Many people think about adoption in regards to third world countries and infants, but orphans exist right here in our own backyards. In many cases they are even older children with real pain and a real awareness of their losses. Adopting older children can come with some difficult challenges, but they are also children who are very aware of their circumstances who often love bigger than you could ever imagine.
Our precious little girl that we are in the process of adopting is ten years old. When she first came to live with us almost two years ago, she had already experienced way more hurt and tragedy than any child should ever have to go through. After being abandoned by her mother when she was little, she later walked into her father’s bedroom one morning to find him deceased. As I’m sure you can imagine, this was a very traumatizing experience for her.
Many children who find themselves orphaned or in the foster care system have come from poverty or even abusive homes. This is not always the case, but more often than not it is. When children come from these life experiences it can oftentimes leave them scarred with emotional damage, and this damage can carry over into their new lives as well. One of the issues that we face with our little girl revolves around food. When we sit down to eat she scarfs her food down faster than a teenage boy who hasn’t eaten in twelve hours. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is when you know it comes from an emotional place. She tells us that the reason she eats this way is because where she came from, her brothers would steal the food off her plate. Since there wasn’t much food to eat in the first place, if she didn’t eat it quickly she may end up not getting to eat. Y’all when she explained this to me I nearly cried a river right there in front of her. And all I can do is continue to urge her to slow down, and to always reassure her that she will never go to bed hungry in our home. There is always plenty of food to eat, and one way that I combat this is to fix her a small amount of food on her plate so that she can see that she can go back for seconds.
A friend of mine who is a foster care mom told me about a child that she had for a little while who used to hide food, including spaghetti, under the mattress of his bed. I can only imagine that his life experiences were a major emotional factor in why he felt the need to do this. Sometimes these older children exhibit behaviors that we can never truly understand because we have never had to go through the things that they have had to go through.
Adopting older children definitely comes with challenges, but I can also tell you that each and every challenge is worth it when you see that child accomplish something they never would have accomplished without your love. We have the ability to change lives simply by opening our hearts and our home to a child who would otherwise become lost in a system of never ending children who are constantly overlooked simply because they are not young enough, smart enough, or healthy enough. These children are not puppies in a shelter. They are human beings with real problems, real emotions, and very real needs. They are often viewed as “less than desirable” simply because most people who set out to adopt want an infant. Infants need adopting too. Don’t get me wrong. But there is never a shortage of people willing to adopt an infant like there is a shortage of people willing to adopt an older child.
There is no challenge too big for a child who would settle for a simple plate of spaghetti or someone to tuck them in at night with a kiss on the cheek and the words “I love you.”