Kids & Parenting

What is the best age to adopt a child?

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Choosing the right aged children to adopt will enrich your lives and theirs forever
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The decision to adopt an infant or older child requires careful consideration

The decision to adopt can happen in many ways. 

Perhaps you've never given birth to a child of your own, whether by choice or circumstance, and you want to become a parent. Maybe the thought of bringing a child in need into your family has been a goal for years. Or maybe you've just met or heard of a child who tugged at your heartstrings, and now are considering adopting for the very first time. 

Whatever brought you to this moment, one of the most common questions prospective adoptive parents have is about the best age to adopt a child. Should they adopt an infant or an older child? 

While there is no one right answer for every family, here are a few things to consider as you begin the adoption process:

What does my family look like now?

Many adoptive families already have biological or step children. Before adding a new child to your family, consider the ages of your existing children. Experts generally recommend that families adopt children younger than their own children. Adding a child older than existing family members can disrupt the family dynamics, making successful adoption more difficult. That would mean that a family with teens could consider adding an elementary school aged child or a younger teen, while a family with preschoolers would probably fare better adding an infant or toddler. 

How much energy and time do I have for parenthood?

A few years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker that read "Adoption is forever." Prospective adoptive parents need to keep that thought in mind as they consider what the best age to adopt a child might be. The child you adopt today will grow and depend upon you for life. At what age should you enter that process?

People with jobs that keep them out of the home on a daily basis might elect to adopt a school aged child whose schedule would better match their own. Families who work from home, or who have the option of a full time parent at home might be a better match for an infant who will need around the clock care. 

If you're not sure how much energy parenthood demands, spend some time with parents who have infants, toddlers, school aged children or teens. Ask questions about sleep schedules, homework, playtime and other needs. Try to be as realistic as possible as you decide whether you could provide the amount of care and attention a child of that age requires. 

Where am I in life?

As difficult as it may be to face, the right age to adopt a child may have as much to do with our own age as that of the child. If you're in your 50's or 60's, consider how old you will be when your child enters school, goes through their teens or graduates high school. Will you feel comfortable at that age doing those things? While you may have the energy for an infant now, will you be able to help a child through high school and the dating years when you're in your 70's? And how will your child react to having a parent significantly older than his or her peers? 

Take a close look at health issues and your own parents' abilities and problems as they aged. If they have passed, how old would your children be if you followed the same trend? 

There is no one right answer

While there are many factors to consider as you begin the adoption process, the most important thing to keep in mind is that adoption is a wonderful to create, add to or complete a family. And there is no one right answer to any of the questions you may have. Consider your family, your ability to meet a child's needs and your plans. Then open your heart. Somewhere, out there, a child is waiting for someone exactly like you.

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