Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Adopting an Older Child

Most of the people I know who are adopting kids with Down syndrome via international adoption prefer to adopt younger kids; those under 3 or 4 years old. I know a few who have adopted a little bit older, like 5 or 6 years old. Those who adopt kids older than that are in the minority. Most people won't even consider the older kids because they've been in institutional care longer - meaning more damage done. I have to laugh, because Dean and I have never even considered adopting a younger child! We're too old for infants and toddlers so older kids seemed perfect for us.

Let me tell you our experiences with adoption thus far:

When we adopted Axel he was 10 years 4 months old. He had spent his first 8 1/2 years in institutional care, in some of the worst facilitates in Serbia. How he survived those places is beyond me! The last 18 months prior to adoption he was in a foster home with experienced foster parents. Because they had him for those months, they went through what was probably the worst of his de-institutionalization. I know they worked very hard because when he came to us he had a lot of really good skills, like making a bed, dressing himself and things like that. The behavior management was left up to us. ;-) I won't sugar coat things. Axel's behavior when I first took custody of him was beyond difficult. He was, for lack of a better term, a feral child. I was very surprised! When visiting the foster home he was really quite well behaved the first day. The second day he pulled me hair, then looked around to see if anyone noticed. The third day when his family member was getting him dressed to go with me he was laughing hysterically while kicking her in the face and pulling her hair. I figured it was just stress induced. (At the time I had no idea he didn't understand the language spoken in their home so he didn't understand they were telling him he was going with me.) That first day with him was rough. Lucky for me at 10 years old he was the size of a typical 4 year old so he was easier to manage.

By the time 10 days had flown by and it was time to fly home with him, Axel's behavior had improved dramatically. Still, I knew Dean would have to start from scratch with him, but for me Axel was great.

Axel has been home for 26 months now. He's doing FANTASTIC! While his behavior at school took awhile to sort out, at home he's been great for a very long time. He plays appropriately most of the time and has developmentally appropriate responses to things. When we got him he was developmentally around 2-3 years old with language that was more like a 12-14 month old. Now he is developmentally more like a 5-6 year old with receptive language around 4 1/2 years old. (Which is a HUGE gain in 2 years!) Although he is technically in 5th grade, he goes to mainstream classes with 2nd graders which is where he is physically. His phy ed. teacher says he fits right into what they're doing in reg. phy ed. class, which is wonderful!!

Axel is just an awesome kid, and a joy to be around. I wish everyone could have a kid just like Axel!
Axel the first time I met him in March 2010 age 9 1/2.

Axel today, age 12 1/2

And then there is Asher. We adopted Asher one month after he turned 7.

The first time I met him I was shocked. I'm not sure why because I'd gotten his height and weight before I traveled. He was 31lbs and 40.6 inches tall. That is the size of a typical 3 year old. But when I saw him in person for the first time, he seemed to be so much of a baby. His walk was that of a brand new walker: unstable, with his hands held in "high guard" position at all times. He ate independently but only apple sauce consistency foods. He had no clue about stairs. He didn't make a sound. Developmentally he was like a walking 6 month old.

Dean and I weren't prepared for an infant or toddler. We had planned on a 7 year old with DS, so significant delays plus throw in some institutional stuff. When Asher and I first arrived home, he turned our little world upside down. Suddenly there was this little person who needed SO MUCH 1:1 care. Don't get me wrong, we didn't have a problem providing it, we just weren't prepared for it.

Even with all the care he needed, Asher was, and still is, a pretty easy kid! Well, as easy as a 2 year old can be because developmentally that's where he's at. Two years progress in just one year is amazing if you ask me!
Asher, age 7, the day I met him November 2011, 31 lbs and 40 inches tall.

Asher today, age 8, 46 inches and 48 lbs. 

Watching the rapid growth and development that happens when you bring an older child home is probably one of the most awesome things I've ever had the opportunity to witness. Every day I thank God for allowing us this opportunity. We enjoy it so much that we're willing to do it one more time! Our new son is 9 years old. We don't know when he turns 10. He has been in institutional care his entire life. I don't yet know how big he is (I'll ask closer to travel time when I need to get him clothes). I know a little about where he's at developmentally, but really, everything is going to be a surprise this time!

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