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How old is too old to adopt and other anxieties...


I had always wanted a large family and as a younger adult I definitely got to live that dream.  My former husband and I reared 5 children in a crazy fun-filled household.  Fast forward to today and my kids are all young adults, independent and making me a grandmother.  My husband and I have separated and will be divorced soon, and I am in a stable great long-term relationship with the intent to marry sometime in the next couple of years.

My current partner never had children of his own - not because of lack of desire, but it was just one of those things life throws at you.  He is late 40’s and I am early 50’s and we have had many pillow talks about surrogacy and/or adoption.  The most serious conversations seem to center on fostering or adopting an older child - tween/teenage.  Both of us have had experience in the arena of fostering - he as a biological child in a foster home and me as the parent of a teenage addition to my kids. My oldest daughter joined our family at 16. 

Under circumstances a little complicated to go into here, my boyfriend and I have been made aware of a 7 & 8 year old sib pair who are in foster care but needing adoption.  We would definitely be considered a uniquely great match for these kids.

Are we too old for kids this age?  Are we crazy for thinking we can start our new life together, shore up our retirement, and become parents to elementary aged babies all at the same time??  So many things to consider and I’m trying to think with my brain instead of my heart just to cover bases.  I’d appreciate any thoughts.

Replies

I adopted my daughter from China when she was 18.5 months old and I was 51 and single (long divorced). My daughter is 20 now, and I’m still single and age 70.  We’ve had great fun, even though not always an easy time.  So, obviously, I’m not terribly concerned about your ages—UNLESS you feel that you are not likely to feel much like parenting, or have the resources to be parenting, when you are 70 or older.  You mentioned retirement; if that’s possible for you, great, but just remember that you may have to forget about retiring, if you have kids who may still need your help when you are that age.

But first, let’s back up and talk about your impending marriage.  You need time to settle into a marriage—to figure out what funds to commingle and what funds to keep separate, to figure out who takes the car in for service and who fills out the income tax forms.  Your new husband will need to learn what role to play in regard to your children and grandchildren.  And so much more.  Basically, you shouldn’t bring new children into the mix, until you are well along the path to organizing all these things.  That is why most adoption agencies and countries want prospective adoptive parents to have at least a year, and often three years, of marriage before they adopt.  You will probably NOT be able to adopt immediately, and that sibling pair you’ve heard about should not need to wait until you are allowed to adopt, if another family comes along to adopt.

Second, a separated person cannot adopt.  You need to be either single or married.  If you are still legally married, you cannot adopt as a single or as another man’s wife/domestic partner.  And if you are single, you cannot adopt as married, in most states.  There are a few states that may let a cohabiting pair of singles adopt, but many do not.  In some states, a person who is single, whether straight or gay, can adopt as a single and then have his/her partner of either gender do a “second parent adoption” to give that person all the rights of the original adoptive parent, but those states are, regrettably, few.

Most divorces of people who have been married a long time—who have children, maybe grandchildren, physical assets like a home, financial assets in the bank, and so on—do not happen quickly.  They make take a year or more to finalize.  You are not going to be able to begin the adoption process until your divorce is final.  And then, an agency is going to want you to wait for a period of time until you’ve dealt with all the legal agreements you made in court, in terms of who gets the house, what is to be done with the stocks and bonds, and so on.  And they may want you to take some time to work out, with your ex, how you both will relate to your children—for example, will you both go to Thanksgiving dinner with one of your children, and will you bring your fiancé or new spouse along?  That could be mighty awkward. 

If you and your partner are truly committed to adopting the sibling pair, make sure you know as much about them as possible—such as physical or emotional health issues that may require medical care, special schools, modifications to your home, and so on.  Even if they come with subsidies for some services, remember that subsidies rarely come anywhere near meeting the costs you will incur in raising them.  And also remember that, when you adopt, you are both the legal and the MORAL parents of your kids; if they need help at 22, are you going to say, “Well, you’re over 18, and we’re retired, so we won’t help you?”  I should hope not.

Then sit down with your divorce lawyer, and see if you can come to a decent estimate of how much money and property you will be left with when your divorce is final.  Once you have that information, go with your new partner to an accountant or financial planner, and let him/her go over the financials of both of you, and estimate what your financial picture will be like when you marry.  Look at some scenarios—adopting vs. not adopting the children, both of you remaining in good health vs. having to rely on one income, etc.

If all those things still make you want to adopt, find out what your state will require before you can do so.  How soon after divorce can you begin the process?  Can you adopt as a couple with your partner before you get married (but after your divorce is final)?  How long do you need to be married or living together before you can have a homestudy?  Once you have this information, talk to the state people about whether you will be allowed to adopt the two kids, given how long you must wait.  You may or may not be allowed to do so, if you can’t start an adoption for a year or more.

If you still want to adopt children, if denied for the two that interest you, then do whatever is needed to get ready for your homestudy, and begin the adoption process.  If not, then go ahead and enjoy life as active midlifers.

Sharon

Posted by sak9645 on Nov 11, 2015 at 11:37pm

Sharon,
Thank you for your insights.  Your lengthy response makes me wonder if my simple background and questions made me look somewhat incompetent to manage my own life, much less the lives of other children. 

Because most of the personal and legal details of my life are such a non-issue, I didn’t feel compelled to overshare.  But, I can summarize the details of my situation more completely:

My boyfriend and I will certainly be able to retire at a reasonable age, with or without children of our own.

We are well into the “settling in” period, having a good plan currently in place for how we manage our finances today as well as a longer term plan for implementation when we do get married.  It is possible that an adoption could take place before we are married, in which case it would be a single parent adoption.

