The Oakland Press
By Diana Moore, Executive Director of LAS
When you left home for college or to enter the work force, did you ever call your parents for advice? Go home to do laundry or for a handmade meal? The answer is likely yes because when most people turn 18, they are not quite equipped to be a full-fledged, responsible adult without guidance from loving, older relatives.
For youth who spent their teens in foster care, entering adulthood without the north star that a parent can provide can be especially challenging. This Adoption Month, we all must consider the importance of finding forever families for older youth, age 11 and beyond, since it’s never too late to find the love, support and safety net that a family provides.
Approximately 3,000 children in Michigan are available for adoption, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. About 10 percent of those children do not have an identified adoptive family.
Many adoptive parents want a baby or young child because they believe starting early together will increase the likelihood of bonding, minimize trauma-related behaviors, and build a lifelong relationship.
It’s true that older children may have endured more trauma by shuttling between foster homes for years and enduring the rejection of biological family. It’s true that older children sometimes present challenging behaviors – which are often a defense mechanism to prevent further hurt and rejection.
And it’s true that older children don’t need as much hands-on parenting as young children – yet, older children need an adult guiding presence far more than toddlers and babies do. While small children need the physical presence of a loving adult to bathe, clothe and feed them, older children need someone to listen, to watch, to be present and care with more frequency and intensity.
There are so many benefits in adopting an older child. First, there’s the knowledge that you’re providing a lifelong connection to someone who otherwise would not have one. Second, you’re creating hope where before, despair may have been the most prominent emotion.
At age 16, youth in foster care have the choice to opt out of a goal of adoption. They could do independent living or guardianship, or simply age out of the system. Many 16-year-olds don’t feel they’re adoptable. It’s not that they don’t want a forever family; it’s that they believe no one will choose them.
Diana Moore is executive director of Lutheran Adoption Service.