International unites loving US families with
Ukrainian children. We provide a unique combination of
professional, individualized, quality service (including a
maximum guaranteed adoption fee), personal adoption experience,
affordable local cost and 20 years Ukrainian experience.
If you or someone you love would like to expand your family,
provide a permanent home for a needy orphaned child, welcome a
sibling for an existing child or discover an alternative for
infertility treatments - contact us to learn more about Ukrainian
adoption, Adoption Services International can help.
Ukrainian Adoption 101:
Conversation On International Adoption: Opportunity, Process,
Concerns and Questions
Monday, November 12, 2012 6:00-7:00PM
Location: Califon Book Store: 72 Main Street, Califon, New Jersey
Ukrainian Adoption Information Meeting
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:00-8:00PM
Location: Wellness Rocks: 133 Rupell Road, Clinton, New Jersey