Adoption: What You Need to Know About Bringing Home an Older Child … or Children

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Thinking about adopting? Many children ages 9 and older are in need of a home here in Cincinnati. Do you have what it takes to help?

Deciding to become an adoptive parent typically comes following a long, exhaustive and emotional journey. Whether it is derived from a last resort at infertility or in an effort to keep relatives together, there are many reasons families  decide to adopt.

Yet, accepting a child into your heart and home who is not your own can be overwhelming. There are many considerations to take into account when deciding about adoption such as your capacity for being emotionally available to a young human in need. There are also legal and financial obligations that will bind your commitment. And the truth is, there are thousands of children who need a forever homes. That said, there are also many couples (and individuals) who want to have a child in their home.

Effectively fusing these needs — successfully matching children with families — is an ongoing, daunting, effort that goes on every day. Becoming an adoptive parent is a very intentional action. Therefore, it is important to know what to expect when choosing to adopt a child.

Legal Process

Placing children in the hands of any adult requires that safety be the number one priority. Those who wish to adopt must obtain the services of an adoption agency or adoption lawyer to establish a petition and initiate proceedings (domestically or internationally). The agency becomes the “middleman” in the process, not only working to match children to families, but also assisting in the ongoing maze of legal paperwork and details which can sometimes drag on and on.

Education is key for everyone involved. The adoption process requires an in-depth background check, interviews for all family members in the home and home studies completed by a social workers and/or agency representative.

Dave Willacker, owner of the entertainment company Cincinnati Circus, adopted six siblings one year ago. His children had tossed around in foster care for years.

“The road is long,” Willacker says. “You have to take classes, you have to get a home inspection, you have to get a fire inspection; but, there are wonderful people to guide you through the process and the first step is making a phone call,” he says.

Once you contact an adoption agency — or Job & Family Services — their task is to guide you through all the adoption steps. The steps aren’t hard, but there are a lot of them. Willacker says he and his wife started working on their adoption three or four years before it actually happened.

Financial Costs

The adoption journey can cost tens of thousands of dollars; upwards of $45K. Attorney fees, court fees, application fees and home preparation and travel expenses are just some of the ways money will be spent. Depending on the agency you work with, costs will vary, so preparation is everything.

Patience, Communication, Love and Selflessness

And then there’s the child … or children. To safely transition an adopted child into a new family requires critical characteristics for the adult(s) to master. Trust and security must be established for the adopted child. These key elements build confidence – the very trait that homeless children tend to lack. Life with a newly adopted child will be a constant “show and prove” in the child’s eyes; new parents have to imagine what the child has been through and the promises which may have been broken by other adults.

Love is very important for the good times, as well as the bad. Everything may or may not go so smoothly in the beginning, so loving the adopted children through those changes (putting their needs first) will instill in them
what they need to feel worthy which is a sense of belonging.

Carol Alexander of Cincinnati was an adopted child and she recalls the many ups and downs. A 60-year-old grandmother today, she sheds insight on the adopted child’s point of view.

“It was both rough and easy,” Alexander says. “Rough because I knew I wouldn’t see my mom and dad again. But it was easy because I had my siblings. There are times where you cry to yourself. But as long as you’re in a loving environment, you’re OK.

“I learned how to be strong at a young age,” Alexander says. She says it was the patience, love and selflessness that her adoptive grandmother demonstrated which gave Alexander and her siblings a solid foundation despite the raw circumstances of their earlier lives.

Emotional Preparation

It takes deep introspection before initiating the first steps toward adoption. In some cases, becoming an adoptive parent is sprung on individuals by a family member experiencing hardship. But no matter what, if you are not emotionally equipped to handle a child, it will not be a positive situation. Adoption is a life-altering decision, and it is completely appropriate to work through any internal conflicts you may feel before agreeing to it.

Learn Each Child Individually

Parenting in general, can be tough! Parenting adopted children is that much more challenging with respect to experiences they’ve had outside of your guidance. There is a lot to unpack as you learn personalities and behavioral triggers.

Every child is different, and though siblings may have gone through difficult experiences together, those experiences may impact siblings differently. As the adoptive parent of siblings, you must do your due diligence to provide each of them with what they need (a little space at first, extra attention, extra hugs, positive reinforcements, etc.) to overcome any past trauma, sadness or doubts about the future.

Seek Therapy

Therapy is a great go-to. According to the American Psychological Association, “Therapy sessions deliver evidence based, child-coping strategies and positive parenting approaches that are tailored to account for a child’s past history.”

It’s good to get help. The goal is to become a healthy and happy family by maintaining a successful adoption. Therapy can alleviate the stress and anxiety in the household.

Lead With Love

As parents, all we can do is our best. Our best is our love. Janet Jones Bell, former educator with Cincinnati Public Schools, adopted two nieces.

“The advice I have for others is if it concerns family members and you are able to take care of them so that they stay within the family – do it!” Bell says.

As long as you operate from the heart, great things will prevail for the family. What love looks like is giving children a hopeful future and the benefits of a stable home where it may have been unimaginable.

“For those who choose to adopt kids who are not from within your biological family, be sure to learn all there is to know about the child and how to prepare for any issues they may have. Kids need stability, understanding, guidance and unconditional love,” she continues.

According to available statistics, more than 2,600 children in Ohio are waiting to be adopted; more than 1,000 of them are teenagers and in Kentucky, there are more than 8,000 children in and out of home care with an average age of 9.7 years.

For both Ohio and Kentucky, the foster-to-adoption route is the “speediest” kind of adoption, with an average of a 6 month approval process. Aside from kindship programs, there is an average two to seven years spent in the adoption cycle. Adoptions change lives, and in many instances saves lives!

“It’s all worth it in the end,” says Willacker.

If it is on your heart to make a difference, there are incredible resources available to help you become a hero to someone who needs you today.

Nyketa is proud mother of a 15-year-old daughter who is bright, funny and an aspiring actress. She is a local freelance writer, enjoys creative environments and colorful personalities. Nyketa aspires to tour the world, write books, eat great food and inspire children to be their best selves!

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