More people are adopting in later life than ever, says High50's Kim Willis. Age is no barrier, nor is being single or not owning your home. Christina adopted when she was 50 and says it's been the making of her family.
Adopting in your 50s is a lot more common than people think and the process doesn't have to be drawn out.
Celebrities are among the growing number of our generation who are choosing to adopt. Diane Keaton adopted her daughter Dexter in 1996, and son Duke in 2001, as a single mum in her 50s. Sharon Stone was two years shy of her 50th when she adopted her third child, Quinn. Stone's decision to adopt reportedly came after several devastating miscarriages. Singer Sheryl Crow was nearing 50 when she adopted her second son, Levi, now four.
Anyone concerned about their age being a barrier to adoption may be reassured by the advice of adoptive parent Christina, 54, from Glasgow, who attests that you are never too old to adopt or love a child.
She was already a birth mother to Gary, 30, Gail, 28, Summer, 17, and Shannon, 16, and is now a proud adoptive mum to two more children, the latest of whom she adopted when she was 50.
"I never worried about my age. Even if I was 100 I'd have moved mountains to adopt my kids," Christina says.
Adopting Later In Life
According to the Department for Education, adopting in your 50s should be as swift a process as adopting in your 30s as there is no upper age limit for adoption in the UK, just as there isn't in the USA. Adopters have to be over 21, but the most important thing adoption agencies are looking for are parents who have the potential to provide care and support to their child.
Adopters have to be over 21, but the most important thing adoption agencies are looking for are parents who have the potential to provide care and support to their child. (Even so, various adoption agencies may have their own individual rules.)
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to what's involved in the adoption process. Single? That's OK. Low income? Renter? Already a parent? All these supposed barriers are broken down by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) or in the USA (American Adoptions).
For Christina, adopting Harry, now 10, and Mikey, now four, has been the making of her family. "There is a feeling you get as a mother the moment your new born baby is placed in your arms. It's an overwhelming sense of love and commitment and I'd been lucky enough to feel it four times, at the birth of each of my children," she says.
"It was a feeling I never expected to feel again. I didn't think anyone could love a child who wasn't their own. I knew I could care for other children, which is why I decided to start fostering, but I never thought I'd love any children like my four. How wrong I was."
Fostering Later In Life
Rewind to 2003 and Christina was a single mum with all four kids living at home. A friend started fostering and it sparked Christina's interest.
"So many children didn't have it as easy as mine and I wanted to help them," Christina says. "I warned my children that no matter how attached we might get to the foster kids, they'd always leave in the end."
Christina's children urged her to proceed, knowing she'd make a great foster parent. So Christina started the process.
"It took a year. I had to go to group meetings with more experienced foster parents. There were background checks and a social worker visited our home weekly for months."
In June 2004, Christina became a foster parent. "I'd fostered three children that summer. Saying goodbye was hard, but I knew they were being adopted into good homes or going back to the homes they belonged in."
And then Harry, now 10, arrived, in October that year.
"He arrived wearing a little woolly hat; a tiny, vulnerable little thing. All I knew was that he'd been hurt and taken away from his family. I lifted him up to put him on my shoulder and he threw up all over me. And in that instant, I knew I'd be keeping him forever.
"I felt the same gush of love and desire to protect him for the rest of his life, that I had with my own kids. It was like I'd just been handed my fifth baby."
Christina asked her children how they felt about Harry becoming a permanent member of the family and they were all instantly on board. However, that was just the beginning of what seemed an interminable wait for their ambition to be realized.
The Adoption Process Took Four Years
"It was just a case of bad luck. Social workers kept leaving, the case got passed from pillar to post," Christina says.
"Harry is funny, cheeky and happy. He has a shock of bright red hair and a temper to match. He'll always have learning difficulties as a result of the injuries. He can go from happy to screaming like a banshee in seconds. But he's adorably loving."
When it comes to questioning his past, Christina is open with her son. "I tell him he came to me because he was hurt as a baby. And that I adopted him because I fell in love with him. But he hasn't asked about it in years. He knows we can talk about it again whenever he needs to. There are no secrets here.
"But he is so loved, by me and his older brothers and sisters, that I don't think he feels the need to delve any deeper for now."
Are You Too Old To Adopt?
As for the other foster kids that have come and gone from Christina's home over the year, Harry has fallen in love with every single one of them. "'Can't we adopt them all?' he asks me. But I always knew Harry was a one-off. Or so I thought."
In May 2010, Christina was called by social services and asked if she could foster a baby a few months later, when he was born. "When he arrived a month later, he was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome and they weren't sure if I'd still want to foster him."
Christina marched down to the hospital to collect the baby boy. "As I walked into his ward, an old familiar feeling swept over me. I knew before I'd even seen Mikey that I'd be adopting him too."
"All the other incubators and cribs had balloons and soft toys all around them. Mikey's had nothing. He didn't even have his own clothes. The hospital had put him in trousers far too big for him and rolled the legs up several times.
"I had been hit by a thunderbolt. But this time, I tried to fight it for a while. I couldn't adopt another child, I thought our family worked as it was."
Shannon and Summer had other ideas. As soon as they saw Mikey they reiterated what was happening in Christina's heart. "We have to keep him!" they said. And Harry said the same thing.
"The children had one sentiment: adopt Mikey as quickly as I could, because he belonged with us." A few days later Christina called the social worker and asked to be considered for Mikey's adoption. Eighteen months later, the adoption was complete.
"Now, we're just getting on with family life. Mikey and Harry have brought such happiness to us all. Mikey wakes up smiling and kisses us all every morning. Harry wakes up covered in little toy trains. It's Mikey's way of telling Harry to get up and start playing.
"Mikey and Harry complete us. Our family wouldn't be our family without them. Adoption isn't always easy, but sometimes there is a child out there just waiting to belong to you," Christina says. "It doesn't matter how old you are. It just matters that you've got love to give."
For more information on adoption, please visit BAAF or American Adoptions.