Adopting & Fostering Older Kids
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Adopting & Fostering Older Kids
I am just starting to look into the potential for adopting a
3 - 5 year old child (I have a 6 year old son who is
biologically mine). I am open to various ethnicities and
countries of origin (including the US). However, I
understand that many countries are scaling back the number
of US adoptions they allow - and, for US adoptions, there
are some policies and regulations that make it difficult to
adopt older children who were born here. For those of you
who have adopted older children, I'd appreciate hearing
about your experience - and getting any advice and counsel
that you'd like to share.
we adopted a 4 (he might have been 4.5) year old boy from
Ethiopia last year. He is our 2nd son - our older son was
adopted in 2005 from Russia and was 6 at the time we adopted
the 2nd one. Too much to write about advice and experience -
I work for Family Builders a non-profit adoption agency that
places children from the US with families in the US. It
sounds like you are thinking of a variety of different types
of adoption options. Each one has its own process and
time-line. I might suggest that in addition to asking folks
about their experience you come to a panel presentation that
we're having on May 26th between 6-8pm in Oakland. There
will be a variety of representatives to speak about
different adoption options, along with an adoption attorney.
If you're interested in attending, you'll need to RSVP by
May 15th to 510-272-0204 ext. 370. Our services are free and
this event is also free. If you want to ask any questions
about the type of adoptions we do, please feel free to call
me at the same number, I'm happy to help if I can.
Have you considered adopting from foster care? You can become a licensed
foster-adopt parent in your county and specify the age range you are most
interested in adopting. The county will do your home study and will match
you with a child. I think this is the most common route to take for people
who are not interested in adopting infants. A child placed in your home
would be a ''legal risk'' placement. That means that he/she would probably
still have visits with birth family and there would be a possibility that the child
would be reunified with the family. But you can specify at the outset the level
of legal risk you are comfortable with and many people adopt children
successfully through foster care. That is how we adopted our son. On the
plus side for families, foster adoption is essentially free, whereas international
adoption can easily cost 20-30K or more. You also usually have more
information about your child's background and history. If you go the
international route, make sure you do your homework and find a reputable
agency. There are significant ethical issues that can come up in international
adoption, so it is important that the people you work with are really looking
out for the interests of the children and families and are completely above
board. But international adoption is certainly possible if you choose to go
that route. Yes, some countries have started limiting adoptions and others
have closed, but international adoptions are still happening.
Either way, do a lot of reading and research about older child adoption before
you adopt. When adopting an older child, you are usually parenting a child
with a history of trauma (at the very least, separation from their past
caregivers) and possibly abuse and/or neglect. This is true with both foster
and international adoption. (Children cared for in orphanages often suffer
from neglect, and of course, children in foster care almost always are
removed for neglect or abuse.) It is very different from parenting birth
children or children adopted as an infant. Some children adjust and do very
well, and some have significant needs and issues. All will need to be parented
differently from your birth children, at least at the outset. I wish you the
A Parent Through Foster Adoption
I am part of an organization who deals with Ukrainian
orphans (we don't deal with adoption), so I do know quite
a few people who have adopted internationally so I can put
you in touch with pointers and agency recommendations if
you do decide to go international. I have heard through a
social worker that China is the best country to adopt from
if you are going international but the wait can be
significant. It depends on what you are looking for.
China can be a couple of years, Ukraine is about a year,
Kazakhstan is less time for paperwork in and in country
stay. California is supposed to be one of the hardest
states to adopt from. In the end, it's all worth the goal.
Another consideration for international adoption is
hosting. pardon the crudity but you can ''try before you
buy''. It can be the best investment you make and there
kids who are part of a hosting program are usually older
Feel free to e-mail me if you need any further help. I'll
do my best to get the answers for you.
I wish you the best in your efforts to build a loving
family. Our family was built through foster-adoption
through the county; one of our children was older when she
joined us. We've heard good things about Family Builders as
well as PACT, an adoption alliance (through whom we continue
to get significant support). They are worth checking out.
Going to information sessions like the one at Family
Builders mentioned earlier or through the county.
