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Age is Just a Number: Adopting in Your 40’s and 50’s

By: Virginia Frank

Published On: Aug 31, 2018

Age is Just a Number: Adopting in Your 40’s and 50’s

With cost of living rising so much in present day, it’s hard for everyone to make enough to cover basic expenses, much less put money aside for a family. This has force-created a society where couples and single individuals are starting families later in life than in past generations. Now that the age of the baby boomers has faded into our history’s background, older parent adoptions are becoming more common with more and more options coming to the surface. Yet, this evokes a question and concern that may spark anxiety in the hearts of prospective parents. If age is just a number, is there such thing as being “too old” to adopt?

Never Too Old

Currently, in the United States, there is no cut-off age for adoption. Hence, statements about how parents should stop having kids at such-and-such an age are purely from opinion. Fictitious societal pressure, and ones that hold no legal grounding. According to US adoption laws, as long as the soon-to-be adult is 21 years of age or older, adopting a child is completely fine.

This holds true in the United Kingdom as well. They have no age limit for parents wanting to adopt children from the UK. Age is just a number. Definitely something worth researching for those open to adopting internationally. More on that soon.

Domestic Adoption

When it comes to domestic adoptions, birth mothers and agency internal policies have a lot to do with the ebb and flow of the process. In the United States, birth mothers not only have the authority to choose their adoptive parent, but also reserves the right to change their mind until they relinquish their parental holding over the child. Adoption agencies maintain the power to include a maximum age limit in their internal policies and procedures, but usually don’t. Adoption agencies view the older generation as having more to offer, with more life skills and greater financial stability. Those with past parenting experiences are seen as a huge plus as well.

In the larger scheme of things, adoption agencies and birth mothers alike carefully screen candidates, selecting those who would make the best home for adoptees. Despite this, the largest drawback prospective parents over the age of 40 may face include longer wait times than that of younger hopeful parents, and more consideration to remaining lifespan. This creates an added challenge to the process, but not an impossible one. After all, age is just a number.

International Adoption

Oftentimes, countries outside of the US may display more flexibility when it comes to age limit, opening up numerous avenues for older parents wanting to adopt. As mentioned above, the UK has no age ceiling. Other countries, like China and Colombia, have set their limits around 50 to 55 years of age, depending.

For those willing to open their hearts and expand their horizons beyond the borders of the United States, international adoptions are a good option to research. This is an especially wonderful possibility for those open to adopting an older child. There are so many who are looking for a forever home, and who are in need of love, nurturing and support.

International adoption agencies and attorneys will be your best resource here, to determine what countries you are and are not eligible to adopt from.

The 40-Year-Old Rule

Something that bleeds into both domestic and international adoption proceedings is something known as “the 40-year- old rule of thumb.” Basically, it is a policy stating that there can’t be more than forty years difference between the adoptive parents and the child they want to adopt. This largely restricted infant adoption rates among older individuals. However, because of the aforementioned baby boom generation decline, this line is becoming slightly more blurred. More and more are again allowing older couples to adopt infants. They are also encouraging those in their 40s and 50s to consider adopting from the foster care system and children with disabilities.

Transracial Adoption

A third and additional viable option to older parents is transracial, or interracial, adoption. Put simply, adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity. If you think about it, the world is a big place. Countless other cultures, races and ethnicities exist. Even so, of all the adoptions that occur in the US, only 14% of those are transracial.

For some strange reason, there’s this preconceived notion that children are better off being raised in a home that is the same race as they are. That they won’t suffer from identity crises or have as many questions. This isn’t true. Having questions is part of the adoptee’s journey. We all inquire as to our backgrounds and where we come from, even if we are biologically related.

More to the point, many transracial children are growing up without permanent homes. Without loving and supportive families. This leaves the door wide open for older couples who are comfortable and willing to welcome children of varying cultures, races and ethnicities as their own. Not only does this create a broader awareness for the parents and those around them to a different culture than their own, but it also helps the child to grow up with a huge sense of pride and unique identity of where they came from.

Age is Just a Number

Whether you are approaching retirement, wanting to fill an empty nest with a second family, or pursuing adoption because everything else has failed – age is just a number. You have a lot to offer, so be sure and explore all the options available. Enroll in parent education classes. Most importantly, don’t just take the Internet’s word. Verify all the details with an adoption lawyer and agency.

No matter what age you are, there will be obstacles to overcome. It is all just part of the adoption process. It isn’t ageist. Different rules and regulations exist in the best interest of the adoptees.

At the end of the day, though, adoption agencies are actively looking for parents who can not only support and care for a child, but also open their homes and love them as their own.



“4 Must-Do’s For Adoption After 40.” A Child After 40, 8 Feb. 2013,

“Adoption Programs.” Children’s House International Adoptions,

French, David. “The Great and Misunderstood Challenges of Adoption.” National Review, National Review, 16 Feb. 2017,

“It’s Never Too Late: Tips for Older People Who Want to Adopt.” Transracial Adoption: When Parenting a Child of Another Race, 27 Aug. 2015,

“Older Parent Adoption.”,

“Transracial Adoption.” Transracial Adoption Support,

Virginia Frank, Adoption & Surrogacy Attorney

Virginia L. Frank is an international surrogacy attorney who helps individuals and couples complete their family through surrogacy....Learn More





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