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Hmmm...not sure if you are looking for any more feedback on kids above the 2-5 age range, but I read dharmamama's first post, and couldn't help but post myself. I have not adopted an older child, but I did accept a permanent foster placement of a fifteen year old (permanent meaning until either aging out of foster care and even then, often much longer...with dfs, we were told from the get go to expect a lifetime commitment).

So much of what dharmamama said just brought me right back to that experience.

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It has been both great and terrible.
Yes. That sums it up. It truly was the greatest hell at times, and at other times, a wonderful experience. Regardless, I did eventually develop a love for dfs, and looking back have no regrets despite how very, very hard it was.

I will say that dfs's placement with us was terminated early when a moron newbie director of foster care at the therapeutic foster care agency we were with decided to give the poor child a choice of who his parents would be after he went to respite at someone's house and decided they were his "dream family." This was a child who had 23 homes/families and 10 years in care (and all connections lost with all of his birthfamily) by the time he came to us...of course he found a way to stir up instability as soon as he stabalized in our home. It was just the director who screwed up and decided to let him choose to do so rather than giving him his one shot at permanency. He is now an adult, and updates confirm that only tragedy resulted from this move, and that he never again got a "permanent family" to call his own. Sorry for the tangent, but I felt the need to disclose why I am not still talking about him as his mother. I feel so sad about this. I still miss him and think of him frequently.

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she has 4-year-old behaviors with a 12-year-old attitude
That was totally dfs. He had a 15 year old attitude...all the raging hormones, and all the teen angst and rage, etc. etc. (plus some!), but developmentally he ranged from 3-11 years old depending on the area of development you were talking about, the nature of the situation, and how much stress he was under at the time.

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The way I parent my younger kids has not worked well with Desta. We are pretty laid-back, go-with-the-flow parents. Desta needs a lot more structure and direction than our younger kids do, and it took me about 5 months to realize that/implement it.
Yes, for us it was a long, slow, and ever-evolving process of leaving behind parenting ideals for what our dfs needed. For example, I have always wanted our kids to have intrinsic motivation for behaving in appropriate ways. dfs had never developed such motivation, and in fact, had developed a dysfunctional cycle of misbehavior to fulfill his needs. He not only wasn't motivated toward appropriate behavior, but the very act of behaving appropriately went against the grain of his survival skills. In the end, there was no way to avoid being the motivation for either good or bad behavior in dfs. We had to dole out negative consequences for bad behavior (and often "harsh" ones at that...he needed no subtleties, no grey areas, etc.), and we had to reward good behavior constantly. Sticker charts did indeed come to rest on our fridge.

Our lives had to become completely structured and predictable. When things shifted, or had any element of unpredicatibility, dfs had to revert back to survival mode and all chaos would break lose. In addition, dfs had to be accounted for at all times. Left unsupervised, he nearly destroyed everything he touched (not to mention that he could also become an abuser of animals or other people). I had to check on him every five minutes or so if he was in another room...the very least of the reasons being that he, like a three year old, could turn the kitchen upside down and badly burn himself "trying to cook" a scrambled egg or could shred a stack of important papers trying to make a collage. At school he had a one-on-one educator who followed him all day to every single one of his classes. She picked him up when I dropped him off in the morning, and delivered him to me each afternoon. At the grocery store he had to stay an arms length from my cart or he might wander off somewhere in huge trouble.

The day I finally allowed him to take a walk around the block was huge. I told him he had to be back in five minutes or I would come looking. We went walking together over and over, charting the path he was allowed to take with the hopes it would become hard-wired. I called the neighbors to ask that they keep an eye on him. And *still* the third time he went he ended up going to the corner store and getting into heaps of trouble with the manager there. So we had to start all over, and he couldn't walk alone for quite some time.

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Another challenge has been her bottomless pit of need for attention.
Yes, so truly. And beyond that, and I know it sounds silly, but the way he sought attention could drive me up the wall. Apparently he had developed the belief that he was a fantastic singer. Now imagine the worst of the worst at American Idol first additions, and you might have a 10% inkling of what he really sounded like. Okay, now think of that, and think of that about 16 hours a day. Literally. At the top. of. his. lungs. Inside the car whether windows were rolled up or down, out in public on the sidewalk, at the grocery store, at the library even. Yes, at the top. of. his. lungs. And think Brittney Spears songs over and over in this loud singing voice following you everywhere you went. And everytime someone turns their head to look, he thinks it is because he is sooo darn good, gets all excited about the attention, and just turns it up.

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And I don't mean to paint the situation as all doom and gloom. Desta is an extremely funny, extremely friendly girl, and despite the annoyances of the situation, she fits well into our family. We have a lot of fun with her (when she's not pouting or giving me the silent treatment) and she has challenged us to expand our interests and viewpoints.
Absolutely. We shared some very tender moments, lots of laughter, and great fun. dfs taught me many things about people, about the world. dfs was often adorable, and usually hilarious. I know I came to love him very much in part because of how hard I grieved when he left.

The attachment process for an older child in adoption requires all the same stages as attaching with a younger child. But the challenge is that when they are older, or when they have experienced certain types of abuse, etc....you're much more limited in *how* you move through the stages (no slings, sometimes limited or no cuddling, and so forth).

Now I know, NYCveg, that some of this is probably way more than you might ever encounter with a child adopted at 2-5 years old. But some might be. Instituionalization (orphanges, etc.), abrupted attachments, lack of quality caregivers, etc. along with possible risk factors of less than stellar or no prenatal care and possible drug or alcohol exposure (yes, even in other countries) can all wreak havoc on the way a child learns to *be* in the world. While every situation is different, and children can be amazingly resiliant, I would keep in mind that these types of issues can arise.

Having said that, I do hope that after my kids are grown, I do this again for more than even just one child.
 
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