Adoption is almost always one of the most wonderful events that a family can experience. Every year, thousands of children are adopted in the United States. If you are adopting a child in the State of Washington, you should have the advice and guidance of a Spokane adoption attorney.

In the U.S., adoption is a legal procedure that allows a single adult or a married couple to assume full legal parenting responsibilities for a child from that child’s legal or biological parent or parents.

Adoption became a legal process rather than an informal practice in the 19th century. Since that time, adoption has evolved, changed, and become more legally complicated. In the 21st century, about 135,000 children are adopted each year across the United States.

The Positive and Negative Sides of Adopting Older Children

Adopting an older child through foster care or international adoption can be a rewarding way to expand and grow your family. It can also be a great way to support and to build a relationship with a child or a teenager who is in genuine need of a family.

However, adopting an older child is not for the faint of heart, and it usually takes a special type of parenting.

Adopting an older child is easier than adopting a newborn in some ways and more difficult in other ways. As you continue reading, you will learn about both the positive and the less-than-positive aspects of adopting an older child, and you’ll learn more about the adoption process.

Which Adoptees Are Considered “Older” Children?

Who is an “older” child? Basically, the term refers to any child who is not an infant – from toddlers to 17-year-olds.

Adopting an older child, as you might imagine, is substantially different from adopting an infant. An older child can walk, talk, has personal preferences, has clear memories of a life before adoption, and may even have some strong opinions about being adopted.

How Will a Family Law Attorney Help You?

If you seek to adopt an older child, it is important to understand your legal rights and options. A good Washington adoption lawyer can explain the law and will help you to make informed decisions throughout the adoption process.

In Washington, all prospective adoptive parents must face a number of questions and concerns. The right attorney can help you compile information about the different types of adoption and the many adoption programs that are available so that you are making an informed decision.

Once you have decided what type of adoption is best for you and you’ve been matched with a child, your adoption lawyer will ensure that your adoption is legally valid and secure.

Single adults and same-sex couples have the same right to adopt as opposite-sex couples, but some prospective adoptive parents may face bias from private adoption agencies, bias from foreign governments in cases of international adoption, or bias from others involved in the adoption process.

What is a Homestudy?

The possibility of discrimination is one of several reasons why you should be represented by an attorney throughout the adoption process. Washington law allows any adult to adopt a child, provided that you can pass the screening process, which is called a “homestudy.”

Prospective adoptive parents may be anxious about the homestudy requirement, but the right adoption lawyer can give you a full understanding of what to expect. The word “homestudy” is somewhat misleading, as “studying” your home is only a small part of what is required.

Prospective adoptive parents are background-checked for domestic abuse claims and criminal convictions. You will have to provide financial and medical records and personal references.

However, it is the in-person interviews with adoption professionals that typically make the difference, especially when an older child is being adopted. You will need to show the persons who conduct the interviews that you are being entirely honest, sincere, and transparent.

An interviewer will discuss adoption issues with prospective adoptive parents and will help them to deal with any concerns or issues that may be unique to the particular child who is being adopted.

Tips for Parents Who Are Adopting Older Children

Experts offer the following suggestions for parents who are adopting an older child:

  1. Join an adoptive parents’ support group before your adopted child arrives in your home.
  2. Parenting techniques that reward positive behaviors – instead of punishing negative behavior — are generally more successful with older children who may have suffered abuse or neglect.
  3. Flexibility is essential. Experiment to determine what works for your adopted older child. Be willing to change, and be receptive to new ideas and parenting strategies.

The first weeks with your adopted child may be difficult. Don’t expect to be a joyful family on the first day. Your child needs time to adjust to his or her new home and surroundings, while your own objective in those first days is to establish trust and safety.

The Importance of Building Trust

Bonding and trust take time. Consciously make the effort to help your adopted older child feel safe, and create opportunities for the child to learn that you can be trusted.

Be prepared for rejection, at least at first. “Not liking you” may be the child’s way of expressing fears that you will abandon the child or fail to provide – especially if the child has been abandoned or neglected in the past.

How Long Does Adoption Take? What Does It Cost?

Most adoptions in the State of Washington can be completed in a year or less. Families may adopt an older child from the Washington State foster care system for no charge. In many of these cases, the state will even subsidize the adoptive parents with ongoing family support.

The IRS also allows an Adoption Tax Credit that partially reimburses families for the costs of adoption. Each case is different, but there is no reason to let financial concerns stand in your way if you are seeking to adopt an older child.

If you want to adopt an older child who is a relative, a foster child, or a stepchild, or if you are adopting a child through the state’s foster care system or from another country, it is important to work from the beginning of the process with a Spokane adoption attorney.

Your adoption lawyer will see to it that the adoption is compliant with state law and that no legal difficulties with the adoption will emerge in the future.

If you are ready to begin the process, arrange a legal consultation with a Washington adoption attorney, and be prepared for one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life.