My divorce is imminent and will be a simple affair as our separation has lasted several years and the details of our settlement are already contracted, filed and executed.  My ex and I haven’t rushed to filing for divorce because neither of us has felt the need. We relate to our children (together and apart) quite well and our personal relationships are stable and amicable.  We see our children separately, mostly, but come together for certain occasions.  Any new children will be blended into that mix just like our older ones have been. 

The commitment to adopt is what my boyfriend and I are contemplating, now.  We do know quite a bit of background on the prospective kids and have met them.  They are well adjusted and thankfully have not seen as much of the worst as some kids in the foster system.  Subsidies are not expected or needed.  We are very well aware of what it means to be a legal and MORAL parent.  18 is not a magical age, in my current parenting experience.  Hoping 26 or 27 might be, though….. haha

My boyfriend and I both understand our financial status quite well.  As far as remaining in good health and keeping two incomes - that really isn’t something that is in our hands or a lawyer’s.  What will be, will be on that count and outside of covering bases with proper insurance and pension planning, I don’t intend to use financial “what ifs” in making a decision about adding more kids to my life. Ironically, my ex and I weathered a very scary near miss of death/disability when we were younger and I am not afraid to trust that, although things happen, there is always a solution.

There are many unanswered questions right now about the actual process of adoption.  I am not a stranger to the legal world but have very little family law knowledge.  The questions you raise about single vs married, cohabitating couple adoption, etc. are valid and have already been discussed.  I intend to research and the agency rep who contacted me about the kids is also looking into various routes we may need to follow to become adoptive parents.  As I stated in my original post, there are some unique and complicated differences in this possibility.  The legal requirements are not my worry - they are just technicalities and red tape that we have to work through if we make a commitment.

With all this said, I still would like to hear about home life and family activities from more older adoptive parents.  My head is spinning with possibilities and questions about meshing children so young into active adult lives.  For one example, we love to travel, but would they miss too much school?  So, would I need to homeschool so we can jump into a plane or the car when we get the go bug?  What’s it like for the kids to have parents who are older than most of their friends’ parents?  WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE KAYAKING AND HIKING IN THE SNOW???  ok.  That last one was facetious.  But, seriously, my youngest son was double digits before I convinced him that boats aren’t scary. smile

Posted by MDW on Nov 12, 2015 at 1:44am

It sounds as if you have gone through most of the issues, and are well prepared for parenthood.  Most of the other matters you raise can be worked out.

Certainly, you can homeschool, or use an alternative school, if the children’s needs lie in that direction.  I’m not a fan of homeschooling, although having a friend whose daughter by adoption may need to be homeschooled or in an alternative school because of her mental health issues has made me more accepting of it.  She’s a great kid, but one who needs time off to go to therapies, and to learn new ways of coping with the world, other than trying to harm herself.

Doing it for your own convenience makes less sense, though there’s something to be said for travel as a broadening experience, that teaches things like geography and history better than any book, and emphasizes the one-ness of humanity and, at the same time, the joy of diversity, better than any lecture.  Just think out how you will handle those pesky Standards of Learning, or whatever they are called, the mandatory subject tests, and the requirements for entry into college, if your kids’ interests are in those directions.

If the children you hope to adopt are already well along in elementary school, you really won’t have all that much time with them, before they are out in the world.  One thing I discovered, about the adoption of my daughter when I was 51, is that time flies when you are having fun.  It is so hard for me, sometimes, to think of my daughter as a 20 year old who took a year off from college to earn money and live on her own in another state, and who now is back in a different college, where she is majoring in economics and math, working part-time, and mourning the absence of her boyfriend of two years, whose visa requires him to remain at a job in another state.  It seems like only yesterday that she was a little social butterfly who loved animals, face painting, playing dressup with friends, and singing in the barber shop where she got her haircuts.

You will have time to travel without kids, assuming that you both are reasonably long-lived and have enough saved up to allow a comfortable retirement. For that matter, you will also have time to do other things, like starting a new career, writing a book, volunteering, or whatever, unless your children need your help well beyond age 18.  While I have some health issues, none of them is bad enough to stop me from working or doing other things I enjoy at 70.  My parents, who had little health care when they were young, lived into their mid-80s, and I figure that I may live that long as well, quite possibly without losing too many brain cells, or becoming totally dependent on others. I had to do some caregiving for my mother, in the last years of her life, and it wasn’t always pleasant, so my one big hope is that I will be able to keep from being a burden to my daughter, as she moves along in adulthood.

Fortunately, the world is beginning to notice that people in their 40s and 50s, today, remain very active, are often at the peak of their careers and earning power, and have all the attributes that would make them great parents, including much greater patience than they had in their 20s.  And my own mantra, “Sixty-five is the new forty-five,” is not something that I’m alone in believing.  While some adoption workers may still cluck-cluck about older people adopting, and try to dissuade you, you WILL persevere if you are truly committed to adopting, even a very young child, and if you have positive situations regarding financial stability, a strong social support network, people you trust who can become guardians to your children if you die or become disabled, and a determination that whatever you do should be in the best interests of your kids.

You are not going to catch any flak from me if you choose to adopt.  As long as you have done the research and done the math, and recognize that you have some temporary impediments to overcome, such as the fact that you aren’t divorced yet, I wish you the very best.  I know many families like yours, and their kids are doing just great, even if they have some challenges.

Sharon

Posted by sak9645 on Nov 26, 2015 at 4:56am

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