5 Things to Consider When Adopting a Special Needs Child

Three-year-old Matthew’s laughter echoed through the local mall as he tried to run away from his parents, Jack and Peggy. They smiled broadly back at him. He was a beautiful toddler, with black curls and a large, open smile.

“And this is the child that we were told might never walk,” Peggy said, as Matthew shrieked with laughter, running almost too fast for his dad to catch him. “And look at him now. We have to run to keep up.”

The proud parents’ experience with Matthew was so positive that they later jumped at the opportunity to adopt another son, Michael, who was born with a life-threatening physical condition called esophageal fistula. Shortly after his birth, he was airlifted to a major medical center, where Jack and Peggy remained with him through seven operations — first to connect his esophagus to his stomach, and later to remove a finger that didn’t function and construct a thumb from his index finger.

Michael still has challenges swallowing, and he has had four additional procedures in the past two years. But as fierce, lifetime advocates for their children, Jack and Peggy have been there every step of the way.

“You have to take on what you feel you can handle,” Peggy said recently. “We feel blessed.”

For loving and dedicated adoptive parents like Jack and Peggy, special needs adoption can be an incredibly rewarding way to build a family. At A Child’s Hope, we consider these parents to be as special as the children they adopt.

Here, learn more about adopting a special needs child and the services A Child’s Hope can offer to help. The agency networks with hospitals throughout the state and offers to reach out to families who have indicated that they are open to a special needs adoption.

Adopting a Special Needs Child with A Child’s Hope

Since opening our doors in 2000, most of A Child’s Hope’s placements have been of healthy infants. However, we also work with mothers who wish to make an adoption plan for their special needs babies or children.

We believe there is a family for every child. Every adoption opportunity that becomes available through our agency is sent to our waiting families, including detailed information about the child’s health and family genetic history. It is then up to each family to decide whether a certain adoption opportunity is a good fit for them. If necessary, we will also reach out to our past placed families and other partners through our network to find the right home for every child.

Our agency fees are adjusted when a special needs child is available for adoption, and we can help you find community resources and other financial assistance opportunities. However, we cannot guarantee that a family will be able to receive adoption assistance when adopting a special needs child. But there are government resources available and you will be referred to those resources

What You Need to Know About Special Needs Adoption

A Child’s Hope firmly believes that there are no unwanted children, and there is a home for every child. We also believe that it is important to find the right home for each child, and we know that adopting a child with special needs is not right for everyone.

It is important to be honest about your ability to care for a child with special needs. When considering a special needs adoption opportunity, carefully consider the following:

  • Do your research. “Special needs” is a broad term, and different conditions require varying levels of care. Educate yourself about many different types of special needs, and the challenges of each, as you decide which special needs you are prepared to handle.
  • Use your resources. There are many organizations that are solely dedicated to helping special needs children find forever homes. For example, if you are interested in adopting a child with Down syndrome, organizations like the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network can provide important resources, information and services specifically tailored to families like yours.
  • Anticipate your child’s needs. Every child is different, and it can be difficult to predict exactly what services and support your child will need ahead of time. However, there are certain steps you can take to prepare yourself to parent successfully. For example, if you plan on adopting a deaf child, you should start learning American Sign Language, if you haven’t already.
  • Be prepared to adapt. Not all special needs are discovered right away. In fact, many special needs aren’t immediately apparent or even visible at all. One example is Reactive Attachment Disorder in adoption (RAD). RAD and other post-adoption issues require special attention and care. Be prepared to adapt and respond to your child’s changing needs as he or she grows.
  • Create a community. Raising a child with special needs is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can be challenging at times. Seek out other adoptive families who understand your child’s special needs. There are many online support groups designed specifically for parents raising special needs children.

Other Important Resources for Parents of Special Needs Children

Adopting a child with special needs is a beautiful thing to do, but it’s also a lifelong commitment of adjusting your own life to fit your child’s needs. As your child grows up, they will have different personal requirements, especially when they become adults and may or may not be able to live independently.

We’ve gathered a few articles here to prepare you for these future challenges. While many of these tips are targeted toward older adults with special needs, there are certainly also relevant ones for raising a younger child with special needs:

Autism Resources  

Special Needs Adoption in North Carolina

In adoption, the term “special needs” can be misleading. It can apply to children who have special physical, emotional, medical or developmental needs, but it may also apply to children who have other special circumstances, such as being older or part of a sibling group.

Many children in the foster system are considered “special needs.” There are currently more than 100,000 children waiting to be adopted from the U.S. foster system. If you are ready to provide a permanent home to a waiting child with special needs, the following resources can provide additional information:

To learn more about your adoption options and A Child’s Hope’s special needs adoption services, contact us today to schedule a family-building consultation. You can meet with our agency director to talk more about your North Carolina adoption options, with no obligation to proceed with A Child’s Hope’s infant adoption program.

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