Adopting Older Children
Some adoptive families do not have the privilege of knowing their children as infants. Jean and Dean Travis adopted their son, Bill, after watching him on a local news segment called Wednesday's Child.
"Bill was 12 years old. He had already been adopted once, but it did not work out. It was scary for all of us," says Jean. "We feel like we bonded quickly after he moved in. Now we feel like he's always been here; always been ours."
"The older adoptee needs to go through a reorientation to life," explains Richard Goodman. "He must learn that people won't let him down. It is important to be as consistent as possible and to follow through on promises."
Suffering severe abuse and neglect at the hands of his biological family, in addition to being shuttled between residential care programs and foster homes, has taken a toll on Bill. Catholic Charities, the agency that placed him with the Travis family, insisted that he receive psychological counseling. For their part, Jean and Dean Travis see a therapist every two to three months to discuss parenting problems they may encounter.
"The more the older adopted child recognizes his parent is there for him, the more important and loved he feels," says Dr. Goodman. "These children need a sense of permanency. Damage has been done, but some of it can be reversed by a corrective emotional experience. If the older child is loved and protected he will feel like a member of the family, not just a boarder."
From birth through adulthood, adopted children will always question and wonder; will always search for who they are and where they belong. As Jeffrey LaCure says, "The difficult part for adoptees is that they never got the chance to say goodbye, to put closure on the relationship with their birth parent. It is like having a relationship with a stranger for years that is never completed. And that has a lifelong impact."