Older Child Adoption -- Parental Perspective
John and Jane are the adoptive parents of a 16 year old Colombian girl. Their situation is unusual only in that they are both in their late 50's, early 60's. Their daughter came to them purely through serendipity three years ago.
Jane has agreed to share their experiences adopting an older child in a series of "stream of consciousness" essays. Check back on this blog to read more about them -- you will find them under the label Older Child Adoption. Now here is Jane's first contribution.
In the summer of 2005, my husband read about Colombian orphans being hosted in our city through the sponsorship of Kidsave International. We had finished raising our two biological children: both were in their early 20's and out of the house. There was something about one of the children that resonated with us, and we quickly found ourselves taking our first steps on the path to adoption of a 13 year old girl, N., who hadn't found a family yet.
Once we met her and she got to spend time with us, it just seemed natural to bring her into our family. Over gelato one afternoon, before she returned to Colombia, N. talked about always wanting a family: she told me in a matter of fact way about an Italian family who had started the adoption process when she was 6, but then decided to "change their minds". I asked her, "Did that bother you?" She just shrugged.
We tearfully told her goodbye at the airport and started the adoption process -- a long, drawn-out ordeal. It became especially annoying as N.'s records were lost somewhere in Bogotá, and the lawyer, who was assigned to us by the adoption agency, failed to expedite our case. Long story short, we fired the lawyer, hired another, spent a long time in Bogotá getting the business of adoption accomplished and finally got to bring our daughter home.
I've been thinking long and hard about what to write. Here's what you first need to know.
The older child isn't going to believe that anyone is going to want him/her.
Why should she? She's been in a foster home or, in the case of our daughter, in an orphanage for 6,7,10, 12 years. It's the ultimate in rejection. So why, why, why would anyone want her NOW? She's been abandoned and rejected: in her own mind she is unlovable. She has a great facade: you wouldn't know that there is zero self-esteem in there unless you delved deeper.
And that's exactly what needs to happen. This is also where the professionals come in.
The first thing we did was to find a bilingual therapist who treats adolescents with abandonment and self-esteem issues. When your older child is asked to list three things about himself that she likes, she won't be able to come up with a single one. But she'll be able to tell you a dozen "bad" things about herself. You will end up blessing your child's therapist. Don't believe that, just because your child is behaving, that she doesn't have these awful feelings about herself. Start the healing process as soon as you can.
Observations on the "perfect" adoptive family.