Monthly Archives: July 2016

Legally Changing the Age of Your Child Once Home

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One topic which comes up periodically is whether or not a parent should consider legally changing their child’s age once home. Many people are not aware that this is an option. While children are more likely to be older than the age listed in the file if their birthdate is not accurate, parents usually choose to change a birthdate to make a child younger than the age listed in the file. The reason for this is that children from institutions, and even foster care, are typically immature for their age. If you have a 14 year old who acts like a 10 year old, you will not want to change her birthdate to 16 and give her the ability to drive!

The Age Change Process:

What does changing your child’s age involve? If you decide to change your child’s age legally, you will need to begin with your pediatrician. A bone age scan will be done, typically a wrist X-ray. Keep in mind that the bone age scan has a wide margin, so it will not give you an accurate age. Particularly if your child has experienced malnutrition, the bones will reflect a younger age than the child’s chronological age. The point of the bone age scan is to give you proof that there is question of the accuracy of your child’s age. A visit to the dentist is also common for more information to access age.

With the evidence in hand, you can now petition the court to have the child’s birthdate changed legally. Usually this involves appearing before a judge. The process can vary by state, so you will need to find out what is required where you live. If you are in a state where re-adoption is done, changing the birthdate can often be done at the same time so that the state issued birth certificate reflects the new age. Be aware that after your child’s age is legally changed through the state, the Certificate of Citizenship will now be incorrect. You will need to file paperwork and pay a fee to have a new one issued.

Considerations When Making the Decision

Why would you want to make your child younger? There can be advantages to changing your child’s birthdate to give them a younger age. Children from institutional care are usually behind developmentally. Malnutrition or health conditions could make them correspondingly small in stature for their age. Changing to a younger age will help a child not be as far behind their peers or to have extra time to catch up. If you adopt a child who is 5 on paper but 2 developmentally, changing to a legal age of two will not only mean he doesn’t have to start kindergarten right away but will also allow him to qualify for additional services under Early Intervention. At the same time, a negative to making your child a younger age could be that that he or she is now normally developing compared to the peers of their new age, so no longer qualifies for needed services.

Jen brought home her daughter at age 6. While her daughter’s listed special need was a minor one, she came from an orphanage where care was poor and malnutrition was common. A bone age scan found her age to be 3 years younger than her chronological age due to malnutrition. Jen and her husband seriously considered changing her daughter’s age. They consulted with several medical professionals and therapists as they considered this option. However, if they lowered her age, she would no longer qualify for services she needed at her new age because she would then be typically developing. There was also no guarantee that she would qualify for a special needs preschool program at a lower age. They decided to leave her age as it is for now. In their state, there is no statute of limitations on filing for a change of age. If she is still behind in a year, they can change her age at that time to give her another year in kindergarten.

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you feel your child’s physical and developmental delays are likely to be long term?
  • Have you given your child some time to catch up and give you a good idea of their rate of development?
  • Would your child qualify for additional services to help their development at the younger age?
  • What are the benefits to changing your child’s age right now versus waiting?
  • If your child is older, how do they feel about the age change? It can be difficult for a school aged child to move back a grade or more and lose their peers. You will need to find ways to make sure the child does not feel that he or she is failing in some way.
  • How would the puberty impact your child’s new age?
  • Some adult adoptees feel that they are stripped of almost everything through international adoption. While most children adopted from China will come with an assigned birthdate rather than their true date of birth, carefully consider whether your child might one day feel that even their birthdate was taken from them. Be certain that your reasons for wanting to change the birthdate are serious and will be overwhelmingly beneficial to your child.

IMG_0558Brooke, an experienced adoptive parent, has changed the age of three of her children and will likely be changing the age of another child who was adopted recently. She wrote that there were serious doubts about the accuracy of the birth dates of the first two, who were adopted internationally, but not from China. The third child had an accurate birthdate but was extremely delayed, both physically and developmentally, because of malnutrition. She says “As he grew, we would tell people that he was 12 months younger, because that is really where he was developmentally. He qualified for therapy because of his delays, but if we saw him as 12 months younger, he was pretty close to right on for development. When we readopted at the court, we rolled him back exactly a year, so he just turned 3. I changed HIS age to buy him time. There is no way that little boy is on par with others who just turned 4, instead I bought him grace to be little, and grow on a normal schedule.” 

