Adoption: Hidden Issues and Older Children

I’ve been following Julie’s blog for years.  I couldn’t even pinpoint when it started.  Sometime after their Ethiopian adoption and their daughter is now 5.  Anyway, I’m just about to bust out of my skin about their latest post.  It is nearly textbook to what we learned in training the past 2 weeks about kids who have suffered neglect, abuse or abandonment. 

The first thing I could connect is that things that you don’t think are issues may/will surface years later.  One example they gave in class is one I mentioned a few days ago…a 9 month old that was sexually abused.  No one knew about it at all until years later when the child started showing very bad behavior in day care.  It wasn’t until a sibling that was adopted by someone else uncovered it during an art therapy session.  The abused child had no clue what had happened and could not verbalize it.  And yet, they said his little brain and body knew he had gone through trauma and was reacting to it.  Julie’s daughter, although she had been taken care of from birth and adopted at only 8 months is displaying behavior issues caused by abandonment.  I’m not thankful they are going through this, but I’m thankful Julie shared that.  Because I can see how much love there is in that family and see that they can get through it.

The second thing we learned that I think most people don’t understand is the younger the trauma happened, the longer lasting the effects.  Things that happen as an infant can have lifelong issues whereas if they are school-age the effects are shorter term.  For example, for those babies that are neglected, they develop attachment disorders and can never, ever get that back, even with therapy.  There are just things that have to happen biologically as a baby to work right.  Our worker told us the older the child is when the trauma happens, the less long-term effects it can have.  I just think that people assume you are better off to adopt a younger baby that has experienced traumas because oh, they were young and don’t remember, or oh, you have more time to help them.  And while partly that is true, it’s not always.  If it happens when they are older, although you have less time with them before adulthood, you need less time to work with them.  Maybe I’m generalizing and have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m no expert but from the training we experienced, that is what I’m hearing.  I guess I just want to debunk the theory that getting a baby is the best/easiest way. 

Let me be clear, I think at ANY age there will be issues. There is no question.  We are aware and we are preparing ourselves mentally that this is coming.  But I know God is leading us to this and He will see us through it.  Just like Julie and her sweet Marlie.  A big thank you again to Julie for opening up about their issues.  You give us so much hope even in your struggles!


  1. Hi Amy! I’ve been following your blog for a while now thanks to Amanda and also following your journey to adopt. We are currently in the process of fostering to adopt and are parenting a little boy who was neglected as an infant. I think you are right to say that the effects are long term, but with the right kind of care, some things can get better if they don’t entirely heal. We’re already seeing some small progress, but it is slow in coming. Also, as the kids age, they tend to process more of what they’ve been through. Our sweet boy remembers so much even though it happened when he was an infant and toddler. If your training hasn’t already done so, PLEASE begin reading The Connected Child. It has helped us a lot in such a short time. I look forward to continuing to read about your journey!