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Adopting out of birth order - why is this considered bad?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
My DH (41) and me (40) have a DS (22 mo). We have thought about having another baby, but I've had 2 miscarriages and just not sure I want to be pregnant again. The thought of "starting over" is scary. We did not like the newborn/infant stage at all, but love, love, love the toddler stage.

I was at the playground with DS yesterday and my DS just stares at all the older children playing. It dawned on me that he might do great with an older brother. I was so excited thinking about it. At our age, an older sibling would be perfect and DS would love it. I thought possibly a 3 yr old (I would love for them to be close in age).

So...I started researching it and realized that adopting out of birth order is a big no-no, but I don't know why? Everything I read is about adopting older children out of birth order and not about toddlers.

I would love to understand more about this. Has anyone done this or can shed some light onto why it's not recommended?
post #2 of 12
I can't tell you why it's such a no-no, except in the general sense that an adopted child needs to be prioritized in a way that most families usually prioritize the "baby" of the family, and people worry about an older child being pushed into the elder-sibling paradigm (share, empathize, console, care for the younger sibling) before they have formed their own solid attachment to their parents.

I can tell you that you won't be the first person, or the last, to decide to buck the conventional wisdom on this one and proceed with older-child adoption. We made our adoption plans after talking to our kids and finding out that THEY, like us, saw our family as being completed by "another big kid" rather than an infant. I mean, if we all wanted another infant, I could whip up one of those in nine months flat.

I think it's going to be a challenging adjustment, but the bottom line is that our dream lines up very nicely with a population of kids that are waiting for families.
post #3 of 12
I don't know that it's considered "bad" but it's definitely an important thing to consider, for all kinds of reasons that I'm sure others will chime in on. The reason that's most persuasive to me is that children who are adopted rarely match their chronological age developmentally, especially if they come from disadvantaged situations (i.e. orphanages, early parental neglect or abuse, multiple foster placements, etc.) The longer children are in these settings, the further behind they are likely to be, and their development might be out of sync between different areas. So you might adopt a three year old who is a two year old in terms of motor development, a one year old in terms of language development, and an infant in terms of attachment.

The point I would really like to make is that it's very important to read up on the issue of older child adoption (or any kind of adoption, for that matter.) There is a huge body of research and experience out there that can help inform your decision. It's very easy, prior to actually doing an adoption, to think that your family will be the exception, or that all of those recommendations don't apply to you. For example, we never dreamed that our child would experience such profound attachment and loss issues. This is a natural tendency toward optimism that is good in some ways - it's probably what enables us to take the leap into adoption in the first place. Of course, there are always exceptions to everything. Some "out of order" adoptions work out great. But those recommendations are there for a reason and should not be lightly discounted.
post #4 of 12
I think the idea of scattered skills and attachment levels is huge. You may not like the newborn/toddler stage much, but imagine a child who has never had a secure attachment, or normal development, arriving in your house at three or four...

You may end up with a child who is three or four, but who needs to build up all that newborn/toddler work anyway. And instead of being a cute, cuddly baby who can easily be worn, held, cuddled, etc., you'll have a toddler who is full of energy, opinions, and can easily get away from/thwart your efforts.

It is incredibly frustrating, tiring work to try to build the attachment of an older child. My daughter came home at 10 months and even THEN it was a challenge (because, among other things, she was an early toddler and fiercely independent). There is something very unnatural about it all, and I found I was not very well adapted to building attachment in a child that could be so active, opinionated, and work against my efforts. Babies don't do that. As much work as a baby can be, they are primed for the work that needs to be done at their developmental age (attachment, learning, etc) . Once you skip that, then everything can be out of order.

So yeah...no matter what you think you're "skipping" by adopting an older child, do your research. You may not be skipping it at all. Many, if not most, of the adopted children I've known have needed their time as the baby of the family...if not in physical work, then in emotional effort. It's a long, long road for a lot of kids and parents, and asking them to assume the role of oldest/older sibling just isn't fair. They're new to this family thing, yk?

Also, don't have time to get into it now, but there's a fair bit of information out there on disadvatages to the current siblings in the family as well. No matter how a kid might say they want an older brother, what they probably want is an older playmate. It's very idealized in a child's mind what this "older sibling" will be. Once they're in the thick of it, and suddenly not where they thought they were in the family structure, the fit can hit the shan.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
thanks for the information ladies. I spent the entire day reading, reading, reading and I have to say WOW....adoption is scaring more than having a newborn. Some of the stories were down right terrifying.

IDK - I'm going to have to rethink this. I know what to expect with a newborn - but to have a 4 yr old with all these other issues is probably more than we can handle. Honestly, I would be open to it, but my DH is not a patient person and I think he would too easily give up or throw out a "I told you"....I don't think I could put of with DH's frustration.