I want to echo the person who stated that '' [t]here are
significant ethical issues that can come up in international
adoption, so it is important that the people you work with
are really looking out for the interests of the children
[...]'' Honestly, I think very similar ethical issues come
up in domestic adoption and that thoughtful people who are
willing to read and listen to the stories of adult adoptees
as well as birthparents can navigate those ethical
http://www.pactadopt.org/adoptive/reading.html for some
possibly helpful readings.
Another Parent Through Foster Adoption
My wife and I have 2 adopted son's. One moved in when he
was 2 1/2 and the other at 3 1/2. Both were from California
and came to us through the foster care system. I'm not sure
what you've heard about any hoops to jump through or what
people have told you is hard about it...however, i wouldn't
call the process of them moving in hard. Parenting them is
hard But finding them and having them move in was not.
There is a process to go through for sure and it can take a
few months or longer depending on circumstances but i would
say that's to be expected for what you are getting out of
it. We worked with a great agency, Adopt a Special Kid
(AASK.org). Check it out if only for some more resources on
adoption. If you have any specific questions about adopting
through foster care feel free to email me. I am more than
happy to share what i know.
Adopting older children. I am sure the results vary from
case to case, but my experience was hellish. There is
almost no way to prepare someone for the problems that
accompany trying to parent a wounded child. Please read as
much as you can about Reactive Attachment Disorder. The
head of San Francisco Social Services tried in a gentle way
to warn me by saying, ''There is very little satisfaction or
gratification from adopting an older child such as this.''
As a lay person, watching an adorable green-eyed five year
old tumbling around, I had no way to conceive of what she
meant. It was horrible. These children have survived by
manipulation and it doesn't stop when they have a home. If
you are going to do this, I highly suggest getting some
counseling both before and after. When I was at the end of
my rope (and I can sympathize with the lady who sent her
adoted child back to Russia,) I had the good fortune to
meet a therapist that helped us immensely. She walked me
through, step by step, ways to make life bearable. I am so
grateful to her. Today, 10 years later, things are better,
much better. I never thought that I would see the day when I could
honestly say I loved this child, but I can today. If I had
to do it all over again, I would not. But I am grateful
that things have gotten substantially better. Good luck!
Two months ago we became foster parents for a 13-year-old we
already knew--we are not licensed foster parents, but
because he can no longer live with his abusive and
neglectful bio parents, we are going to be his new permanent
family. We just moved from SF to Davis, and our new son came
with us to also be near his older brother, who lives here.
Our new son has lots of issues, some of which we've worked
through quite quickly, but as I try to tease out some of his
behaviors, I think a lot are due to anxiety. It's anxiety
about everything, from plugging in a rice cooker to strange
men to germs and on and on. And on! As someone with a
personal and family history of anxiety, this is looking
familiar to me. He is finally seeing a counselor (took a
while for the referral process to click in up here), but
since he absolutely hates the idea of therapy, it's going to
be a while before she can give us any concrete advice. SF
County is paying the bill and offers nothing else. Does
anyone have suggestions for books on foster parenting,
working with children with anxiety, or working with children
with histories of neglect and abuse? Or any other form of
support that seems relevant? I am investigating local
resources, but at the end of the day, this is my job, and I
want to do it well...and I want to not go crazy doing it!
even bigger job than I expected
It is wonderful you have opened your heart to this boy...it
is not an easy task for either of you, but there is healing
at the end of the road. I have worked with foster/adoptive
kids for years, and anxiety is understandably a primary
issues kids have to deal with. Attachment issues will be
another. Be sure your therapist is specifically experienced
in attachment and foster/adoptive issues. There are a ton of
resources out there, including books - 'Parenting the Hurt
Child', comes to mind, but there are many. Contact your
local FFA (fost adopt agency), even if you are not working
through one, they have social workers that can give
resources (Lilliput comes to mind in the Davis area, but
there are others). Parenting a foster child takes a
village, do not feel you have to do this alone, there is a
world of resources out there. It will get better!
Blessings to you for taking on this very difficult and very
important job. I commend you for reaching out for support.
You are going need (and you deserve) a lot. As we all know
parenting is never and easy job. Taking over mid-way for a
child who has been abused, neglected and/or abandoned means
you are inheriting a multitude of problems you did not
create but now want to remedy.
