Donald Wood freely admits that things didn’t go as planned when he and his wife, Kimberley, were looking to adopt children seven years ago.
"We were looking for younger kids between 8 and 12, but the twins we actually ended up adopting were 14 at the time," said Wood, who works for the Department of State Health Services in Austin. "My wife, Kimberley, found the twins on the Child Protective Services (CPS) website and realized they attended the school where she was working."
One thing led to another, and the Woods, both well into their forties, adopted the teen siblings. The experience has been so satisfying that Donald hopes all potential adoptive parents will take a serious look at the older boys and girls who often are passed over in favor of babies and toddlers.
Today, twins Brianna and Donald Jr. (a name the son adopted in honor of his new father) are 21 and moving into their adult lives. As Donald watches this transition with a mix of sadness and pride, he offers a few observations and pointers on adopting older children.
"Kimberley and I knew we no longer had the stamina for raising an infant, so from that standpoint it worked well to adopt 14-year-olds," Wood said. "We were definitely past the ‘diaper stage’ in our lives, yet we also didn’t want kids who’d be driving off into the sunset six months after the adoption was approved.
"There were some normal teenage tantrums, and we didn’t have the experience of sculpting their formative years, but we all blended together very well. Kim and I can’t imagine our lives without them."
Although the Woods have mostly enjoyed fast-forwarding to the stage in life when children start blossoming into young men and women, Donald says there have been a few downsides.
"When Brianna and Don Jr. joined us, they already had a lot of preconceived notions about how things should go, and suddenly these two strange people jumped into their lives calling themselves Mom and Dad. That took some adjustment and a lot of patience on both sides."
Donald also said Brianna developed an intense interest in her extended birth family, and that this led to some hurt feelings and a sense of "competition" between the Woods and the other family in Brianna’s life.
"But that could happen in any adoptive situation, regardless of the kids’ ages," Donald noted. "It’s just something to be prepared for along with everything else." Both parents now describe their adoptive experience as overwhelmingly positive. Donald was especially touched by the tribute paid to him by his son’s choice of names.
"I was honored, though it did take some adjustment to become a ‘Senior’ so fast," he joked.
If Donald and Kimberley have any complaint, it’s that the years have flown by a bit too quickly — though they realize this is true for almost all parents. Brianna recently moved out of the house and is engaged to be married. Donald Jr. has completed training as a security officer and works in a building across the street from his dad.
As the twins embark on lives of their own, their parents hope other couples considering adoption will consider children of all ages.
"Adopting teenagers resulted in an experience quite different from what we’d originally expected, but it worked out well for us," Donald said. "The same could be true for other folks as well, so we urge them to keep their minds open and consider all the options."
Adoption and Foster Care in Texas: The Basics
Just a few of the topics covered include who can adopt; what preparation is required; how to work with private adoption agencies that partner with DFPS; and how much it costs to adopt. The site also allows you to view profiles and photos of children awaiting adoption.
And, if you’re considering adoption of older children, the site provides a link to helpful information on the Why Not Me? page.