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Teenage Adoption Tips: How to Handle Adopting a Teenager


For some couples, having a child the old fashioned way may not be possible, even though the want and hope of raising a child may be a constant. For these couples, adoption is a great way to connect a child to a family to fulfill the emotional needs of both sides. The sad fact in these cases is that many times a couple will wait years on waiting lists for a newborn or young baby, when there are hundreds of pre-teens and teenagers waiting for a family to adopt them. Often times, these children are simply waiting for a chance, an opportunity to be embraced rather than pushed away.

Adopting a child involves a long legal process which you can find out more about at the links below:

Troubled Teens

Every adoptee has a different story, though many of them share certain traumas and woes. These troubles are compounded by the onset of puberty, causing havok on the emotions and confidence of teenage adoptees. Without the benefit of a warm, loving home, these teens often turn to sex, drugs and self-harm as ways to counter the grips of despair and hopelessness.

While there are plenty of teenagers who are brought into the adoption system and get lucky enough to be taken in by a foster home, many of these will move from foster home to foster home before they finally find a family, or turn 18.

There are many varieties of statistics out claiming a relationship between a lack of settled home life and violent crime committed by individuals who were bounced from home to home, and I'm inclined to believe that the absence of a normal childhood, the upheaval of feeling thrown away and the inconsistancy of loving parenting can contribute to these statistics, another cause is pointed not at the teenagers themselves, but at the long lists of individuals who refuse to adopt older children.

The fact is: all children in the adoption system should be given equal consideration for a place in your heart and home.

Books on Adoption

Things to Watch For

Being a teenager in the adoption system is difficult. As if being a teenager wasn't hard enough, add to this emotional time the lack of connection to a real family scenario, self-blame and remorse, and you have a recipe for disaster. By making the choice to provide a teenager with a stable, happy home you are possibly saving a life, as well as reaching out to a person in need. The teenage years are a time requiring patience, support and love, and these are all things adoption can provide to these teens. However, there are certain behaviors to watch for, including:

  • Hoarding - a practice where the adopted child creates a stash. This stash can consist of nearly anything you give them, ranging from toys to clothing to even food. This is a natural behavior among adopted children, a psychological way to accomodate the losses and lean times in their lives.
  • Self-harm - This can come in the form of cutting, burning or bruising themselves. The reasons for this type of behavior are numerous, and should be addressed by a professional as soon as possible.
  • Sexual activity/drug use - These are rebellion behaviors, an attempt by the teenager to take control of an otherwise helpless situation. Because the teenager cannot force a happy and loving home, but they want this love, they substitute these feelings with potentially deadly or damaging personal risks.

It's not all bad!

Raising a child can be a harrowing experience full of sleepless nights and huge debts. By adopting a teenager, you have the opportunity to provide love to a group of adoptees who need it every bit as badly as the younger children. You are given the unique love of a near-adult who will remember the kindness and dedication of your raising for the rest of their lives.

You can talk to a teenager about their issues without any guesswork. They understand precisely what is expected out of them, and can convey their own thoughts, hopes and dreams to you clearly.

The admiration and appreciation an adopted teenager gives their adoptive parents knows no bounds, and often strong bonds form between adopter and adoptee through the challenges faced and overcome.

Adoption is love.


Luz on November 07, 2013:

Cristine7 - Although I understand your frustrations, you have to do what is in your heart and what is the right thing. My husband and I have already adopted 2 children (siblings a girl and boy ages 6 and 5), and we are considering adopting a boy age 14. I am the disciplinarian while my husband is the more mellowed. We often get into arguments, but we are also quick to talk things through and come to an agreement of what is the best method of discipline. My advise would be to sit down and speak to your husband and tell him how you feel. Also be opened with your children and don't hold anything back, honesty is the best policy you can have with them. If at the end of all that you decide not to adopt at least be honest to them as they have been through so much and they may just be saying the things are they because they don't want to get hurt. Children put up a huge wall, its a form of protection, if you do not show them the love and trust they so desperately need, than what do you can you expect from them. Be honest!!!

Cristine7 on July 20, 2013:

Need some feebback from adoptive parents. We are in our late fifties and decided to adopt sibling group (13,10,9). They have been with us for 6 weeks and it has triggered a lot of fights between my husband and I over discipline, dress code, activities etc...The teen girl (especiallY) has become overly attached with my husband as well as her siblings- he is the fun parent and I am the disciplinarian. This adoption coincided we me trying to open a business and I am consumed with business issues to resolve, on top of parentind 3 kids and seeing my marriage (second) desintegrate because we don't agree on parenting issues. I just can't handle the drama and everyone of my friends and family think we are nuts for adopting. My question is should I just stop the adoption process before too much time goes by (5 more months before they can be legally adopted)? I don't want to harm them emotionally by not being the best parent I can be at this stage of my life. I lost all the warm fuzzies, the teen have told me that they have a mom and dad that they intend to connect again when she is an adult and that they have no intention of calling us mom and dad.