I am surprised by your statement that your son's therapist
cannot offer any concrete advice at this time. If the
therapist has background and experience working with
adoptive families and/or foster youth she ought to have some
guidance she can offer you right away as you find your
bearings as a family. If the therapist does not have this
background and experience find one who does! This is
critical. Professionals who know a lot about children but
not about the specific issues faced by foster and adoptive
youth often end up giving advice that is counterproductive,
ineffective, or even harmful.
As a community service I offer one or two free consultation
sessions for families who have adopted older children or
adopted through the fost/adopt system. If your intention is
to be your son's permanent family you qualify for the free
sessions even if you are not going through he formal
adoption process. Please give me a call*. I can help you
understand what types of services you, your son and the rest
of your family might need. I may be able to help identify
funding sources for additional mental health treatment. If
distance is an issue we can consult via phone. This is not
a marketing ploy. There is no expectation that you will
ever see me for paid services. I just want to offer my
support and help point in your in the right direction for
getting the long term support you need.
Katrinca Ford, MFT email@example.com
Even though he doesn't like going for counseling, he's still
at an age where you can make him go, so make sure he goes.
He doesn't have to be cooperative for the therapist( if
good) to give you good, pertinent advice.
Some recent studies have shown that a child who deals well
with life stress( which we all have in greater or lesser
degrees at different times in life) will tend to be less
prone to addictions and various other problems as they grow,
so it would be great if between now and when he's 18 you
could help him develop a variety of tools for stressful
situations This could be anything from sports, hobbies,
music, art, religion, meditation, friendships( that is the
kind of things many adults use for stress) but probably
should also include some teen-appropriate Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy(CBT) for stress. This last thing is quite
different than old-fashioned ''therapy'' as it's more like a
class on building practical coping skills that lasts 6-15
sessions ( and often includes ''homework'' in the form of
trying out certain tools when stress comes up and seeing if
they work. This has been seen to be quite helpful for
anxiety of many kinds and has a lasting effect.
Lastly be sure to specifically ask the therapist if he has
PTSD. Children are more prone to it when under stressful
conditions ( abusive situations etc). If he's diagnosed with
this, CBT can still help, but you'd also want to add some
other mental health care. If he's afraid of strange men, you
should also specifically let the therapist know that.
It sounds like you're doing a very good job supporting your
new son. Based on my experience fostering and then adopting
an older child, I recommend that you seek out other foster
and adoptive parents for support and resources (including
book recommendations). You might try Yolo County's foster
care program to see if there's a parent group you could
join. I found this website that might be a good place to
FAIR also has a good list of resources, including reading
material, on their website:
Even if you're going to be guardians rather than adopting,
the insights will still apply.
Wishing you all the best.
I am a family therapist who has specialized for almost 15 years in working
with foster youth and their parents. I also was a foster parent myself and
between these two experiences I feel pretty certain that I could help you in
some way during this transition. I understand that you live up in Davis now,
but feel free to write me and I can consult with you for no charge. As an
adjunct to the therapy your foster son is just beginning to receive, my
specialty is to work with parents (bio, foster, adoptive, step, etc) on
understanding emotional and behavioral issues in their children and planning
how best to meet their needs, while maintaining a functional and sane home. I
am happy to volunteer some time to you to give you some concrete advice as
you adjust to this transition. In addition, there is a book that I have
recommended to other foster/adoptive parents called ''Attachment-Focused
Parenting'' by Daniel Hughes. There is no perfect book, but I like this one for
its practical advice and non-judgmental presentation. Another book is ''Can
This Child Be Saved? Solutions for Adoptive and Foster Families'' by Foster
Cline and Cathy Helding. Look these up and see if they fit what you are
Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk through some of the issues,
or learn about other resources.
Try this website for Heather Forbes, LCSW:
I think Heather Forbes is a wonderful resource for families
with children who have a history of trauma or neglect. She
has written three great books detailing her thinking about
how children handle trauma and the kind of parenting that
helps them feel safe and loved so they can begin to heal.
If you are feeling overwhelmed yourself (and that would be
pretty human) these books - and her other resources - will
really help you get centered again and help you know what to
do to lovingly and effectively parent your new son. You
have my very best wishes.
another adoptive mom
Thank you for being a caring foster parent. Anxiety is
an issue I know a lot about because I have experienced it
personally growing up. I was not abused, but my parents
had issues: there was a divorce, a new step dad and so on.
