“Fantasy and Masks” by Nigerian artist Uche Okeke
Depending on your country of residence and your family configuration, your adoption agency may not let you adopt out of birth order. That means any child you plan to adopt must be younger than any children you already have at home.
It’s my experience that many adoption agencies in the US don’t follow that rule and will let you adopt any child, no matter your family configuration.
This is a hot topic in adoption forums and between adoption professionals.
You may adopt out of birth order on purpose, bit it’s also true that when you adopt from Ethiopia you never fully know the real biological age of the child you’re bringing home.
In our case, we thought we were bringing a 5 year old girl, but it turned out she was almost 8. I already had a 4 year old girl, a 7 year old boy, and a 13 year old boy, so at that time I thought there was going to be just one child younger than her.
There is also the subject of development in children that come from hard places.
A boy might look 4, but his body is really 7 , and his brain can be 2 or 3 years old due to malnourishment, abuse, trauma, etc..
Sometimes children coming from a hard background look younger on the outside than their biological age, but they have the experience of even older children, since they had to fend for themselves, or take care of younger siblings or elderly relatives. They know what is to suffer hunger, rejection, to live on the streets, to lie and steal to survive. But at the same time they might be lacking education and basic health care, so their cognitive age is way below their real age.
Then they come to a new culture, to parents and teachers with different expectations, and it can be hard for them to surrender control to others that they don’t even know or understand. We expect them to behave according to their age and the spot we assign them in the family, but they simply can’t, for a long, LONG time.
So, no matter what you do, you can end with a hard situation.
Of course older children deserve a family, as much or even more than babies, but
my opinion now is that older adopted children need full attention from their parents, and probably need to be the only child in the family, at least for some years, unless you are adopting siblings or you adopt a couple of children at the same time that although not biologically related, have been together for a long time and have fully bonded.
The needs of an older child are so unique that it is really difficult to meet them and at the same time give attention to the other children in the family. We end up neglecting everybody, even ourselves, and the balance breaks apart.
Many come with mental problems that take a long time and money to treat. Some have been abused and replay that abuse in their younger siblings. Others are extremely aggressive or are clinically depressed.
Even if you are prepared to deal with those issues, your children at home may not deserve to suffer.
Remember that an adoption is forever, even if the situation escalates to a point where you need to break the bond with your adopted child. You may remove a child from a home, but you can never erase the psychological scars left in everybody involved.