Historically, older children (10+) have been significantly less likely to be fostered or adopted than single children. The reasons for this are clear – in the past, families struggling with infertility have typically wanted to “start with a baby” (or young child), and adoptive and foster families more broadly have assumed younger children are easier to integrate into a family. Both of these perspectives are reasonable.
However as more and more western families spend time in countries with large orphan populations (for adoptions, for work, for pleasure travel, for missionary work and for other reasons) and as modern media and journalism reach areas that have been “unreached” in the past, the plight of these older children has become much more public. People now know that children who have been institutionalized for part or all of their lives may be forced out of the orphanage between age 14 and 18 in most countries. While some countries have nominal post-orphanage supports, the truth is becoming more and more apparent; most children face a difficult road when they leave the orphanage. Jobs are difficult to come by, housing is beyond their economic means, and they lack many basic life skills that families teach – but orphanages don’t.
This is devastating to children who (i) have never been a part of a family, (ii) rarely have received appropriate education, and (iii) are completely penniless.
Although older children have already started forming who they are – they still need parents and family as much or more than young children. In some ways, fostering or adopting older children can be easier (no pampers…), and in some ways, much harder. Project HOPEFUL counsels prospective parents to truly count the cost of adopting an older child, understanding that there may be additional “bags” for that child to unpack which a younger adoptee does not face. That said, older children face risks that younger children just don’t face yet. Many Project Hopeful staff, volunteers, and friends have adopted older children with wonderful results.
Project HOPEFUL has and will continue to advocate for children who are close to aging out of orphanages and foster programs so that those children can have a family, hope, and a future.