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More Older Adults Seek to Adopt

Couples and singles look to make a difference in children's lives

En español | In 2006, Craig Roberts and his wife, Fiamma di Gioia, traded a calm life in Lindstrom, Minn., to adopt two teenagers and their 10-year-old sibling.

See also: Ins and outs of international adoption.

"It's a huge undertaking," says di Gioia, 72, a retired teacher with two children from a previous marriage. Like many adoptive kids from foster care, the three siblings feared abandonment.

Despite the struggles, the couple says adoption has been well worth it. Their daughters are now 20 and 15 years old, and their son is 18. "It's a way to give back, to have an impact each and every day," says Roberts, 61, a database developer for a bank.

Couples and singles in their 50s, 60s and beyond are embracing parenthood, according to adoption and child welfare agencies. And older adoptive parents may be best suited to guide school-age children or teens toward adulthood.

Of the 3,330 couples active on the AdoptUSKids website in late March, 43 is the average age for prospective fathers and 41 for prospective mothers, says Kathy Ledesma, the agency's national project director.

"More 50-plus people are adopting, more are adopting older children, and they do indeed face challenges, especially when they want to adopt younger children," says Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York, which conducts research and develops policy on adoption and foster care. "Adopting older ones from foster care is the easiest route for them by far."

Changing the world

While many adoptions among those 50-plus are domestic, some would-be parents consider international adoption. Phil and Connie Warners of Grand Rapids, Mich., who have three children in their early 20s, adopted a boy, Robbie, now 15, from Romania in 1999. A year ago, they welcomed Tem, 7, and his 5-year-old sister Tessa from Ethiopia. All three came through Bethany Christian Services.

"We do things that others would consider foolish or crazy," says Phil, 51, director of outdoor education at a year-round Christian youth camp. His 50-year-old wife is a part-time nurse. "We believe that, in spite of our [older] age," he says, "we can still be active in changing the world for the better — even if it is only for two children at a time."

Next: From foster care to adoption. >>

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