Worth the Risk
Does the adoption of an older child carry a greater risk for both the child and the family that will be created? This is a question I most certainly asked myself two years ago as I studied the file of a older child living in an orphanage in China, in the city of Changzhi.
Parents often worry that older children will experience attachment issues that will make it difficult for them to bond with their new family. I worried about this.
Parents also struggle with the knowledge that life in an orphanage sometimes creates a set of institutional behaviors that make it difficult to parent a particular child. I worried about this as well.
I spent lots of time reading about older child adoption. I talked to parents who had done it. I researched attachment and post-institutional issues. I felt like I was prepared and educated. I expected that adopting an older child would be difficult. I went into it with eyes wide open, knowing that it would likely be a challenge for both me and Abby, and then…
…I was pleasantly surprised!
On September 3, 2013, I found myself waiting in the Civil Affairs office in Taiyuan, China. All at once, I heard our guide excitedly announcing that Abby….my daughter!….was coming down the hallway. I remember trying so hard not to cry as she walked into the room. She was so brave. As she walked through that door, she was literally leaving everything she knew behind. She tells me now that she was scared, but she certainly did not show it. I have thought many times over the last year that she walked into that room and handed me her heart….completely, without reservation, in total faith that what lay ahead was better than what was behind. She seemed to know…she seemed to understand that she needed and wanted a family.
In the last year, I have watched her grow. Certainly, she has grown taller and heavier, but she has also grown in confidence and maturity. Gone is the girl that did not know what to do with her arms and legs when I picked her up…she is now the best snuggler in our house. Gone is the girl who did not understand a word of English…she was completely fluent in just two months! Gone is the girl who cried because she was old enough to understand that maybe, no one would ever come for her….she now has so many people who love her and a family that adores her!
By the time Abby was adopted, she had spent eight years inside the walls of an orphanage. Certainly, she could have arrived with attachment issues…she did not. Certainly, she could have exhibited a host of post-institutional behaviors…I have seen none. What I do see is a child who so very badly needed and wanted a family. In the last year, Abby has thrived. She has adjusted to life in America and is learning to trust those who love her so very much.
Abby as a student at Believe in Me Changzhi
Many of the children placed for adoption from the Changzhi Social Welfare Institute are older. It is my understanding that this orphanage began their international adoption program in 2010, so there are many older children waiting for their chance to have a family. Thanks to the internet, Abby is in contact with many of her friends from Changzhi who have been adopted and now live in America. It is remarkable how well each of these children has adjusted. Each of these older children has been nothing for a blessing for their families!
There are currently two older children from Changzhi who are waiting and hoping to be adopted. These children need someone to love them, someone to fight for them, someone to claim them. I know firsthand that adopting an older child can be scary, but maybe you, too, will be surprised and blessed beyond your wildest imagination.
Please take a look at Tomas and Yago below….they are older and have been waiting a long time for a family of their own. Please consider if maybe, just maybe, they are waiting on you.
Read more about Tomas in “Tomas: Eight is Great!“
Read more about Yago in his latest blog, “Yago: Full of Determination“. Yago also has a $4,000 Adoption Assistance Grant!
~Jennifer Strickland is the mom to Abby, previously a student in LWB’s Believe in Me school in Changzhi where she was known as “Victoria”.