My wife and I were blessed to have adopted two healthy children from birth. Not everyone is this fortunate. For some, finding a healthy infant to adopt just isn’t going to happen. At some point adopting a special needs child becomes a plausible option. And according to the National Adoption Center there are over 134,000 children with special needs awaiting permanent homes.

There are many children out there that have special needs. As a result it does make it harder for them to be placed in an adoptive home. While every parent does wish for a healthy child both physically and mentally, taking care of such a child can be an extremely rewarding experience. There have been heartbreaking stories of couples that give a child up for adoption due to it being born with some type of special need. There are also adoptive parents that refuse to take home a child that isn’t healthy in all ways.

There are a number of common misconceptions when it comes to special needs adoptions and children. Just a few of these are:

  • Building a bond with an older adopted child will be a struggle.
  • All children with special needs have physical, medical or developmental challenges. This is simply not true.
  • Children with special needs are severely disabled and will require lifelong care.

So when is a child considered to have special needs? The obvious are the physical and mental conditions such as Down syndrome, Autism, abuse and neglect, etc. But also included in the definition are older children, sibling groups and minority races.

Special Needs Child

The most common qualifying conditions are fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol related neurodevelopment disorders. If the birth mother used alcohol or other controlled substances during pregnancy it could result in behavioral or other issues.

Before giving serious consideration to adopting a special needs child a serious self assessment should be done. The prospective parent(s) should ask themselves some very serious questions. Among them are:

  • What disabilities are we prepared to handle?
  • What age range, ethnicity and family background would fit our situation?
  • Will our school district be able to support the child’s educational needs?
  • What physical or emotional challenges will we be able to face?

The two recommended methods of adopting special needs children are through public and private adoption agencies. The reason for this is that there are adoption assistance benefits that are only available when you follow these avenues. The NACAC (the nonprofit North American Council on Adoptable Children) has an adoption subsidy hotline. The number is 1-800-470-6665. They will send you a free information packet with financial assistance information.

As the adoptive parent of a special needs child you may be eligible to receive an adoption subsidy, also known as an Adoption Assistance Payment (AAP). You will receive this subsidy monthly until the special needs child is an adult.

“What disabilities are we prepared to handle?”

Adoptive parents may also be eligible for federal assistance under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. There are requirements that must be met for a child to be eligible.

You should also check with your state for any assistance offered to adoptive parents of special needs children. For example, Texas offers:

  • Reimbursement for certain one time expenses relating to completing the adoption process.
  • Medicare health coverage for the adopted child.
  • Monthly payments to assist with the child’s needs.

If the child does not qualify for Title IV-E benefits then the child may qualify for additional state adoption assistance.

If you decide you are willing to adopt a child with special needs, you will need to evaluate what you are willing to take on. There are many different types of physical and mental disabilities that a child can have. There is also the factor of paying for their treatment and the time it will take to properly care for such a child. This isn’t a role that is right for everyone. You definitely need to make sure you know what you are getting yourself involved with.

On the plus side, you will most likely have to wait a shorter time to adopt a special needs child because there will more available opportunities.

Due to the nature of care for children with special needs, the majority of them are placed with the Department of Human Services. Contact them to express your interest in adopting a special needs child. They will likely require you to complete a variety of forms as well as classes. They want to be sure you will have the necessary skills for caring for a particular child. They may require you to take that special needs child into your home for a set period of time under foster care.

” There are many different types of physical and mental disabilities that a child can have.

You will work with a social worker that comes in regularly to evaluate the situation and to provide support. Should things be going well and you do want to continue with the adoption process they can help you with it. Depending on the laws in that state you may be eligible for assistance when you adopt a special needs child. This is generally offered in the way of medical assistance to be sure their needs in that area doesn’t become a burden that you can’t meet financially.

This is also important as the extent of the special needs for the child may not be fully realized yet. The younger a child is the higher the risk is that there will be additional needs that are diagnosed later on. This is something you definitely need to be aware of if you are considering adopting a child with special needs.

Chinese special needs boy

You can also choose to adopt a child with special needs through private adoption. This can be more complex though and you won’t have ongoing support as you will through the Department of Human Services. However, if you have a great attorney on your side you can get the representation that you will need.

Many people that wish to adopt realize there are plenty of special needs children out there that need a loving home. They are willing to offer it even though they realize it will be a challenge. Yet it will also be a very rewarding experience and it can help them to get a child into their home in less time. If you feel this is something you would like to do, then find out more about it. Too many children with special needs never get adopted, and you can make sure at least one of them does.

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