With so many children needing a forever home, it comes as no surprise that some of those children are teenagers who will soon age out of the system with no family to call their own. What are the pros and cons of adopting a teenager?
A pro of adopting a teenager is that the adopted teenager finally has a forever home and a family that will accept and is willing to work through some challenges they may be struggling with. A con of adopting a teenager is that there is no time for the adoptive parent to grow into the parenting role.
Teenagers struggle with so many things whether they are in the system and need a loving home or not.
The peer pressure of fitting in, making friends, and getting through and staying focused in high school. Add to that any challenges they may have with their home life.
Perhaps both of their parents are deceased and need to be placed in the foster care system. Perhaps they grew up in a very dysfunctional home and have suffered great trauma.
Regardless of the reasons for a teenager being available for adoption, there is no doubt that the healing process will be the main focus for a long time.
Adopting a teenager takes a special kind of patience and unconditional love, and not everyone is up for the challenge.
If you are considering adopting a teenager, it is important that you fully understand what your role will be and the many issues that will likely need to be addressed to help your adopted teenager in their healing process.
Helping a teenager on their journey to healing can be the most rewarding decision you will ever make.
Yes, a teenager can be a handful, but with the right kind of love and patience, the result can help positively change a child’s life by providing them with something they have so desperately wanted and needed; a family of their own.
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Should I Adopt a Teenager?
Sadly, many teenagers do not get adopted and then age out of the foster care system with no family to lean on while they suddenly find themselves in the cold world of adulting. But should you adopt a teenager?
You should adopt a teenager if you are prepared to jump into parenting head-on, as there is no time to ease into it like with a smaller child. You should also adopt a teenager if you realize how important stability is for them. Aging out of the foster care system with no safety net is terrifying.
For a teenager who ages out of the foster care system, it is sink or swim and can be an extremely terrifying time.
The homelessness rate of teenagers who have aged out of the foster care system is high, as is explained by NCBI.
Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to suddenly turn 18 with nowhere to go? The foster care system is there for a child during their adolescent years, and then suddenly that security is gone.
Where does the child who is now 18 go?
The foster care system and the families who foster these children understand the aging-out dilemma. There are programs in place that do try to assist teenagers in getting a job and figuring things out before they are let out into the harsh realities of life.
The facts remain, that too many of these teenagers have no safety net to fall into should they hit a roadblock. Imagine a teenager who already has a job and has now aged out of the foster care system.
They have a couple of friends who have invited them to be a roommate, and they will all share expenses. A few months later, something happens and the teenager is forced to move.
Where do they go? Even for a couple of weeks until they can figure it out. Where do they go?
With no family or support system to fall back on while the teenager is learning to be an adult, many find themselves homeless and on the streets.
With a feeling of worthlessness, so many end up living a life that sadly spirals downhill.
When a teenager has a support system and an encouraging mentor, it can change everything. Having a loving family to call their own, a child’s entire outlook on life changes.
Fear and despair are turned into the hope of a brighter future. When we have someone who believes in us, we tend to not want to let them down, we feel encouraged, and we are more likely to accomplish bigger things in life.
When I was a small child, there was a home that we lived next to that had foster children.
I was taught that those were the bad kids and I was not allowed to talk to or play with them. Later in my childhood and through no fault of my own, I ended up in foster care.
That was when I learned that foster children are not “the bad kids”. Children in foster care are there due to an unsettled family life brought on by no fault of their own.
Children do not cause dysfunction in a home, but rather it is the dysfunction in a home brought on by the parents that cause the unrest.
And yes, some foster children do have behavioral issues, and is it any wonder? The traumas they have had to deal with have created so much hurt, and children express that hurt in unhealthy, destructive ways.
Luckily, I was a very good child and did not have any of my behavioral issues to deal with.
Keep in mind, that children in the foster care system are generally receiving counseling and are already on the road to healing Whether you decide to adopt a teenager or not depends largely on knowing what to expect.
The unconditional love of a family to call their own can play a huge part in a teenager’s life.
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Pros and Cons of Adopting a Teenager
If you are considering adopting a teenager, then you are doing a good thing by researching to ensure you are making the right decision for yourself and your family.
Let’s be honest. It is no secret that adopting a teenager cannot be presented to anyone as a walk in the park surrounded by butterflies and pixy dust.
The truth is, adopting a teenager can be very difficult. Although this is not the case for every teenager of course.
If you have other children in your home, you may need to be extra careful about your decision. A history of physical violence of a teenager needs to be known, and you will need to insist on full disclosure from the foster care system.
One would hope that any negative history of the teen in foster care would be shared with you before adoption. Do not be naive, and you will be less likely to be presented with a false narrative.
The truth is that some (although certainly not all) social workers will intentionally not provide you with full disclosure. Telling you everything about the teenager you may be considering adopting might be a deterrent to you.
There is so much good that can stem from deciding to adopt a teenager.
Four Pros of Adopting a Teenager
- The number one pro of adopting a teenager is that you will be helping a child who so desperately needs you.
- You will generally be informed of the teenager’s past traumas and challenges so you will know ahead of the adoption process.
- A teenager will not require nonstop physical care as is needed with a small child.
- The teenager would be given an opportunity to a better life as well as their future generations to come, as you will help stop the cycle of whatever traumas or abuse they may have endured previously.
Four Cons of Adopting a Teenager
- The bonding that happens in the early years between parent and child is missed. On top of that, teenagers in general start to pull away from their parents, which is a natural part of the growing-up process. You may want to get close during a time when you may be pushed away.
- You will have no time to adjust to parenting as with small children.
- A teen will be required and may have a difficult time adjusting to your lifestyle and morals they may not be used to.
- Children in foster care are there due to some sort of trauma or dysfunction in their biological family’s home.
You will be required to get them to and from counseling sessions and have the mental capacity to work with the child to help them overcome their weaknesses.
Some may view this as a negative if they are not strong enough to tackle this challenge. Others view this as an amazing benefit to adopting a teenager, as you are allowing your adopted teen to heal and have a better life.
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The Emotional Impact of Adoption and Adolescence
Adoption of any kind can stir up many emotions from all involved.
The birth parents may be struggling with the guilt that their child was in the system and then ended up being adopted. Unfortunately, dysfunction breeds more dysfunction.
These birth parents did the best they could and typically raise their children in the same manner in which they were raised.
The emotional impact of adoption on the adolescent can be a mixed bag of relief that a family took a chance on them to perhaps feel they cannot trust the commitment that their adoptive parents made.
After all, the home they were born into may have let them down. And with so many ups and downs experienced just being in the foster care system itself can create mistrust in the child.
Being bounced around from home to home is normal for children in foster care.
For newly adopted teens, it will take some time for them to trust that you will truly be there for them.
Rejection will surely be an emotion they are far too familiar with, and they will challenge you. They may try to test you to see if you are serious about the adoption. When you respond with love, they will slowly begin to feel more secure.
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About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.