Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adopting An Older Child

Let’s face it, the older orphaned children are the ones less adopted. Line them up next to an infant or toddler, and generally they will get picked last, time after time. Babies are cuter, more impressionable, less opinionated, and are perceived by many to come with less baggage than a school age child, adolescent, or teenager. Older orphaned children are often given the label of being less trainable, less loving, more challenging to parent, more hardened of heart, and of having extreme behavioral and emotional issues to work through. That jam-packed sentence is enough to scare anybody off, including myself. Which is why when we started our adoption, we requested a child aged between 1 ½ to 3 years. This was the age that I was comfortable with. This was the age that I sort of had a handle on how to parent because we were living it out with JJ and Jayla at the time. This age seemed doable. So what happened? Well, God happened. Slowly, throughout our adoption, we sort of stumbled into adopting an older child. Although in hindsight I can now see that what was really going on was God slowly warming our hearts up to taking in Justice, but He did it in small steps. I can honestly tell you that if Justice’s referral was the first referral we had gotten we would have easily passed it on and waited for the referral of a younger child. Shocking to think about, isn’t it? But we really would have. Over the course of 1 year we accepted Solomon’s referral…age 4. Then when that fell through we accepted our next referral…two boys aged 3 and 8. Then after their referral also fell through we received Justice’s referral a few months later. I remember sitting there with my laptop, getting ready to open Justice’s referral info….and just praying…..God, please make it clear. When I opened up Justice’s referral I saw his age listed as 5. I remember saying to myself that is older than we were hoping for. I knew with that age we would already have to start thinking about school options and everything. And then when I looked at his picture I thought, wow, he even looks older than 5….but it was so hard to tell. I called Jake and the first thing he said was, “Doesn’t it look like he has red hair?!?! We HAVE to take him!” I couldn’t really tell if he had red hair or not from the picture, but I could see that it was a lighter shade. But Jake was so excited and his emotions overflowed into my heart. As I prayed for God’s direction on whether or not we should accept the referral, God really gave me such a peace in my heart about Justice. And we eventually accepted. As I’ve blogged about before, we now believe that Justice is older than what his birth certificate has him currently listed at….6. But, I smile at that because I think God did that on purpose. If Justice would have been listed 2 years older when we got his referral….listed at age 7 instead of 5, we likely would have passed his referral by. But it didn’t happen that way, and GOD ROCKS!

Two Sundays ago at the adoption awareness event, the parent panel was asked by someone in the crowd if we could sort of advocate for adopting an older child. Jake spoke up and said that older orphaned children for the most part understand the opportunity that they are being given by way of adoption. Of course this is not always the case, but the large majority can really comprehend this chance they’ve been given….to have a loving family and the security of having their basic needs met. That’s not to say that they won’t test your love and have issues and things to work through, but they understand what is being done for them.

After Jake mentioned this a few of the families on the panel chimed in with stories of how their older adopted children supported this comment. One family had adopted a school aged girl from China. This child was deaf and had never been taught how to communicate. When she was adopted her new family taught her sign language. And one day this little girl was sitting in her room, with tears rolling down her face. When her mom walked in she asked her why she was crying. And the little girl signed back that she was so grateful to have a room with toys and things to do. She said that she was so bored at the orphanage in China.

Another story was about a young adopted child who got to experience Christmas. When the next year came around, and Christmas was up again she said to her mom, “You mean we get to do all of that again?” Just the joy of getting to celebrate Christmas was so fulfilling for this child, and she couldn’t believe that they got to do the wonderful celebration all over again.

On a rainy day this summer a fellow adoptive mom blogged about her daughter from Haiti saying that she was so thankful to have a nice, warm house with a roof that didn’t let in the rain.

Last week at school Justice had a take-home-project to do in which he was supposed to describe something that he was thankful for, and then we had to draw a picture on a corn cob cut-out to illustrate it. When I asked him what he was thankful for he said, “Oh Mommy, you know what I am thankful for….” pause, big smile, and then he said “coming here.” :) And this was what we came up with for the picture (sorry for the blur…couldn’t get the camera to focus):

It’s kind of hard to see, but he drew a little picture of me, Daddy, JJ, Jayla and himself there on the bottom husk. :)

And here’s a video that perfectly illustrates all of this:

And because I don’t want to leave you in tears, here’s a video to make you laugh!


Diers said...

Oh have me bawling this morning! As a family also called to care for the older children, it is such a good feeling to hear how others "get it" your your heart more! And...we were laughing so hard at the last video..Faith kept saying "Play it again! Play it again!"

Jodi Widhalm said...

Thanks for sharing, Janel! Found you via Jen Diers on FB. We are in the process of beginning an adoption from Sierra Leone and are praying and weighing in our hearts what we can "do" so far as ages.....thanks for the insight. You have a beautiful family!