How Old Is Too Old for Parents to Adopt an International Child?


Many countries have age limits for adoptive parents considering international adoption. So, how old is too old?

Q:  How old is too old for parents to adopt an international child?

A:  For children around the world, there are limits on how old they can be to be adopted.  U.S. Immigration rules dictate that children must have an immigration application completed prior to the child’s 16th birthday in order to be adopted internationally (with some exceptions made for sibling groups with younger children).

Many countries have age limits for adoptive parents as well. Most countries have a minimum age of 25 years but a flexible “maximum age” for adoption.  So how old is too old for you to consider adoption?

It really depends on what country you are looking at.  For instance, Bulgaria does not have an age maximum, but China has a cut-off of 54 years old, and Bethany’s Ethiopia program allows a difference of no more than 40 years between the age of the parent and child.

Even so, with many international adoption programs, these age limits can be “flexible” if the family is adopting an older child or a child with special needs.  What does this mean?  If you are an older couple, you may not have to meet age limits when adopting an older child or a child with special placement needs who is born overseas!

Many country programs are willing to adjust their age limits for adoptive parents in order to place children with more profound needs into families if it is an appropriate situation.  In fact, Bethany DEPENDS ON and greatly NEEDS older adoptive parents to adopt these waiting children! 

Why? Waiting children need attention and care from parents who are able to give them extra time and support. In our experience, Bethany has found that life experience has molded many older adoptive parents specifically for this purpose. Older parents are often well suited to parent older children or children with more significant needs.

One older adoptive parent summed it up this way in a Huffington Post article in 2012: “In some ways, being an older parent is easier...because I feel like I am more patient and have realistic expectations.  I understood and accepted the fact that adopting at such a late stage in my life would mean pushing retirement out until…[our daughter] graduates college...[it's a] small price to pay for the absolute joy she brings to our lives." 

So how old is too old?  There is no set boundary!  If you have room in your life for a child born in another country and/or are an experienced parent who has “launched” your children or has older children, we want to hear from you.


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