Simplifying A Complex Process

What “special needs” means in the adoption community

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Adoption

While some parents seeking to adopt want a “perfect” infant, others prefer to give a home to a child who may have a difficult time finding an adoptive family. These include children who are considered to have “special needs.”

While “special needs” is a term often reserved for kids who have some kind of disability, it’s used more broadly in the adoption community. It includes children with chronic medical conditions, physical and intellectual disabilities and those with mental health or serious behavioral issues. However, “older” children, those of minority races and ethnicities and children who need to remain with one or more siblings are sometimes referred to as having “special needs” because it’s harder for them to find adoptive parents.

The special needs often arise from early trauma

Many of these children’s “special needs” arise from trauma they experienced in their early lives or even before they were born. Some suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, drug addiction via their birth mother or shaken baby syndrome. Many have suffered physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse. Some have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Often, “special needs” kids are first placed with foster families and go on to be adopted by their foster parents. However, any prospective adoptive parent can seek out a special needs child. While it may take less time to adopt a special needs child than to adopt for a healthy (at least seemingly) newborn, be prepared for plenty of scrutiny before adoption is allowed. You may be required to foster a child for a time before an adoption is granted. 

Are you prepared to adopt a special needs child?

You can expect to be asked why you want a special needs child, what kind of special needs you’re prepared to handle (and what has prepared you) as well as if you have the time, patience, financial resources and support system to care for a child with special needs. 

Many of these kids have been through more trauma than anyone may even realize in their young lives. Responsible adoption professionals are extremely careful to try to ensure that they aren’t placed with a family that’s not prepared to raise them.

There are a lot of resources for parents of special needs children. It’s wise to connect with other parents before you bring a child into your family, whether as a foster or adoptive parent. It’s also a good idea to have experienced legal guidance as you begin your adoption journey.