Tuesday Topic: Should We Change Our Child's Age?

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Look at us! Tuesday Topics two weeks in a row. Did you enjoy reading the responses to last week’s question as much as I did?

Today our question comes from Teresa, who asks,

We have adopted multiple children from a country where birth records are either absent or often inaccurate. Our children are still younger (currently in lower elementary school). In one situation, the birth date seems off by a year and in such a way that it may actually be helpful to repeat a birthday, or to assign a new birthday half-way into the new year.

I’m wondering what the longer term implications of this would be, and if people have seen it as a positive thing or if it is one more confusing thing for these kids who come from hard places. One concern I have is that they already come with such little information about their past, and this seems to be one more strong reminder—annually, that no-one really KNOWS who they are.

I have also heard that it is very difficult to legally change the age of a child, and not worth it. So, I’d be curious to have some feedback: Is it better to just keep children in these situations at a grade that is “age appropriate” and not mess with their age, or to have an official birth age (what is on the birth certificate) + a real birth age (what we think is more accurate), when the situation feels a bit glaringly strange—that a child could not possibly be the age their birth certificate says they are.

If you’ve been around international adoption for long, you know what a challenge this can be.

How about you? Are your children’s birth dates pretty close to accurate? Off by many years?

What have you done, if anything, to change/correct your children’s ages?

I would love to hear your thoughts – no matter how small. Leave a comment and let’s talk about this.

If you have a question you would like me to present as a Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com; please put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line to help me stay organized.

I honestly have the best readers; you are a wealth of wisdom and experience. Please share your thoughts.

encourage one another,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

9 Comments

  1. Samantha Brown Butler
    August 25, 2015

    This is something I became obsessed with for a while. I had to finally leave it to God. It really does not matter as much as we think it does in America.

    Reply
  2. Susie
    August 25, 2015

    I think my children's ages are pretty accurate. My eldest was adopted under one year old. She is very petite though and as such we had bone age done to make sure she would eventually grow appropriately. She was almost three years slow growing the first time (age 5) and at 10 is almost 4 years behind. So I caution bone age is a helpful piece of the puzzle for some people but of we adopted her now we would be very surprised at her size. If we had a bone age done,it would confirm suspicions of her being younger. Throw in if she had spent all of this time in group care potential immaturity and lack of education & we would think she was younger. And that small size could benefit her in lower grade placement but it wouldn't help her know her true story. I know she is close to her birthdate because I knew her as a baby & doing on target things for that age… It 's hard. But remember kids can stay in school until 21 I believe-so don't feel pressure to make them be she level grade appropriate if you think they should be someplace else!

    Reply
  3. Tarsha
    August 25, 2015

    My daughter Imani was 4.25 when we were matched. I met her 12 weeks later and was certain once another 3 weeks had past that she was older. I didn't know by how much, but with some due diligence, decided to change her standard issue Jan. 1, 2009 birthday to the day we met and only 6 months earlier, June 29, 2008. She already had 2 adult teeth and once we began having conversations, I knew she was ready for kindergarten not just preschool. She is from Uganda, the pearl of Africa, and June's birthstone is the pearl. Her birthday has special meaning now and in more than one way. After 2 years, I am certain I made the right decision based on her accomplishments and growth. She may be even older, but the 6 month change was right for her. It was a relatively easy process that coincided with her adoption in our state (I was only granted legal guardianship in Uganda). The dentist and her pediatrician both wrote letters and I submitted the paperwork with her adoption paperwork.

    Reply
  4. Lin
    August 25, 2015

    We adopted our daughter when she was 20 months old, though as soon as we met her (Ethiopia), were convinced that she was at least 6-12 months older than that (could eat with a fork, night and day potty trained, could button her own clothes, etc.). Our bio daughter is, on paper, 18 months older than her. A bone scan supported her birth date, within six months, but everything else just made us believe that she was older. Our dentist believes her to be a solid 2-3 years older, as she lost her first tooth a month after her fourth birthday, and started kindergarten with 5 adult teeth. HOWEVER, we are SO glad that we did not make any attempt to change her birthday because she is definitely delayed in maturity. She struggles in school already (she is now 7 and in 2nd grade).. She looks 7. She acts 5. Had we changed her birthday, she would be the same age as our bio daughter, and there are major differences in their maturity and ability levels. We already struggle enough with her comparing herself to her big sister, and I'm sure this would have added to that. She is the same size as her classmates, and that is helpful so that she doesn't feel out of place.

    Reply
  5. Erika Greig Stanley
    August 25, 2015

    I'm very confident that my kids ages are correct, however my son is in a grade bellow. I'm very happy I decided to do this- he functions much better with younger kids and academically would not be able to keep up in the higher grade.

