Brenda, the Adoption Counselor, blogged yesterday about adopting teens. Families that I have been working with lately think I am nuts when I start to talk about them the kind of child would be a good match for them. They always begin with the "younger is better" philosophy and I do my best to present both sides.
There is something positive to be said about having some background and some good memories of children by the time they hit the teen years. However, they often do not compensate for the serious issues that are hidden and surface as the child gets older -- the mental illness or FASD issues, or the genetic personality quirks.
If we were going to adopt again, i would definitely look for teenage boys 14 or older. And since this is a huge pool of kids, it wouldn't be hard to find one.
First of all, if a kid is 14 in most states, he has a choice as to whether or not he wants to be adopted. This is a positive thing for me -- a kid wanting a family, seeing how important that is, and asking for one is huge.
Secondly, you know what you're getting. You know their history, their diagnosis (even though you have to be careful with this one because they have had multiple if they've been in the system, and some may be wrong).
Third, the child may actually have the sense to be a bit grateful when you put up with all kinds of things that nobody else ever has.... of course, they might not be, but often they are.
Another important thing to remember is that if the child is very difficult -- your'e only legally responsible for them for a few years. ;-)
A 14 year old is almost through the nastiest stage of puberty, IMHO. They are more settled. We have 3 fourteen year olds and a 15 year old right now and I am enjoying them now a whole lot more than I have the past two or three years.
Finally, there are several kids out there who are 14 or 15 and in regular, basic foster care. This means that they have overcome a TON of adversity. They are survivors. If they are involved in school and church activities at this point and doing well, they have incredible potential.
Wading through their case file would be a scary thing, but I encourage parents to start at the front and read backwards. Their current level of functioning is who they are now -- their case file is what they have become.
So if you email me sometime about how you'd like to adopt a girl under 8, please don't be surprised if I start trying to convince you that what you REALLY want is a 15 year old boy.
If you could get to know our Leon, adopted a couple months before his 13th birthday, you'd be sold.... trust me.