Brooke went on to counsel parents who might be considering an age change for their child. “It has made a huge difference in our children’s lives. It’s not about it being an “estimate” assigned by the orphanage. MOST of our children in the adoption world will get estimated birthdays. MOST kiddos will be delayed in some way. I think you have to consider it an extreme need to change, not willy nilly. It wasn’t done by us for convenience, or because we didn’t like it or like the story of how it was chosen. Some thing in adoption we just have to go with. We did it to best serve our kids. To give them a fighting chance. But we also didn’t do it for others who we felt like could be ok where they were, only for those who really needed a greater amount of help.”

 

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August 6 months home

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Six months already! That time when you feel simultaneously that it seems like yesterday he joined the family and that he’s been here forever. It’s been a really hard six months, but when I sit down to write a post like this, it makes it easy to see how far we’ve come. First, he’s a great sleeper. He sleeps about 11 hours a night plus 1.5-2 hour nap. We recently transitioned him to a toddler bed in a room with Leo and Vincent. He loves sleeping with his older brothers and we’ve had no problems with him getting out of bed.

IMG_6392Also, he continues to be a good eater. While he sometimes will start a power struggle over food, he generally isn’t picky about what food he eats. He has grown about 2 inches in height, but surprisingly only gained about a pound in weight. I mentioned last time that August stopped walking after his growth spurt. He has figured out how to walk again without using the walker. He only uses the walker now to get into trouble. We still have no surgeries scheduled. We will travel in August to consult with a well known specialist in the field while our home hospital is formulating their own treatment plan. Everyone agrees that he will need hip surgery first. I am dreading putting this kid in a spica cast! He is so active, I know that will be a really miserable time for us all. But we want to give him a stable hip while working for as normal a gait as possible for the future. Because he is walking well right now, we can take the time to carefully consider our options.

At three months home, August still had a few lingering Chinese words but now he uses English all the time. He has stayed at the repetition phase of language acquisition for quite a while, repeating anything someone says to him. We are all amused that he says “chicken” instead of seven.” When he counts, it sounds like “1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 8, chicken.” We can’t bear to correct him because it’s so cute! He also speaks in short phrases. However, within the past week or two he has begun to bump up to four word sentences rather than only sticking a few phrases together. Here are some of the things he has said recently:

“Because dat mine, I play dat.”

“JieJie hit my cup. My water gone!”

“Look Mama, big truck over there!”

“Rain outside–all wet!”

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August’s extreme separation anxiety has subsided. We did have some regression when I left for a weekend trip, but that did not last too long after I returned. August is loving the summer activities. He is not a fan of longer van trips, but after visiting grandparents on two trips, and another day trip to a city about 3 hours away, he is dealing with the van better. He loves any playground, the zoo, splash pads, parades, and especially vehicles. He yells “Big trucks!” at parades or when we pass construction sites. Even parking lots will bring on a “Mama yook! Cars!” I took the kids to a Touch-A-Truck event at a local museum and he was over the moon excited. We recently celebrated his half birthday and a 20 pack of matchbox cars was his favorite gift. He likes to keep a car in hand at all times, preferably a few in each pocket, too. I once emptied seven cars out of his pockets at bedtime!

We are slow and steady on the behavioral issues. He is getting more patient and instigates fewer power struggles. He still has meltdowns daily, but they are far fewer than when he first came home. We are continuing to work on transition issues. Usually if I say it’s time for a diaper change he will yell “No diaper change!” at me. If I say “It’s time for a diaper change. Which car do you want to choose to take upstairs with you?” he will usually still yell no at me, but sometimes he will choose a car instead. Because our state offers funding for adoption related counseling, we are looking into that as a way to help him feel more secure with us and learn more positive ways of coping with his big emotions. Many of the behaviors we are dealing with are very common for a 2 or 3 year old, but I think they are magnified by being adopted and moving to another country in the middle of a trying age. Despite all the ups and downs, we still feel lucky to have this spunky little guy in our family!

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Book Review: Awakening East

I received a free copy of Awakening East by Johanna Garton to review. As I’ve mentioned previously, I do not have an Amazon affiliate account. If you decide to purchase the book, I suggest you look it up on Amazon using the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link because I feel that LWB would benefit more from a couple of dimes than I would.

