Adopting Older Children

There are more than 130,000 children waiting to be adopted in America.

On Tuesday, CBS airs "A Home for the Holidays," a special highlighting adoption.

On Tuesday morning, The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman took a look at the kids who have the toughest time getting adopted: older children.

Raymond is one of the extremely lucky ones. He was adopted at the "old" age of 10.

In his short life, Raymond has seen plenty of hell. He says when he was 4 years old, his father raped him and abused his brothers and sister.

"He kept on beating us up, making us do all these painful things," Raymond says.

Gayle Parker was a foster mother who never expected to adopt. But she was willing to take a leap of faith.

"They asked me, 'Would you be willing to adopt?' And I'm like, 'Whoa,'" Parker says. "I thought [Raymond] was going home and I said, 'Yeah,' because I'd fallen in love with him already."

Raymond is grateful for Parker's decision and says, "If she would have never adopted me, I would have probably been in another home saying: 'Lord, get me out of this world.'"

Any older child who finds a home defies the statistics.

"After you're [2 years old] in America, it's very tough to get adopted out of the foster care system," says Child Share's Joanne Feldmeth. "After you're [5 years old], it's extremely difficult. And after you're 8, 10 or 12, it's almost impossible."

Adoptive parents shy away from older kids because the children often have psychological wounds that need healing. Experts say counseling is a must.

"She's also helped me out in a lot of ways," Raymond says of Parker. "We're still in counseling. At different ages, different issues reoccur."

It may be frightening for parents to adopt an older child, but from Raymond's experience, it's the kids who are terrified.

"[Children are] always scared," Raymond says. "They're saying, 'I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen to me after this.'"

Phil and Dusty Castro took in siblings, Carla and Luis, when they were 6 and 8 years old.

"One of the most profound needs is to adopt more than one child, a sibling set," says Feldmeth. "Brothers and sisters lose each other in the system, and that's part of the pain."

The Castros received a call to adopt a brother and sister, and they said 'yes' even before seeing or talking to them. Four years later, the adoption of Carla and Luis became final.

"I am glad that I got adopted," Luis says. "They disciplined me and actually gave me rules to follow. Other houses that I'd been to, really didn't do that."

The two had been through several foster homes -- never knowing if they might be separated.

"I was thinking like it would be scary if I was all by myself and [Luis] left," Carla says.

Phil Castor says, "A lot of people tell you how lucky the kids are to come to your house, or to have you as parents. Believe me, we're the lucky ones, the blessed ones, to have them come in our life."

Christmas is a special time for Parker and Raymond. It was in December, four years ago, that their adoption was final.

"It's just like a beautiful gift being given to you, getting a new family, being able to have someone who can love you and trust and you do the same to them," Raymond says.

Parker responds, "It's been the best thing that's happened in my life -- to adopt him."

The formal adoption proceeding in court holds significance for older children, marking the day they become a forever family.

"The whole ritual of adoption is part of the healing," says Feldmeth. "That's really profound and really important."

Now that he's part of the Parker clan, Raymond has a big extended family and finally feels safe.

"If anything ever happens to you or your mom, your whole family will be there right behind you, holding you back up and saying, 'You're going to be all right,'" he says. "[Parker's] a wonderful parent."

The CBS special "A Home for the Holidays" celebrates the joys of adoption with musical performances from Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige and others.
  • Rome Neal

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