Another area to look at, surprisingly, is school. When I
was a kid I experienced a huge amount of teasing and
bullying at school. Some kids and people tend to have more
anxiety than others. I had a lot. Any little thing could
be anxiety producing. Followed by a barrage of negative
thoughts. First the good news. I did not have therapy or
meds. I basically outgrew the major anxiety issues. How
did I get through? Books, TV, radio, pets, a couple of
good friends, baseball cards, and one or two understanding
adults along the way. There are two excellent books for
parents and foster parents on the subject that I would
like to recommend. First, Trauma Through a Child's Eyes by
Peter A. Levine; and second, Santa's Take on Parenting.
The latter book is a teaching tool for professionals to
give to parents and foster parents of kids with issues. It
is written in the form of a narrative story. It can be
read free in its entirety online at www.santastake.com
Hi, i'm a parent of 2 foster children both younger than
yours but i do have some information that might be
helpful. Our adoption agency is called Adopt A Special
Kid (www.aask.com) and has a ton of great resources for
foster parents. They often have online parent training
courses on a number of different topics so even though
they are located in Oakland you could definitly take
On a more personal level something I learned in one of
AASK's trainings was to learn to survive the behavior.
Our kids have gone through unimaginable hardships and
their behavior is based on survival for them. Sometimes
there is something specific you can do to help them out of
that behavior and sometimes there isn't. They need to
work it out over time. In those cases it's best to find a
way personally to survive the behavior so you can just be
with them through it and not go crazy. Just being there
is going to be what changes things for him over time and
the most important thing. Not the prettiest answere but
it has actually helped me a lot.
Email me if you want to discuss further. I have an
anxious one too and I'm sure we could swap some drive you
mad moments :) Hang in there, you're doing great!
We have started thinking about adopting an older child.
We already have a biological 7 year old son. We just
started the conversation so we know nothing about the
issue. Does anyone have any experience with a case like
ours? Right now we have tons of questions, so we prefer
to hear other people's experience and go from there.
You're smart to ask for people's experiences to inform
your decision. We adopted our daughter when she was five
and a half. We don't have any other children, so our
family life is different than yours would be.
It's hard to summarize our experience over the past six
years. It's been both harder and more meaningful than
anything I've done in my life. You should know that
children who are available for adoption have experienced
more trauma than anyone should in a lifetime, and your
family will have to live with and 'hold' that trauma along
with your child. It is very, very hard. With support,
though, it can be wonderful.
The best book of the many I've read about adoption is The
Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao. I also
recommend that you contact FAIR (Families Adopting in
Response), www.fairfamilies.org, which has quite a few
families that combine kids born and adopted into their
If you decide to pursue this, there are quite a few good
agencies that work with people adopting children from
foster care. We worked with AASK (Adopt A Special Kid) and
love them, and have friends who had very good experiences
with Family Builders. Both are in Oakland.
You have the chance to make an immeasurable difference in
the life of a child.
proud adoptive mother
We adopted a 4 year old girl through the Alameda County
fost-adopt program. She came to us as a foster child at 3
years old, and we adopted her when she was 4 yrs old and all
the paperwork was finished. At that time of the adoption,
our birth daughter was 7. This worked very well as the
newer child took her cue's from our birth daughter and was
able to fit into our family life with less stress. It was a
great way to complete our family!
Adoption can be pretty emotional for everyone, and you could
be really adding another challenge if the adopted child is
older than your birth child. Having said that, it depends a
lot on the specifics of the situation. Just be aware that
the younger child will likely look up to the older child in
some ways, and that your adopted child will bring some
behaviors in from their previous situation.
Happy to have adopted a 4 yr old
Family Builders is an adoption agency with an office in
Oakland (near Lake Merritt: 401 Grand Ave. #400) and an
office in SF. Their website is familybuilders.org. They
have programs specifically with older youth and have a lot
of experience in this area. You can call them at (510)
272-0204 and speak to a social worker who can answer your
questions. Even if you decide to go with another agency,
this would be a good starting point.