So...back to the thinking board. More research!!!
post #6 of 12
Originally Posted by marispel View Post
thanks for the information ladies. I spent the entire day reading, reading, reading and I have to say WOW....adoption is scaring more than having a newborn. Some of the stories were down right terrifying. So...back to the thinking board. More research!!!
Yeah...if you really get into the risks of adoption articles, it does get pretty scary. Let me put this out there, though (after the frustration vent in my above post)...dd is a challenging child, but that's her personality. I don't believe all that much of it is adoption's influence. Yes, building attachment was a difficult and lengthy process (on both sides), but it's there now. Some of the scary challenges in adoption are just that...challenges to be overcome.

Now, I wouldn't be the person to go out and encourage you to adopt out of birth order (I like to choose the path with the highest likelihood of happiness and success for the parents AND kids), but I wouldn't discourage you from adopting. Even a 10-month old, fiercely independent, mind-of-her-own, WOW this is tough spitfire like my daughter was (is ). The challenges, once overcome, become just another part of all the crazy things we do for the love of our kids. Adoption is great It's just different in ways that are sometimes hard to picture/understand when you're new to it.

(And hey, I'm only two years in, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt...there are some way more BTDT mamas on this board than me.)
post #7 of 12

Remember before you had DS, how scary the thought of that could be at times? And, then, how scary it was those first few months, worrying whether you'd break him or drop him or whatever? Well, adoption is like that in some ways. The things you think are going to terrify you the most, and be the hardest, both do/are and do/are not. What I mean is that it's just like anything else -- the unknown is frightening. But once you get into it, are knee deep in it, it's not bad on most days. It's just parenting.

I'm finding that I'm enjoying it more and more the less I worry about it.
post #8 of 12
My ILs adopted out of birth order. They adopted BIL when he was 5/6 (in K), and DH was 4. That, in & of itself, hasn't been a problem, though BIL did have major attachment issues to overcome. I think it's far better for him to have been adopted out of birth order, though, rather than continue to live in the group home where he was.
post #9 of 12
One interesting point that doesn't get as much attention is the idea of the birth order of the adoptive child. Meaning, many people think about where the adopted child will fall into their pre-established birth order, but do not consider the adoptive child's already established birth order. So a family with a 5 year old, 7 year old, and 10 year old will adopt a 4 year old without thinking about the fact that the 4 year old is the oldest of 3 in his birth family.

I think this is a YMMV issue, and one which merits considering and serious thought, but not a hard and fast rule. We adopted our son in birth order, and will adopt our next child out of birth order. We did have certain strongly held beliefs, such as we would not adopt older than our oldest, for a variety of reasons, and we would not adopt a girl between our two oldest girls.
post #10 of 12
We're preparing to adopt two children. We have three biological sons. We may adopt a baby and toddler younger than our bio kids, but are also open to the older adopted child being a little older, possibly between our younger sons' ages.

We've read a lot, asked a lot of questions, heard both encouraging and discouraging stories. We're well aware of the challenges others have faced and aren't living in denial that it might be hard.

But at the end of the day we feel it is the right thing for our family. We're willing to embrace the hard things that may come along with adopting. We're going in with our eyes wide open and doing everything we can to prepare ourselves and our kids.

Our older boys are excited about adopting and hope one of the kids we adopt will be closer to their age. When we talk with them about adopting, we try to be as honest as we can. We talk about it being a lot of work, but they still think it is worth it. We tell them that the baby or toddler might be difficult, but that we'll have to love them no matter what, even when it's hard. Our older boys seem to understand.

We recently realized our oldest son thought DH and I would need to go to Rwanda for one year to adopt. We told him it would take a year, and he thought that meant one year in rwanda not one year worth of paperwork and waiting and then a few weeks in Rwanda. But even then, he thought it was worth it. He has a very compassionate heart and just seems to understand that it would be worth it, even if mom and dad had to move to Africa for a year. Which thankfully, we don't have to!
post #11 of 12
Some dear friends of mine adopted out of birth order. And it happens to families that combine with step-children all the time. I'm not sure it's the big hairy deal some make of it.

That being said, we're planning to adopt a toddler into the mix, probably older than our current baby. BUT I plan not to adopt a child older than my eldest. Her personality would not do well switching from first to middle.

Also if we were adopting from the foster care system, a child might have behaviors I would not want my other children to emulate. The eldest often "leads" the others.

So I think you need to take situations into account. It can work out just fine in many situations. In others it is the right thing even if it's a challenge. In still others it would not be the right thing.

As far as adoption being scary when you read about all the horror stories, BTDT!!!! I finally got so tired of people telling me horror stories I started to laugh and after that it wasn't scary any more. Every kid is scary; my bio daughter is SO much more challenging than my adopted son. You just have to go with it and even though there are hard parts to the adoption process, there are wonderful parts too!
post #12 of 12
fwiw, lots of foster kids out there don't have scary-crazy attachment issues. not to sat that they aren't hurting but not all FC will need intensive therapies and parenting. Kids are put in FC for many reasons and not all of these reasons directly relate to poor care of the child.
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