    Reply
  6. Erica
    August 25, 2015

    I have two children from Ethiopia. The little one was an infant at referral and I've met with her birth father and am quite sure we have the exact birth date. The older one will be 12 in September. If I'd left the birth date given to me he'd have just turned 9. He told me"they changed my age" as soon as he knew the words in English. I had his hand x-rayed and sure enough… I met with his birth Mom during both the court and embassy trip too. I went to her house with a non-agency person to translate (her neighbour). I wanted to be very sure this adoption was what she had chosen, what she wanted. The same with my daughters birth Dad. She maintained the false age then, but when I hired a searcher to go and speak with her after the x-Ray she gave the correct birthdate. I did change it. I felt (and feel) and he has the right to be exactly who he is…that he is entitled to live what is true…also, he wanted it changed. It meant a lot of paperwork, but it wasn't hard. It was tedious. I was going to court to change his name back to his original name (rather than having my name as a middle name). I collected a doctor's note, the x-Ray report and a letter from the searcher. This was enough for the judge to also re-assign his original (correct) birthdate. That was enough to get a correct birth certificate from the state. I took every bit of paper trail old and new and made an appointment with the passport office. I was able to get a passport with the correct birthdate. I then took that and everything else to have it changed with social security. I then used all of the above and applied for a new certificate of citizenship (fee gets waived for this issue). I think the only expense was about $30 for the birth certificate and the fees to get a passport, but I'd have gotten those regardless. The rest of the cost was in time. The whole process took a couple of years, most of which was waiting for the new COC. We worked with the school to develop a plan to catch him up. I registered him in kindergarten as he was supposedly not quite 6when he came home in March. He finished kindergarten right as I began all this. He went to summer school with the kids that just completed first and then started 2nd in the fall. He went to summer school with the kids who had just finished 3rd, then went to forth, then 5th and is now headed to 6th as a not quite 12 year old. I live in a city with notoriously poor schools, but these are committed teachers who are super used to being resourceful and making stuff work. He had great esol teachers. He is also very bright. Learning comes easily for him, so that helped to be sure. Because I live in a "poor" district we have tons of summer school programs, so we were lucky. He went full day all but one summer and got tons of exposure to the curriculum for the grades he skipped. Those programs also did tons of enrichment (swimming, cooking, rock climbing, drumming…) so it was fun and he wanted to go. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it. He is much happier not lying about his age (that is how he saw it). He fits in with kids his own age. I think the gradual working up to that was important At first the school was going to skip him straight to the "correct grade". That would not have worked socially or academically. Doing it gradually let him catch up while still letting him feel competent. I also did tons of work with him at home the first couple years. iPad apps helped a lot to drill basic skills. Made the extra work less gruelling. He also has a homework helper Monday-Thursday (a young man from Somalia who is a Sr in high school). It was interesting to see the difference in how he responded to this young man as opposed to the struggle he'd give about homework without him. We are starting 6th grade with the helper and then decreasing it. The goal this year is to get him independent so that he can handle middle school next year.

    Reply
  7. Erica
    August 25, 2015

    Ps: if you do change the age it is super important to change it locally, with the state and federally so that all records match. Otherwise it can mean trouble when the child is older (could be seen as fraud).

    This info is important to have: http://www.stuartandblackwell.com/new-federal-law

    It is true that people who immigrate who are not adoptees who have incorrect birth dates assigned to them cannot change them once here. A friend of mine pointed out that it didn't just imact when she could experience rights of passage as a young person, but it will also mean she has to wait years longer to retire, get Medicare, etc. she is older now and has some health issues so it's a big deal for her. I hadn't even thought of the impact at the other end of the age spectrum.

    Reply
    1. DFNY
      August 26, 2015

      Wow, Erica, that is a lot of useful and helpful information. Thank you for sharing the processes you followed and the factors you considered.

      Damaris

      Reply
  8. Stefderick
    August 25, 2015

    We swore we weren't going to change our son's age, but we had no idea how old he was when we adopted him from Zambia. After having him home for two years with good nutrition, health care, and preschool, it became very clear his age was off. We had done bone scans, talked with the dentist, had him evaluated by child development specialists, and no one could give us s true age. We finally had the discussion again when his pre-k teachers were encouraging us to enroll him in Kindergarten the following year. At that time, he had just turned 3 by our original birthdate. We made the decision to change his birthday to better reflect his development and he is doing great! It was easy for us to change when we went through the adoption process here in Washington. We wanted to get him a U.S. birth certificate and the only way to go that was to complete the paperwork and court here. It has been two years since we changed his birthdate and we couldn't be happier!

    Reply

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