Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Adopting older kids

Time to cut to the chase here.  I'm not going to sugar coat this post one bit.  This will be open, honest and very raw.  Some things I will not say as for the protection of my kids.  However, if other parents who are new to adoption read this, I know they will want to know what to expect.  How do I know this?  Because I was one of those parents that wanted to know the TRUTH about adopting an older child and not some sugar coated rosy happy ending.  Knowing what to expect helps to make the transition easier for these kids.   So, here goes nothing.

First, you must know what life is like over in an older kids' home.  And no, I'm not talking about the childrens' home.  Typically, in EE, there is a baby home, a childrens' home, and then an older childrens' home (internat).  Once the child turns around 4yo, they go to the childrens' home. Then, on either their 7th or 8th b-day, they go to the older childrens' home for good.  Many parents try as hard as they can to keep them in the younger kids' home till they get there to adopt them.  I was one of those parents that fought and lost the fight w/ one of my girls.  She was transferred.  Transferred at the ripe old age of 8.  What did she get to witness?  Things adults should be doing, NOT kids, not that age.  Even teens shouldn't be doing some of that stuff.  The younger kids in the home watch the older kids and admire everything they do.  They don't know any better.  No guidance.  They're left on their own to learn from others.  Not all are good role models either.  Think about it if you will.  The girls are typically kicked out on the streets at 16yo.  No home, no money, no family, no skills, no possessions.  Where are they to go?  What are they to do?  There is nowhere but the streets.  Turning tricks typically.  Statistics are staggering for orphans once they leave the orphanage and are on the streets.  Boys will end up on drugs or in the military if lucky.  Really, what options do they have?  There is little guidance in the older kids' homes.  Some have more than others from our experience but really, not much.  There is no one to look out for your well being.  No one to teach you right from wrong.  No one to teach you how to settle conflict.  No one to teach you how to be safe.  No one to teach you how to love.  No one to teach you basic self-care or basic life lessons.

Those are just some of the things I'd like to let you know about so you understand why they act the way they do when they get home. They haven't been taught anything else.  Not even how to use toilet paper.  It is the basics they lack.  They've had no parental figures and we take that for granted here.  Even some adoptive parents don't know the extent of what their older children don't know when they first get home.  They learn as they go.  Many older kids come w/ their teeth rotted out.  My Bulgarian kids did not have this issue.  All my Russian kids though had horrible teeth when first home.  They weren't told ever night to brush their teeth.  so, no matter how old, the first few months home, you remind them to brush their teeth every morning and night.  You will remind them to throw toilet paper in the toilet and not in the garbage can.  They can't regulate how much shampoo or toilet paper or toothpaste to use.  Trust me, a lot is wasted those first few months home.  URGHH!!!  Plan for that expense if you're adopting an older child.  Or one or two or three of them.

Eating habits are atrocious in some areas, awesome in others.  They all tend to eat fast.  Shovel it in.  This is b/c at the orphanage, food used to be taken away if not chomped down fast enough.  See, the other night we were at dinner w/ the kids.  One thing I noticed Reni doing was she got up and promptly straightened the rug on the floor.  Gross, I know. I said let me guess Reni, you had to take care of the rugs in Bulgaria.  "yeh, yeh, that's right."  Some what shocked I guessed it right.  I said well here, we are just out to eat and someone else will take care of the rug for us.  Many of these children have never been to a restaurant when you adopt them.  Remember that.  Reni and I continued our conversation.  See, we've been through this many times before w/ our Russian kiddos.  Reni and I talked about our favorite foods and things.  Then, she said "you no eat fast, they take it food."  I said well Reni, I'm not going to take your food away.  Feel free to slow down and enjoy it.  Many tastes are unfamiliar to older adopted kids.  Especially, American foods.  May take some time for them to want to try things.  Now, the more malnourished kids will want to gorge.  Don't let them.  Our Bulgarian kids did not have this issue.  However, most our Russian kids did.  Of course, most of them were indeed malnourished. All my 4yo's came home weighing barely 20 lbs.  All were in a size 18 month clothing.  Summer was my only "chunky monkey."  LOL.  Ironic as she spent the first few years of her life in the Pleven orphanage.  But, she spent the year and a half at Kardzhali and she was very healthy when we picked her up. 

Typically though, when older kids come home from EE, they will be much, much smaller than American counter parts.  Irina was 6.5 and wore size 2T.  She weighed around 24 lbs or so.  Yana was 8.5 and very skinny as well.  Bojan was not that big either but healthy.  He was just small.  Now, he's taller than me!  So, if your kids come home small, do know that will not last very long in older kids.  They do grow and fast!  Don't spend a lot of money on their first clothing as they won't wear it long at all.  That is another thing about older kids.  Clothing.  Geez.  See, they are not used to having their own things.  Believe it or not, this makes them more picky!  Drives me insane when we get home.  It's still going on w/ Reni.  Not so much Logan any more.  But, Reni is a girl so that explains part of it.  They want their own style and their own things as this is the first time in their life they have this.  We try to honor that but w/ 10 kids, you can't always get what you want.  But we do buy clothes 'just for them' when they get home.  And shoes.  Oh, their shoe size will shock you.  They grow out of them like water and my kids never tell me when their shoes are too small.  See, in orphanages, it doesn't really matter if you outgrow your shoes, you wear them anyhow.  When we got Yana for hosting, her toes were starting to curl under.  Took her straight to the store after picking her up.  Her and Alex and Zhenya.  Bought them all new shoes.  Yana's were literally 3 full sizes too small.  It was just sad.  Warren and I raised $500 that week to give to the orphanage director for new shoes for all the kids back in Russia.  To this day, my kids still do not tell me when their shoes are too small so you really must check them.  The things that are common place to us are not to older adopted children. 

 I have much more to say.  Please keep in mind, all this is based on MY experience w/ MY older kids.  All ten of them.  More tomorrow on this topic as there are just so, so many topics to cover.  Like the disappointments they face once in America.  They told Reni and Logan there are NO HOSPITALS in America!  URGHH!!!  How do you think that went over the first time we went to one?  More on the psychological stuff and their thinking once home.  We have a little more insight as to what they think as our older kids can relay that to us once they speak English.  We learned a ton from Yana.  Learning even more from Reni and Logan.  Getting interesting for sure.  More soon.  Need to stretch before bed. 


  1. It seems you are talking about my 7yo daughter jajaja she has been at home for 5 months and has sized 4 number in shoes. It is a real ruin... and has grown 12 cms so you are absolutely rigth in all you say about older children.

  2. Did you hear about this? The TN woman who sent her adopted older child back to Ru is ordered to pay child support.
    I've read your thoughts on it previously when it happened, any more thoughts? It is unfortunate that it had to come to this.

  3. In fairness, in many (most?) parts of the world, toilet paper goes in the garbage can, not the toilet. I know that when I was in Mexico (in Ciudad Juarez), I was instructed not to put toilet paper in the toilet, as the city's plumbing systems just couldn't handle it. So I suspect it's an infrastructure issue in many places. I agree with the rest of the list, though; I just wanted to point out that this one particular issue was probably more of a cultural thing than an institutionalization thing.