Hello, does anyone have knowledge about what happens to young
people who have lived in a foster care home their whole lives
and then turn 18 years old and are kicked out.
I know a lovely senior at Oakland High who will graduate June
2006. Her birthday is Jan 2006 so she is being tossed out of
her ''home'' early January. I want to help her, looking for
housing as well as what services are available. She is a A and
B student who works a part time job and she definately wants to
finish high school.
Are there any funds available to help with her expenses? Any
advice will be greatly appreciated.
I was a foster child from the ages of 15 to 17. At the age of 17,
I was forced back to live with my mother who 6 months later
kicked me out. I was 17 years of age, and did not get any
assistance. I did however discuss with my foster parents prior to
moving home what would happen if I were to stay in their home til
age of 18. She said that it is up to the foster parents to decide
whether a foster child can live their past the age of 18. If in
fact this girl will be kicked out on her 18th birthday, it would
probably be more effective for her to discuss her concerns with
her social worker and/or case worker. Her social/case worker
would know better what assistance she would be eligible for and
also be able to give her reference for any of these if need be.
If she has not graduated from High School on her 18th birthday,
she may also be allowed to stay in foster care until doing so. I
believe these situations vary between locations. I would not want
to give inaccurate advice, but at this point, if she is
concerned, she should speak to her social/case worker. That is
what they are there for.
Also, with being a foster child for so long, I was eligible for
many scholarships to colleges (including technical colleges).
This may be something she should also look into if she wants to
further her education upon graduation.
If you have any other questions or comments you feel I could help
with, please feel free to send me an email! Hope this helps a bit
and the best of luck to her!
Thank you for taking an interest in this young woman's well-
being. As you may know from a recent series of articles in the
SF Chron, w/in 1-4 years of ''aging-out'' of the foster care
system, an alarming number of teenagers are unemployed (51%), on
public assistance (40%), homeless (30%), etc. As a CASA (court-
appointed special advocate) volunteer in Alameda County, I have
recently learned there are resources available, but it takes
some work to utilize them. Your teen friend should enroll in
ILSP (Independent Living Skills Program) immediately. ILSP can
help her prepare for life after foster care & learn about the
resources available to her. Check www.alamedacountyilsp.org.
Also check the First Place Fund for Youth at
www.firstplacefund.org, which provides housing and other
resources for youth aging out. There is money for foster youth
to go to college or vocational school. One source is the Chafee
grant; check www.chafee.csac.ca.gov. She can learn about her
rights as a foster youth at www.fosteryouthhelp.ca.gov; the
Office of the Ombudsman for Foster Care publishes ''Resource
Directory: A Guide for Current & Emancipated Foster Youth'' and
other useful publications. The National Center for Youth Law
publishes ''Fight for Your Rights; A Guidebook for California
Foster Youth, Former Foster Youth & Those Who Care About Them''
at www.youthlaw.org. Your friend should work with her lawyer &
social worker (who both probably carry massive caseloads) to see
that she stays in foster care at least until she graduates from
high school. The law can be complicated (I'm at attorney and
I've found it difficult to sort out), but if she's on track to
graduate high school by age 19, she should be able to stay in
care until she graduates. In fact, the dependency court has the
discretion to let her stay in care longer, theoretically until
age 21, although that's not common. Her attorney should fight
for whatever is in her best interests. And, if she's interested
in working to make the system better, she can check out Cal.
Youth Connection, an organization developed by foster youth, at
www.calyouthconn.org. Please contact me directly if you have
questions, as I could go on and on... Good luck!
I work with teens, some of whom are emancipating foster kids,
and there ARE services; they just don't have enough funding to
serve everyone. I hope she can get into one or both of these
programs. First, if she hasn't yet been referred to ILSP by her
county social worker, she should be. ILSP is independent living
skills classes (getting your driver's license, budgeting,
finding work, going to college, finding housing); I believe
this is a county-run program. One of my clients says she got
Section 8 through them, and has a nice apartment. The other is
First Place Fund, which offers the same kind of classes as well
as a program that provides an apartment and a gradually
decreasing rent subsidy over 2 years. I don't have these
numbers handy but you can find them online or in the phone
book. They are both great programs. Email me if you'd like more
I believe that there is a county-run program that helps transition foster youth, and
may even pay rent etc. for the first months after a foster youth turns 18. I wonder,
also, if there are more resources for teens who are still not out of high school. The
program is called (I think) the
Independent living skills program: (county-run program for foster youth in
transition out of foster placement). Here is the link:
There are also some new ''by and for foster youth'' organizations springing up. One
California Youth Connection --run by current and former foster youth as a kind of
public policy organization to improve services to foster youth. Their link is:
www.fosteryouth.net is a website that lists services, provides discussion boards and
resources for foster and emancipated youth in Northern California.
