Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Great Birth Order Debate

Hey guys,

Today I want to chat a bit about birth order. Lots of people that read this blog are just now starting to embark on their adoption journey. Remember that? It was only a year ago for me. There are so many questions... How many? Which country? How old? What agency? Yikes. It's overwhelming making some of those decisions. Initially we just sort of felt our way around. We felt drawn to two older girls that we saw on someone's blog. When you see their faces and hear their stories it's so easy to try and find a way to give that child a home and that's what we wanted to do. Give two (almost) teenaged girls a home. And with the purest heart and best of intentions we set out to do that. We quickly discovered one million roadblocks. Besides many practical, logistical problems, once we were assigned a social worker she pointed out that that age was probably not a good fit for our family that already includes two little ones (3 and 6). We didn't care. She was adamant. That happens sometimes, and you have to find a way to agree and work together.

I want to tell you guys a little bit about what to expect in those first meetings with your social worker and some things to consider before you go in. Here is one rule of thumb: You do not break birth order. You adopt at least one year younger than your youngest. That's the rule. The main reason is that certain rights and treatments are given to children based on the order that they were born. Dethroning your oldest might upset the vibes in your house. And truly, this is the popular and accepted rule among authorities, some social workers being more stickler-ish than others about it.

But we all know that some rules are made to be broken. So let's explore that.

My problem with the rule is that older kids aren't being adopted. If you look on the waiting child list at your agency you will not find an infant or toddler on that list. There is a wait list a mile long for those kids (and I'm super glad for it). But my heart does bleed for the older ones. Meaning 4 and older. Our social worker strongly advised that we adopt a year younger than our youngest, which would put us in the 0-2 year old line. It's a very long line, and I was selfishly hoping to skip those years anyway (been there, done that, not a fan). So we've decided to stay younger than our oldest since he does value his place as oldest, but we're  not limiting ourselves to staying younger than Abby. There is a possibility of artificially twinning Abby, as well (another no-no), but we'll explore that topic in another post.

I'm feeling ok about breaking the rule because of an argument that I heard from a leading adoption specialist and counselor, Arleta James, in her presentation on Adoption Learning Partners webinar, Brothers and Sisters in Adoption. She had lots of interesting things to say on the subject of breaking birth order, and ultimately said that she didn't think that it was much of a big deal. Birth order is more fluid these days as families blend through marriage as well, so it's something that lots of families are going through. Also, she pointed out that rights and responsibilities, rewards and consequences should be given out based on maturity and not age. Not to mention that adopted kids may have younger emotional ages than chronological ages, so that sort of skews things to. I agree with all her points, so I'm cool with it.

We felt strongly that we wanted to adopt a child that might otherwise have a hard time finding a family. That's not true for everyone at all. I think God calls us all to be open to different scenarios. But today I just wanted to throw a few thoughts into the mix in case breaking birth order is an obstacle for you in adopting the child that you feel is on your heart. Just something to think about as you're making some of those early decisions.

Now, I'm totally not a fan of debates. Not my thing. You guys all know where I stand for my family, and every family is so unique, so there's no judgement from me in a different choice. But in the interest of fully informing our friends at the beginning stages of what to expect, let's share a little today. Really really nicely, because we're totally a snuggly family here. But I want to know... are you breaking birth order with your adoption? And why did you decide that?


  1. I was looking forward to this post Beth and it did not disappoint! We are adopting to keep the birth order. We've asked for a child born January 2011 or later (Rae was October 2010) so they would be in different classes in school. Though I feel completely the same way with wanting an older child because they are less likely to get adopted. I think at this point, with Raeca being so young it probably would have been ok to adopt older since she isn't so set in her ways yet. Wish I would have thought about that a little more before we submitted everything. I think you did an excellent job covering the bases in this post.

  2. We had to find another social worker when we decided to artificial twin and adopt 2. Broke too many rules. I always have a pause when I hear that you should adopt out of birth order. Why doesn't the orphan deserve first born status?

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with this! We are trying to adopt a group of 3 siblings, and one of them is the same age as our oldest daughter. Everyone is overly concerned about my biological daughter...and we have her best interest at heart, but what about the birth order of those siblings? Why isn't that considered important? I don't get it.

  3. While we're still adopting little ones, my husband's heart is for the older kids, and someday when our kids are older, I think we'll bring home older kids, too. Our first adopted child was 3 yrs 7 months when we met her, 3 years younger than our youngest bio child. Our current adoption will be a bit younger. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say about artificial twinning. I'd really like to bring home 2 this time.

  4. It's interesting that you brought up families that blend through marriage. That is an excellent and really valid point. Loads of families come together, the birth order is all switched and everyone seems to survive, and in lots of cases, thrive, because of it.
    Speaking of twinning... My step sister and I are the same age. Our parents married when we were both 5. She is only 31 days older than me. There were no birth order issues. We were thrilled to have each other, and thrilled to grow up in the same grade and graduate the same year from High School.
    It definitely is something to think about! :) Thanks for the post!

  5. Oh this is so good! We adopted out of birth order and it has been challenging, but our son is our son and I can't imagine our life without him. No matter what "order" we would have adopted they both would have come with their problems.....

  6. Thanks for writing about this! We set out to keep birth order with our adoption (which was strongly advised by everyone so it seemed) and yet God has had other plans for us. We also set out to adopt 2 boys and have ended up finding the boy {and girl} that God ordained for our family. We laugh thinking if we can really put parameters on God! We ended up needing to amend our homestudy and immigration, but God's will prevails. Lesson learned. He knows what is best and His will cannot be thwarted. Whatever comes our way through this "out of birth order" adoption, it is deemed good by our loving Father God...and we trust Him. Thanks again for the post!