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How Old is Too Old to Adopt?


LisaS's picture

By LisaS - Posted on 03 March 2009

How old is too old to adopt has been a search term that has brought people to our website and although it is a difficult question, I’ll make an honest attempt to answer it.

I was fifty- two years old when I brought my daughter home from Guatemala. I felt perfectly competent to raise an infant and give her all the love and support she would need to thrive. My desire to raise another child was strong and my commitment unwavering. With a high energy level and excellent health, I considered myself a good candidate to adopt. My age was relevant only in that a guardian had to be identified to the social worker for the home study in the event that I passed away, obviously a realistic consideration when adopting a child when you are older.

When trying to decide if you are too old to adopt several things must be taken into consideration in my opinion, not necessarily your chronological age:

1. Your reason for adopting. If you want to adopt a child because you are lonely and want a child to keep you company in your old age and care for you, this is a terrible reason to adopt. A child should not be adopted to be a caregiver and companion; this is selfish, irresponsible and unreasonable.

2. Your general health. Although there are no certainties in this area, if you are of poor health you are probably not a good candidate as a parent, and may not be allowed to pursue an adoption because of it.

3. Your energy level. If you prefer spending most of your day sitting down and don’t enjoy a lot of activity, you probably shouldn’t start parenting a child of any age. No child wants an “armchair parent.”

4. Your financial situation. The fact is that you will not be in your child’s life as long as you would like and may very well head into retirement while your child is still in school. Can you provide financial security for your adopted child?

5. Children of older parents become only too aware of their parent’s mortality and it is not something they relish. Moreover, they may also be embarrassed of having an older parent while their peers have much younger ones. People will probably think that you are your child’s grandparent. How will you handle these situations?

6. You will probably not have the support system that younger parents have. Your own parents will be elderly and your siblings and friends may not be interested in helping out since their own children are grown and gone.

If you are older and considering adoption, take your time making the decision. Be totally honest with yourself about your capabilities and go in with eyes wide open. Regardless of the age of the child at the time of adoption, you will need energy and commitment. It is never easy to raise a child.

*Older  Parent Adoption

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KatjaMichelle's picture

You make some really good points here. My best friend is not adopted but does have older parents. She has seen her father through at least 2 heart surgeries and last month her mother had to have heart surgery as well. She is the the one responsible for making sure her parents take their medications and because of their failing health also has most of the responsibilities around the house including making sure bills get paid. She's 25 and although she has often thought about moving out on her own she doesn't feel she can because she neither of her parents will take their medications on their own. She has applied to graduate schools but in light of her mothers most recent health issue has to limit herself to the one in town and if it doesn't accept her she's not sure she'll ever be able to complete her education. (she has a "pre" physical therapy degree needs graduate school in order to get any sort of job in the field)

When you have children its your responsibility to take care of them and to do that you have to take care of yourself. If you choose to become a parent later in life that is even more important.

LisaS's picture

KatjaMichelle you brought up such good points. I recently read an article about children taking care of parents - the pros and cons. Although I don't think children should be raised to think only of themselves and should learn to care for others, they should not be their parents sole caregivers at a young (and to me that includes the 20's) age. Children need to be able to move on to an independent adult life.

As an older parent, having the financial ability to hire someone to care for you, or reaching the decision that you must move into a care facility and let your child get on with their life is the solution in my opinion.

DET62's picture

I adopted my first child when I was 41, but she was 13. I adopted my son when he was 10. IMHO, older parents should really consider older kids. I can tell my kids to make themselves a sandwich for lunch and let me get a nap, if necessary, and I don't have to watch them every minute...

Check out my blog - http://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/

John's picture

I agree with all of your points Lisa. You are right, it is an individual thing, not something where there is some magical cutoff age. My youngest is 12 and we have been together for four months. I am 'a social security recipient'. We are limited by his medical problems, not mine.

One huge advantage of being the older parent is having lots of practical hands on experinece and no need to do all kind of indiidual things for yourself, that's been done already. A down side is not fitting in with folks your own age socially. Their kids are gone, they want to do old folks things (sit and talk and also talk and sit). There are exceptions, but that part is challenging.

JuliaFuller's picture

The orthodonist who has put braces on 5 of my children didn't decide to have children and marry until he was already in his early 50s. He's 62 now and has 2 birth sons, 7 & 8. Fortunately, his wife is younger, but he doesn' t currently have any retirement plans. I didn't feel quite as old after a recent discussion with him. I was 44 when we adopted our daughter, Amigrace, as a newborn. Luckily, I'm over the "wanting a baby girl phase," and enjoying grandchildren - part-time...

scrapsbynobody's picture

Absolutely true. So many people are waiting for a LONG time to have children, and many grandparents find themselves at least partially raising grandchildren. I don't think it would be all that hard to find others in an older age bracket who are still parenting. Besides, if you are an active vital person, that's who you will attract, regardless of your chronological age. As for health issues, I know plenty of younger people struggling with health. Youth is no promise of good health. In the realm of adoption, I think a child (especially an older one) would rather have someone who loves and cares for them that they might lose in time, than no one at all.

kate's picture

Thank you so much for the information. I just really needed to read something like this. I wanted to ignore the facts but it's quite clear. I am in the process of adopting and www.adoptionservices.org tried giving me the facts but I was looking elsewhere for more...

Maybe they are too nice and not too persuasive. At least they don't want to sell it!

Sklarrd for Life's picture

 IT?

kate's picture

Thank you so much for the information. I just really needed to read something like this. I wanted to ignore the facts but it's quite clear. I am in the process of adopting and www.adoptionservices.org tried giving me the facts but I was looking elsewhere for more...

Maybe they are too nice and not too persuasive. At least they don't want to sell it!