If the girl you mention is interested, A Home Within is a non-profit organization that
provides free ongoing psychotherapy for current and former foster youth as long as
they need it. It is run by psychotherapists in private practice who contribute their
services pro-bono, and is quite reputable. Their link is: http://
The Chronicle just did a story about this either last sunday or
two weeks ago. I think it was in the insight section. It
mentions agencies for young adults aging out of the system.
Also forum (kqed) has done shows on this recently, so they may
have a resource list. There is help. This young adult is lucky
to have you in her life. The stories in the Chronicle
emphasized that having one stable mentoring adult made a huge
difference in these survivors' lives.
There are services for youth in Alameda County in which foster
care graduates can live in subsidized housing for a period of
time as they make the transition to adulthood. I would suggest
helping this young person contact the county agency that placed
him or her for a referral to such a program. There are not
enough of these programs out there, but Alameda County is one of
the better ones.
Best of luck!
Also, some colleges will offer scholarhships to foster care
kids. I would suggest exploring private as well as public
colleges and universities. Sometimes private schools can offer
financial aid to such students to make it possible and sometimes
smaller schools can offer more of the intensive, personalized
experience that might help such a young person to thrive.
Having an adult out there who is interested in helping the young
person navigate this sometimes bewildering world is a huge
help. Bravo to you for stepping up!
I have no experience with the aforementioned topic, but I did
see a show on PBS called AGING OUT. I bet if you went to the PBS
website, you could find out how to get a copy of it. It was
pretty frightening, and leads me to believe that if you can stay
in this teen's life, things will be much much better for the
Several people in my office are involved with an agency called
First Place Fund for Youth that does exactly what you are asking
about. Here is the link to their website:
I would first of all like to thank you for taking an interest in
this young adult's life. Every child in foster care needs a
concerned adult who can support and advocate for them.I am a
child welfare worker at Alameda County Social Services. It is
very important that she talk with her Child Welfare Worker and
find out what her options are. The foster care system is very
complex but generally if a foster child is attending High School
and will graduate by the time they are 19 they are allowed to
continue to receive foster care payment and remain in their
current placement. There is also another very important service
available for foster youth. It is called the Independent Living
Skills Program, this program provides teens with the opportunity
to learn the skills necessary for independent living. Helping
them with computer training and provides them with a computer,
helps them with information about grants and scholarships for
college (there are special scholarships designated for foster
youth) budgeting, finding an apartment etc. They can be reached
at 434-3333. They also have a website at
www.alamedacountyilsp.org.If you need any further information
please contact me.Please keep in touch with this young adult and
continue to advocate for her, you really are making a difference
in her life.
Children are not dropped from responsibility of social services
the minute they turn 18. This girl's social worker should be
working with her on a transition plan. Children can remain in
the ''system'' after they're 18 to insure that there is a plan
for their early adulthood so they have shelter and a means of
You and your friend should contact First Place Fund for Youth.
It's a wonderful organization based in Oakland that helps young
people 16-23 transition from foster care to living
independently. They offer all kinds of programs, including
assistance with housing & employment. Their website is very
informative and a good place to start for information
Have her contact First Place Fund for Youth
(http://www.firstplacefund.org/) a non-profit in Oakland that
serves kids aging out of foster care. She may qualify for
their program, or they may at least be able to advise her about
her options. Her social worker and attorney (she should have
both, if she's still in foster care) should also be working
with her to set up plans for what to do after her 18th
birthday, but the options are often pretty limited.
-Someone who has worked in the system
The First Place Fund for Youth is a local non-profit organization
whose sole mission is to address this issue. Find them at:
this page was last updated: Jan 7, 2012
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