Midlife is a time when many people reflect on the lives they have built for themselves and plan for the next leg of their journey. Perhaps you have embraced family life, and your children are now grown, or maybe you've focused on your career and your relationships. You, your partner, and your friends are established in your careers, and retirement is within sight. Your friends lament about being empty nesters soon, but they are excited to relax, engage in hobbies, and travel as they look ahead.
However, this vision for your future does not feel right. You still have energy and love to share with children. Whether you are a parent already, or you desire to experience parenthood for the first time, you may question if adoption is still a possibility. Prospective adoptive parents in their 40s may wonder, "Am I too old to adopt?"
Plenty of couples over 40 realize their purpose as adoptive parents. The baby boomers have changed the game when it comes to longevity and activity in later years. People are living longer, couples are marrying later in life, and more parents are putting off starting a family until they have secured careers and financial stability.
Keeping in line with these trends, more midlife couples are hoping to adopt than ever before. Lifetime Adoption has helped many couples in their 40s with their adoption goals. More important than age, our birth parents are looking for adoptive parents who are healthy, active, and will provide their child with a warm, loving home and future with vibrant parents. Making a difference in a child's life can fulfill parents hoping to adopt at any age.
Reasons 40+ Parents are Hoping to Adopt
There are many reasons why those in their midlife are hoping to adopt. Some couples find they have the energy to start a "second" family after their children are grown or after remarriage. Other couples have endured years of failed infertility treatments. Their hearts are now open to adoption as a way to grow their families. Some older adoptive parents are answering a calling to help children with special needs. Others have focused on their careers, and are now in a more stable, comfortable position to bring children into their lives.
Whatever the reasons, middle-aged parents hoping to adopt should move forward, knowing they may face some unique adoption challenges. Still, prospective adoptive parents who are healthy and active have every opportunity to achieve their adoption dream.
Challenges for Midlife Parents Hoping to Adopt
While there is typically no maximum age for adoptive parents, age will be considered during the adoption process. When my husband and I adopted, many agencies told us we were too old (I was 30 and my husband was 40). In the end, we were chosen by a birth mother only a year older than myself.
Ultimately, this is because everyone is looking out for the best interest of the child. The birth parents and adoption professionals want to make sure that adoptive parents are healthy and will be able to handle the child as she grows up. Will the adoptive parents be able to run after a toddler or manage a rebellious teenager? If a child has behavioral problems or special needs, will the adoptive parents be able to devote the physical and emotional energy needed to support the child? And will they live long enough, through the child's 20s and beyond?
At Lifetime Adoption, we review applications thoroughly and will give prospective adoptive parents honest feedback if we feel age may be a concern. Many birth parents prefer to place their babies with younger adoptive parents, so prospective adoptive parents over 40 hoping to adopt may experience longer waiting periods. We want to offer contracts to those we feel confident we can help, so we may limit older prospective adoptive parents if we are not able to foresee a reasonable wait.
Middle-aged parents hoping to adopt may face some social challenges. As an older parent, you may find yourself in a peer group limbo. Your lifelong friends who are empty nesters approaching retirement may no longer relate to the interests and schedules involved in parenting a younger child. At the same time, you will have to connect with younger parents who have children in your child's developmental range. You will establish those relationships as you arrange playdates and carpools, but you may not feel like you completely fit there either. Age does not need to be a barrier to meaningful friendships, so this might never be an issue for you. However, if you do find yourself isolated, consider support groups for adoptive parents, Facebook groups, or other online resources. Parents of any age need to have a support system.
One of the biggest concerns about parents hoping to adopt later in life is the age difference between adoptive parents and their child. Can middle-aged adoptive parents be active and hands-on with their child for 20+ years? Will illness or disability decrease the quality of life for the family?
What's your family's health like? Who will care for your child if something happens to one of you? While these are valid concerns, they are not issues reserved solely for older parents hoping to adopt. Accidents and illness can affect anyone at any age. Here are some ways that parents of any age can plan ahead:
- Create a will that includes arrangements for the child to receive care and protect the child's inheritance rights.
- Select Godparents
- Make backup arrangements for times when you are ill or incapacitated. Have a strong support system that includes younger family and friends, or set aside funds for professional care. Make sure the people in your support system are a part of your child's life as he grows so that they are not strangers.
- Seek advice on your finances. Parents in their 40s hoping to adopt may find themselves sandwiched between financially supporting an ill or aging parent while also paying for college tuition.
Better With Age
With age comes experience, and this is an advantage for midlife parents hoping to adopt. Many adoptive parents in their 40s find that they are actually in a better position to raise children than they may have been when they were younger. They may be calmer and have more time to devote to a child. They may be able to provide the child a better education, offer private schools, opportunities to travel abroad, and experience many different cultural activities. Birth mothers like to see these options and envision all that her child can experience.
Linda (42) and Gary (45) decided to adopt when their two biological children moved out on their own after college. They felt that they were not finished with raising children when they adopted their daughter, Sarah.
Now that Sarah is older and involved with school and activities, they don't feel like their age has slowed them down at all! Linda is the team mom for Sarah's soccer team, and volunteers to go on the Girl Scout camping trips. Linda feels like she is even more involved now than when she was younger and raising her biological children. She is in a place where she can truly put her daughter first. When she was younger with a career that had not yet taken off, she did not always have that luxury.
Linda and Gary also have added experience from raising their biological children. Gary says he is more patient and no longer sweats the small stuff. His expectations are more realistic, and he has the time and perspective to live in the moment with his family.
Joy and Daniel were both in their late 40s when they started their adoption journey. After years of failed infertility treatments, they accepted that children might not be in their future. Instead, they focused on their relationship and their careers. When they reached midlife, they found that the success of their careers was not enough to fill the gap that remained in their life. Joy and Daniel wanted to be parents.
Their adoption professional prepared them for a more extended wait period due to their age. Many birth parents wish to place their babies with younger adoptive parents. But eventually, they were matched with a birth mother who saw just how much they had to offer her baby. Joy and Daniel were financially secure and had already created a strong foundation from which to build a family. Their birth mother took comfort in their age, wisdom, and the life they had created for themselves. She knew that Joy and Daniel would provide her son with a stable, nurturing environment where he could thrive.
Older parents hoping to adopt may also be better able to support children with special needs. Emotional maturity, patience, and prior experience with children are assets many older parents hoping to adopt bring to the table. These advantages make older adoptive parents well-equipped to handle the challenges of children with special needs.
Love Knows No Age
Those over 40 who are hoping to adopt shouldn't worry about looking the part. More and more people are putting off starting their family until their 40s, so the face of parenting is changing. Extended life expectancy means that parents have even more active years to spend with their children. Adults in midlife and beyond are healthier and more active than ever before.
Parents in their 40s hoping to adopt may also offer more financial security, and older couples may have more stable relationships and established values. Adoption professionals will consider these advantages as they present profiles about loving adoptive families to birth parents. What matters is your desire to love and care for a child. Just as love knows no color, love knows no age.