marion langley from The Study on June 28, 2013:

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Thanks for writing on this topic. It does amaze me how long people wait for babies and how much they spend and how much back and forth heartache they take on for a single child while so many are waiting that are already potty trained and have all their teeth.

tendai on May 07, 2013:

am a teenage looking for a family am desperate my mom is dead i live with my grandma but shes sick and cant aford to take care of me my farther does'nt a bit about please i would like to know how it feels to be loved age 15 am bright at school

Maritah on October 24, 2012:

hallo everyone. am a teenager who is seeking for a chance to find a couple who would be comfortable to give me a chance to call them mum and dad. I have tried to form a picture in my mind that i tell to my friends as i lie about what a great mum and dad i have got yet in actual sense my dad died long before i was born and my mum shortly after. But i get scared that if i tell kids at school about the fact about my mum and dad maybe they will laugh. and there is that part of me that craves for a chance to have a someone i call mum and dad. someone i can bond with like other kids bond with their parents. i hope i find people who don't mind me , to give me a chance just to call them that.

Bayless on June 24, 2012:

I adopted a boy 14 and now he is 15. It has been the biggest blessing of my entire life. He is wonderful, handsome, athletic and a joy. Does he push me? Of course he does and I just push back with love. I am so happy to have my handsome son.

findmesoon on May 08, 2012:

Hi. These stories are very touching and also very familiar; similar to ones I've heard and read before. Truth is teenagers suck in general and all of the problems you have with foster or adopted children can be present with biological children. But "We" need parents and love too. Thank you to everyone who has seen the need and provided for us. I hope I find my home soon

camone on April 06, 2012:

M y husband and I adopted sisters 12 and 13 they are now 14 and 15. It has been a challenge but we would do it again. They will push your buttons, be rude disrespectful and say the most hurtful things to you. I've come to realize its all a test. They want to see if we are going to send them away. As much as we tell them this is home and we won't send them away the continue. It has gotten better the outburst are not as often. Adopting an older child is wonderful but its not for everyone. It takes a lot of understanding and patience.

Emily on March 31, 2012:

I am in the process of adopting a 17 year old boy. He has made my life a living hell over the year that he has lived with me--drug use, stealing, lying, defiance, manipulation, violence, and now is in prison on drug charges. People should NOT be blithely convinced to take this on as a fun, rewarding experience. I love my son, but this has been an incredibly, incredibly difficult road, and from talking with other parents who have adopted teens I know that my experience is not that unusual. You need a LOT of training and a LOT of support to take on the challenge of adopting a teenager. I don't want to discourage people because these children do need homes, but it is not the right thing for everyone. Be sure you know what you are getting into before you make the decision.

Betsey on December 28, 2011:

Hi all. My husband and I adopted a teen girl (she was 15 when she came to us, and 17 when the adoption finally happened). She was a friend of my biological daughter's. We brought her to our home when she and her single dad were having difficulties. we made things very clear from the start that we had rules and that she was expected to follow them the same as our other daughter. She was a good kid, showing how she tried, UNTIL the adoption. Then the chaos began. She began breaking rules and really pushing the limits. It has caused a LOT of tension in our home. She eventually decided that she was "grown up" a month after her 18th birthday and moved out - when she decided that she didn't want to follow OUR rules any more. My husband is very upset and still grieves. I have some difficulty saying that I feel guilty about NOT feeling guilty that she - and her constant drama - are not in my home anymore. However, how do I handle the feeling that my husband feels that I am to blame for this? I have to say that I had gotten sick of her stuff long before he did, but it still hurts to think that he blames me. Please advise.

tara on December 17, 2011:

I have a teenager that is my birth child. At times she is difficult to live with. She has temper tantrums, will not talk to me because I say no. Talking under her breath at me, then saying she said nothing. Has no patience with her younger brother and sister. Has to be told to do her chores. Doesn't want to go to school. Thinks me asking where she is going and who with is a serious insult to her privacy.

She is certainly not the loving child I have known.

I think you have just adopted teenagers. They are not the most grateful and loving people.

Unless they are violent, using drugs or other such activites.

It sounds like you are doing good jobs and care. Teenagers are hard to live with and love. They can be kinda mean. This will pass. They will be grateful to have nice parents.

Mitchell on November 02, 2011:

My partner and I am adopting two 17 year old twins - a boy and a girl. The past few months have been the most emotional of my life. Many ups and downs, but the smiles I see on these two kids faces shake me to my core and let me know that I am doing the right thing. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't hesitate a minute.

Heidi on October 03, 2011:

We're looking at older child and now teenager adoption - potentially a 16 year old boy who's nearly 17. His SW says he really wants to be adopted, which is what struck us the most. I'm glad to see encouragement, we too believe it won't all be roses, but we're still interested.

