Is Special Needs Adoption Right for You?

Alana Redmond is a writer. 

Are you looking at adopting a special needs child? Special needs adoptions can be rewarding, but they’re not for everyone. So how do you know if it’s right for you?

First, let’s define the terms. The term “special needs” refers to any child who would qualify for assistance due to a medical condition or another specific factor.

Special needs children can have particular educational requirements resulting from learning difficulties, physical and behavioral difficulties.

However, In the adoption world, the term “special needs” covers a much broader scope. Adopting a child with special needs is similar to adopting a healthy child except that it comes with a few more challenges as well as rewards. 

According to the Organization, National Council for Adoption Adoption Council, “Significantly more children fall under the blanket of ‘special needs’ in adoption and foster care because they simply have needs that are often weightier and specific to the child, as opposed to children that are raised in stable homes from the minute they are born. A special need in adoption could include something like a developmental or physical delay, could describe that a child is part of a sibling group that ideally would be placed together, or is older and considered to need placement sooner.”

What Qualifies as a Special Needs Adoption?

Guidelines for adopting a special needs child vary from state-to-state. In general, children with special needs have:

  • Physical, emotional or health problems
  • Members of ethnic or racial minority
  • Have a history of abuse or neglect
  • Have siblings and need to be adopted as a group
  • Test positive for HIV
  • Born with a birth injury that resulted in asphyxia, brain hypoxia or cerebral palsy
  • Have documented conditions that may lead to future problems
  • Were prenatally exposed to drugs or alcohol

Can I Adopt A Special Needs Child?

The short answer is yes. Almost any prospective adoptive parent who has been approved by an adoption agency can adopt a child with special needs.

According to American Baby magazine, “Requirements for adopting a child with special needs tend to be less restrictive than requirements for adopting a healthy infant. Agencies will consider both single and married applicants, ranging in age from 18 to 50 or sometimes even older.”

There are many factors that make a prospective adoptive parent eligible for adopting a child with special needs. 

What Medical Needs are Common?

Adoptive children are usually screened before they are placed in protective care. If you’re considering adopting a child with special needs, the state or adoption agency may require you and your family to take special counseling to prepare for the adoption.

Because special needs covers a blanket of different conditions in the adoption world, counseling may vary depending on the child’s condition. 

Is a Special Needs Child a Good Fit for Me?

Before you adopt a child with special needs, its very important to decide if you have the resources and ability to take care of a special needs child. Special needs children can require an adoptive parent to have a flexible lifestyle that can support around-the-clock care and potentially high medical costs. 

Preparing For Special Needs Adoption

Learning as much as possible about your child’s condition before you consider adopting should be a top priority. Speaking to parents who also adopted a child with a similar condition can also be a valuable resource during the adoption process.

You can also visit online adoption support groups to find answers to your questions and share with other parents. If possible, spend time with a child who may have the same medical issues and needs prior to adopting. This will give you a better chance to understand how your communication and relationship will be. 

Always talk to your doctor about previous conditions and obtain as much history about their medical record as possible before you adopt a child with special needs. 

Benefits of Adopting a Child With Special Needs 

There are many emotional, physical and financial challenges that come with adopting a child with special needs that only a special type of adoptive parent can take on.

A child with special needs is looking for a family who is willing to put in the extra time to care and nurture them. Every parent’s journey is unique and so is adopting a child with special needs. Giving a child with special needs a permanent home is not something every adoptive parent can take on. 

According to the National Adoption Center, there are up to 134,000 children with “special needs” awaiting a permanent home. Adopting a child with special needs can bring you and your family countless rewards for a lifetime.

Alana Redmond is a legal content and child safety writer who works with Farah & Farah in Savannah, GA. For more information on special needs adoptions, click here.

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