Foster to adopt: Immediate Mom
Heather Scott is an early 30-something wife, blogger, and mother to a 13-year-old daughter she and her husband adopted two years ago from the state foster care system. As an advocate for older child adoption, Heather has been blessed to become a voice for thousands of children waiting for their forever families. She blogs about her experiences as Immediate Mom. Her family will be growing again as they prepare to welcome a biological child in December.
Photo by Courtney Ortiz Photography
Our road to parenthood started like any other young couple’s journey. But ours wouldn’t end like theirs.
After deciding older child foster care adoption was the road we wanted to traverse, I approached gaining intelligence on the topic as if it was a matter of national security. I devoured every article I could find on the subject; I scoured every website that had information specifically on older child adoption.
What I found was less than impressive.
Judging by the lack of information, I feared we were the only first-time parents trying to adopt an older child rather than an infant or toddler. Naturally, I grew apprehensive, not because I felt adopting a school-aged child was something we couldn’t handle, but because it felt like uncharted territory and I did not desire the role of trailblazer.
I was craving success stories, only to find few actually published.
Still, we knew the calling on our life was to be parents—adoptive parents. And ultimately, her parents.
The process to adopt an older child without fostering first, in many ways and in many states, is a bit easier than becoming foster parents. The amount of paperwork is much the same, but there are fewer inspections and courses to attend.
But, in turn, the process can also be longer. Older children who have been in the system for a while, as in the case of our daughter, may have had failed placements, and possibly failed adoptions. As a result, most agencies will advise, even mandate, taking it slowly.
Our daughter was nine when we first saw her photo featured in a Heart Gallery display of available children. She was ten by the time we were approved to adopt her, and 11 when she legally became our daughter. Now she’s a typical 13-year-old who loves her cell phone, movies, her dog, and her forever family.
We’ve experienced the challenges of parenting a child who already had numerous parents and a variety of parenting styles, but what we’ve learned is how much love older children need, and how uncovering their specific love needs can unlock a child. In the case of our daughter, she needed frequent physical affection, which didn’t come naturally to me.
Once I got over my apprehension and gave her what she needed, it’s like a weight was lifted off her spirit and she started accepting love, accepting guidance and discipline, and is every bit the child we so desperately prayed for.
Adopting an older child requires patience. It requires being in the moment, every moment. Adoptive parenting is a multitude of challenges, and it requires intentional parenting.
My choice of words affects who my daughter becomes. My reactions to each of her meltdowns will shape how she deals with conflict. My ability to teach her, in those moments when it’s hard to even tolerate her, will show her unconditional love means being firm even in the face of emotional overloads.
It’s been more than two years since the adoption finalized and she is as much our daughter as if we created her ourselves.
People always comment on what a “good thing” we did by adopting an older child. What they don’t understand is we are the blessed ones. Sure her life is changed by now having a permanent family, but we’re the lucky ones … what a blessing she is to us.
There are thousands of children in the system right now, just like her, who desperately need an advocate, a cheerleader, guidance … and love.
It’s the question at the heart of every adoption – can a child who did not start its life as part of your family become truly yours.
I like to tell how I first knew in my heart K would be our daughter. On our first visit, as our encounter was ending she ran over to me, ran her fingers through my hair and told me I had pretty hair. I was so touched.
Something in my soul knew she would be ours.
With an older adopted child, you start small. Create memorable experiences each time you’re together. Each day becomes a chance to start routines, establish things you do together, and do activities not done with previous families.
The biggest compliments we get now are from strangers we interact with when they are stunned to hear our family’s adoption story —not because we look alike, or act alike, but because they see the genuine bond we share and the love that is shared. They assume a biological bond.
In our case, it’s so much more than biology that bonds us. Bond is an action word.
And so is love.
New Rhythm Project is a non-profit organization that works to educate, communicate, and facilitate local communities to care for orphaned and abused children across the globe. We are a collaboration of professionals, specialists, & thinkers who are passionate about creating & shaping opportunities for individuals & families to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.