Kathy on September 03, 2011:

My husband and I adopted a daughter when she was twelve (now 14). This is the hardest thing I have ever done and the most I've ever cried in my life - any correction or being told "No" causes her to raise hell and manipulate me by being super sweet and attentive to everyone else and ignoring me and glaring and even saying horrible things about me to others. Everytime I think we've made a breakthrough, something will happen to make me realize that all of it's been manipulation and completely ingenuine. It's a lonely process, also. People have called my house about things she's said about me and have been really cruel about her behavioral outbursts. Ugh. I needed to whine for a moment. I'm glad I'm not the only one...

Andy on January 06, 2011:

Hi. My wife and I have just taken on the challenge of adopting a preteen boy. I can see that there are many different sides to your stories, and I will pray for you all. I spent the last month in preparation mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am taking the "expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed " approach. So far. Wow. The kid is great. Sure there

are awkward moments and tough uphill battles. But I came into this knowing it wouldn't be all sunshine and roses. We made the decision to take him in because of him. The environment he was surrounded by offered him absolutely no chance to be anything in life other than a thug. From the beginning, I treated him like a man. I think that it really makes him feel good to be part of family decisions. Of course he isn't fond of school.....but I wasn't at 12 either. For those of you having issues..hang in there. Whether the child knows it yet or not, you are his/her only hope. Also, remember, the definition of insanis doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If what you are doing isn't working, try something else. It is really hard for us adults to make significant lifestyle changes. Imagine trying to do it as a teen with raging hormones and other factors. Growing up now is alot different than it use to be, and may require a different style of parenting. I try to find a way to be firm, but understanding of luck. -andy

Sara on January 06, 2011:

I agree with Georgiana and Anne. I have never had anyone talk to me with such hatred and anger. We have 2 small children and felt led to adopt a teenager. Now, she is just a blight on our home. She has graduated from rolling eyes, to screaming fits to out and out willfulness and blatant disrespect. She wants nothing to do with us. We are in pretty intensive therapy, but she tends to use her learned "skills" to manipulate and insult us. She does not want to be with her birth family, but I do not think she wants to be here. I truly feel that she wants to stay because we are financially better off; other than that, she has no true feelings for anyone but herself. We feel for our smaller children who have witnessed her tantrums. Our neighbors are so supportive and uplifting. At one point, they were bringing us meals because we struggled so, but I can tell that they do not want to expose their children to our adopted daughter. We are quite hopeless but try to remain optimistic and faithful.

Sasha on April 17, 2010:

Dear Georgiana and Anne, don't give up I know it's a tough road as me and my husband are in the process of adopting siblings that are 16 and 13, both girls! We have adopted two younger siblings from birth and there is quiet an age gap between our children, but the one thing that reminds me that we have done the right thing is that they want to be loved and take a very long time to actually believe that they are worthy of being loved. Once they gain self esteem, they learn to accept the love you are giving them and there is breakthrough and things do get easier.

I would really recommend adopting teenagers as there is nothing like it!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 22, 2009:

teenager is the transition age. But I agree with you.They need to be Adopted.We have to think about this seriously.

Bob on August 17, 2009:

I am in the process of adopting a 16 year old boy now, having previously adopted 5 other children, two of them as teenagers- I have found it to be a terrific, if occasionally terrifying experience. One thing about adopted teens- it takes quite a while for them to feel truely secure- so they spend a fair amount of time pushing your buttons, in effect, seeing if they can get ejected from your home before they become too attached. It is helpful to internalize the feeling that these are no different from your birth children- that nothing they will do will cause you to reject them. Once they figure that out, things smooth out- or at least they did for me- and my oldest, who are grown and away from home, have a relationship with me and their adopted siblings that is strong and would be the envy of many birth families.

Anne on November 26, 2008:

We have the same problem only our children were adopted Internally (at age 14 & 16)! I think they truly feel we have done them more harm than good and I don't think this will change until they becme adults....IF THAT EVER HAPPENS!

Georgiana on October 25, 2008:

I have adopted two girls over the past five years. The oldest who is now 16 regrets being adopted at 14. She said she misses the priveleges she had in foster care (going to the mall by herself, receiving vouchers to shop how she wants, and not having anyone harass her about her grades). How come I feel like I've done an awful thing by adopting these girls so late in their life?

Cory Zacharia from Miami Beach, Florida on February 28, 2008:

Dear Gamergirl, This is such an important topic!! My Mom volunteers teaching art at a shelter for children that have been placed there by the state. It's a particularly nice shelter with group homes furnished by Rooms to Go, beautiful open areas in the main hall, and serves Kosher food because the shelter is maintained by Jaffco, a Jewish organization. The children there are of all races, religions and walks of life with one thing in common: that their parents couldn't take care of them. My mother always grows very attached to the children and so it's always bittersweet when they are adopted, returned home or placed in a foster home. And of course, the children who often have the most difficult time adapting to all these changes are the teen kids. You are right. Adoption is love.

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