27294612Awakening East is a memoir written by an adoptive mother of two through China’s original non-special needs program. When her children were 11 and 4, her family moved to China to live for a year. While Johanna seems to have always had the travel bug, this move was driven in a large part by her desire for her children to be able to connect with their birth culture. Johanna and her husband paid a lot of attention to their pre-adoptive training. She is very sensitive to the emotions that her children might have as adoptees. Her son attends a Mandarin immersion school. Her love and care for her children shines through in the book.

During the first third of the book, Johanna shares a bit about her college-aged self and experiences traveling in Asia as a young adult. Next, she moves on to the adoption stories of both of her children. I loved the excitement she and her husband felt upon finding that they would be adopting a boy from China during their first adoption. They got caught in the slowdown during the second adoption. I’m assuming they had an early 2006 LID because it took three years for them to receive the referral of their daughter, and she shares their struggles with the wait.

The rest of the book focuses on their year in China. I really enjoyed the book, which was well written and entertaining, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Johanna writes that they really didn’t want to be in a big east coast city, but preferred a location in the central or south for a more authentic Chinese experience. Her son was from Kunming and she was eventually able to find a teaching location there. However, she says that living there was “difficult” (in the biggest apartment in the city with a housekeeper/cook?) so they traveled at least monthly to many different countries in Asia where they saw the sights and enjoyed a break. Towards the end of the book they stopped in Shanghai where she felt the decision to reject east coast living was justified because they found it so western. I guess I don’t feel that living in Des Moines is any more authentically American than living in Chicago so I disagree that life in Beijing, Shanghai, or Nanjing is less authentically Chinese. It’s simply different. Garton has a great sense of humor, so I was looking forward to many amusing anecdotes of an American family adjusting to life in China. Instead, I felt like I was reading far more about Thailand, Burma, or India than China. I can see where the trips they took outside of China would stand out in her memory more than daily life, but I would have liked to hear more of the day to day details.

The largest amount of their time in China recounted in Awakening East regards their trips to her son’s orphanage (Kunming) and daughter’s foster family (Fuzhou, Jiangxi). I know that families who adopted from those areas will really enjoy the details about those trips. Families handle the privacy issue in differently, but I was a little uncomfortable reading so much information about the exact details of her children’s abandonment, their life before adoption, and even her son’s journal entry giving his feelings on the orphanage visit. He is old enough that I’m sure she got his permission to share within the book, but I would not personally have shared as much information as she chose to. However, I did appreciate how much she shared about her feelings on these important trips. I know any adoptive parent could relate to the anxiety around such a big occasion and wanting to get every bit of information from the trip as possible while also being concerned about your child’s emotional well-being.

All in all, I found Awakening East to be an entertaining read which was a nice change from my usual heavy fare. I think adoptive parents will enjoy it.

 

Mine In China in paperback

As promised, Mine In China is now available in paperback. It’s 400 pages! You can order it through CreateSpace here, as well as on Amazon. You can use the link on the sidebar to order either the ebook or paperback through Amazon, or even better, search for it using the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link. I do not have an Amazon affiliate account because I feel that LWB would benefit more from a couple of dimes than I would.

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I do apologize that the paper copy is almost $15. This is almost entirely publication cost. I actually receive less per paper copy than I do from ebook purchases. However, the extremely good thing about having a paper book available is that you can request your local library order a copy. Libraries are usually happy to accommodate patron requests. I know I wasn’t the only one who browsed my library adoption section when we first starting considering adoption. Everything at my library about adopting from China was a decade out of date. With international adoption number plummeting, I hope that my book will help more people to consider the China program as an option. I know how many people are scared away by the term “special needs” and I tried hard to address all those concerns and more in my book. Requesting that your library purchase a copy is a wonderful way for you to advocate for more people to consider adopting from China. (Disclosure: I get about 30 cents if a library purchases my book, so I’m really not benefitting from this unless a couple hundred of you go storm your libraries).

While reformatting the book for print, I took the opportunity to upload a revised version of the ebook. If you have already read the ebook, it is probably not worth your time to download the new version. However, if you recently purchased the book or are currently referencing it because you are in process, please download the newer version. All of the changes were minor. To give a few examples:

  • Corrected the typographical errors which slipped through prior editing
  • Changed references to USCIS in Missouri to reflect their new location in Kansas
  • Added 3rd party dossier service preparation service info
  • Reformatted the 10 page annotated packing list to be easier to read