There are so many children with special needs waiting to be adopted into loving families. For some adoption agencies, children with special needs are often thought to be more difficult to place than other children, but for other agencies all it takes is finding a family that is equipped with the resources to care for and the room in their hearts to love a special needs child.
Adoption.com explained some of the legislation surrounding this area of adoption. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) has focused more attention on finding homes for children with special needs and making sure they receive the post adoption services they need. Congress enacted the law to ensure that children in foster care, who cannot be reunited with their birth parents, are freed for adoption and placed with permanent families as quickly as possible. We will continue to outline some of the important points to know if you are considering a special needs adoption.
What Does Special Needs Mean?
Love Without Boundaries: Adopt Special Needs outlined different types of special needs that infants and children may have. It is highly recommended to speak with an experienced and trusted physician for more in-depth analysis of each condition. Here is the list they compiled:
- Alcohol and drug exposure: drug exposure and fetal alcohol syndrome
- Blood conditions: hemophilia, lead poisoning, and thalassemia
- Chromosome disorders: down syndrome and turner syndrome
- Congenital heart defects: atrial septal defect, complete transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, endocardial cushion defect, patent foramen ovale, pulmonary atresia, and tetralogy of fallot
- Craniofacial conditions: cleft lip and palate, hemifacial microsomia, and microtia
- Development needs: autism spectrum disorder, institutional autism
- Digestive system conditions: imperforate anus, gastroschisis, megacolon, and pyloric stenosis
- Infectious diseases: congenital syphilis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, meningitis, polio, and tuberculosis
- Metabolic disorders: diabetes, failure to thrive, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and phenylketonuria
- Neurological conditions: apraxia of speech, arachnoid cyst, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and spina bifida
- Orthopedic conditions: amniotic band syndrome, arthrogryposis, brachial plexus injury, club feet, dwarfism, fibular/tibular hemimelia, funnel chest/pigeon breast, hip dysplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, radial club hand, rickets, syndactyly, and torticollis
- Sensory conditions: blindness/visual impairment, cataracts, deafness, glaucoma, microphthalmia, nystagmus, ptosis, sensory processing disorder, and strabismus
- Skin conditions: albinism, burns, congenital blue nevus, congenital nevus birthmark, eczema, ichthyosis, and scabies
- Urogential conditions: ambiguous genitalia, anorchism, concealed penis, cryptorchidism, hypospadias, and polycystic kidney disease
- Vascular conditions: hemangioma and lymphedema
It is important to not only discuss with a medical professional, but to consider all options as a family. There may be certain conditions you feel capable of caring for, but others you don’t. The adoption process whether you are open to special needs or not is all about doing what fits best and feels right for you and your family.
Understanding a Child with Special Needs
Sometimes parents, whose children have special needs, the path to understanding can begin before the child is even born. Adoption.com explains that chromosomal differences such as Down Syndrome can be detected prenatally, and other developmental disabilities can be predicted with varying rates of accuracy based on the parents’ genetic history and previous children. However, that is not always the case. Parents might discover their child has some special needs once they are a few years old or once they start going to school. If you think your child might have some special needs, but don’t really know where to start or how to determine exactly what they may be, there are some early steps to take.
- Evaluate your child’s medical history/academic history if that is available to you. If there are medical clues that indicate a particular special need you might not have noticed before. Review medical records if you have them or reach out to your social worker or child’s birth family to see if you can get a more detailed copy of records.
- Establish the special need and to what degree your child’s needs are. As described above, special needs come in many shapes and sizes. Whether your child has physical impairments that are easier to spot, or cognitive disabilities that are harder to pin point, talking to a child psychologist or any specialist might help you to understand what obstacles your child might have in the future and what you can do to help prepare your child to overcome them.
- Support you child and don’t be afraid to let other’s help you. No one wants to feel different than their peers and children can become very upset at the thought of being different. Being a support system for them and having a supportive friend group is beneficial to every child, but especially a child with special needs. Seeking professional or emotional support as a parent is also important.
Knowledge is power and by actively working to understand your child’s special need, you will be able to provide the best care possible.
Real Adoptive Parents and Their Experiences with Special Needs Children
In an Adoption.com article, adoptive mother Joy Lundberg expresses what it was like to have adopted a child with special needs. “We learned so much about what can be done to help children with disabilities. Most of all we’ve learned to focus on her abilities instead. We discovered that our love for her is her greatest asset, and ours. She is indeed a special child. And some days she still drives me crazy. But then I hug my husband and we remember to laugh at the humorous moments. When they’re not staring us in the face, we look for them, and we find them.”