Considering adopting a special needs child...what options do I have? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 09:43 AM - Thread Starter
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We have two bio children. Before we ever had kids we always said we'd like to have 2 bio kids and then adopt down the road...not even realizing we would then have our second daughter who has a severe genetic disorder, of which we are not sure if she got from us or if it was a spontaneous mutation). So we want to adopt any future kids. Before i had my daughter I said "god bless" those who can adopt special needs kids, but that i could never do it. But now i'm DOING it. And it's been a long hard road, and i know there are so many different TYPES of special needs, but something within me wants to adopt a special needs baby.


What is the best way to do this? I don't know that I want to adopt a child with EXTREME special needs, simply because i have 2 other children that I also homeschool, but my daughter has Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and extreme epilepsy as a result, and we've dealt with all kinds of strong meds, hospitalizations, home nurses, and currently Early Intervention and about six pediatric specialists. So we've learned to handle a lot.


Is there a way to find a certain type of special needs child? I'm thinking it would be great to adopt a mid-to-higher functioning child with epilepsy/LGS or Tuberous Sclerosis since i know about those, or a downs baby that is higher functioning. Is it possible to be that picky?


Is foster-adoption still going to be the cheapest route to adoption even with a special needs child or are there other "incentives", etc for adopting special needs kids?

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#2 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 09:45 AM - Thread Starter
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I should clarify--what i mean by "higher functioning" is that i have scoliosis/bad back and can't be lifting a child who can't sit up/walk etc when they get big. Delays i can deal with, but never advancing to *some* degree of being able to do something for themselves, I just don't think my back can handle.

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#3 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 10:04 AM
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 I've worked in special needs adoptions and absolutely there is a huge need for parents who are will to accept children who have special needs into their families.  Typically, we gave families a huge long checklist that listed a variety of special needs...medical, physical, behavioral, and emotional.  They then checked the boxes of what they were willing and unwilling to accept to help us when matching them with a child.   You don't sound "picky" at all.  Over half the families inquiring about our program wouldn't even consider things like "requires speech therapy" or "requires orthotics".  It is completely okay to state firmly and clearly what you are and aren't comfortable considering.  Social workers want to make a good match.  They want families who are confident that they can meet a child's needs and aren't stretching themselves too far because matches in which families accept more special needs than they can handle tend not to work out. 


As far as foster-adopt...yes, that is the least expensive.  State special needs adoptions are not only free, but families typically get an MA card for the child and also typically receive a subsidy based on the child's special needs.  The subsidy can go to pay for things like extra therapy, respite care, whatever the child and family need.  Typically, the number of children with behavioral and emotional needs outnumber the children with physical/medical needs greatly in the foster/adopt programs...probably 10 to 1 is my estimate.  So, if you go that route, you would want to consider if behavioral/emotional issues are something you're comfortable with or not, because that program might not be the best for you if you're uncomfortable with behavioral/emotional issues.  That said, frequently the kids with more significant medical and physical needs wait the longest, but it all depends.  As far as domestic and international adoption, there are frequently reductions in fees to adopt a child with special needs, though I know much less about those.  Maybe someone else can share a little more.  Good luck on your journey! 

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#4 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 12:26 PM
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Agreed--I know you think you sound picky but a lot of people looking to adopt wouldn't even consider a child with the things you're willing to accept.  As a result, they often sit waiting for families.  You don't have to foster to adopt a child who is in "foster care" but their parental rights have been terminated and they are just waiting for a family willing to take on their special circumstances.  My experience (although from the foster & adoptive parent side where APToddlerMama has seen it from the other side) is also that the workers want a good match.  You are a great candidate for a special needs match just because although you may not have dealt with a child's specific needs, you know how to advocate for them and navigate the medical system to get what that child needs.


We did foster care for a while and found that it changed what we thought we could handle--such that it added to the list of things that we could accept because we had already done it through our foster placements (or learned more about the prognosis through caring for them).  But note that fost-adopt often ends in reunification.  If you can cope with that, it's possible to go that route.  In fact, you might be an excellent candidate to foster medically fragile children.  It's a really broad term.  In NJ, kids who required a foster parent that was trained in CPR had to go to a med frag home just because regular foster parents weren't required to be CPR-trained (which is ludicrous, but a lot of states are like this).  They begged us to be a med frag home for a long time, but with the increased monthly rate came increased inflexibility (notably: in NJ if you're a 2-parent family doing med frag care, one parent has to be a SAHP; plus we did all transports).


Since many of them (with good care) manage to progress out of a med frag state--they could potentially be reunified because it wouldn't require the parents to give them special care anymore.  So there's still that risk.  But the kids that would continue to need some level of special care for life (albeit stuff you could absolutely handle) are the ones that are frequently waiting for a home: their parents can't manage to care for them well enough and nobody else really feels capable of caring for them in an adoptive scenario.


I'm less familiar with non-foster care adoptions, but I'm sure someone will pop on that knows them much better.

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#5 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 12:56 PM
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There are several agencies that work specifically with special needs adoption both domestically and internationally if you decide not to go the foster care route.  One of my favorites it Reece's Rainbow.  You can see bios of the kids (most are downs) and people donate to RR to help cover the cost of the adoption.

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#6 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by asherraifsmom View Post
Is there a way to find a certain type of special needs child? I'm thinking it would be great to adopt a mid-to-higher functioning child with epilepsy/LGS or Tuberous Sclerosis since i know about those, or a downs baby that is higher functioning. Is it possible to be that picky?

Hi there! :)


I completely understand where you're coming from in realizing that you are indeed uniquely suited to take on adopting a child with SN. It's something DH and I have discussed at length, as well -- we've decided to wait until our kiddos are a little older, though, before seriously looking into it.


I just wanted to gently point out, as the parent of a DD with Down Syndrome, that it's just not possible to determine what level of functioning a child will ultimately have. Sure, you can be aware of things like congenital heart defects, Hirschsprung's, or other physical issues that present more often with DS babies, but even those don't necessarily mean the child will grow up to have more or fewer lasting conditions -- there's such a wide range. For example, one child with DS might need open heart surgery at 4 mos., but go on to be completely healthy and physically whole after heart repair, while another child might not have a heart defect, but have such low muscle tone that they don't walk until 5. And the same thing goes for intellectual functioning; it's as individual as with typical children. So I guess my point is that it's always going to be a bit "luck of the draw," and it's best to know that going in.



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#7 of 7 Old 06-11-2011, 10:12 PM - Thread Starter
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CrunchyChristianMama- thanks for the link to that website! Not that we're ready to adopt right *now* but i searched and there is a beautiful boy there that is one month older than my son who has the same disorder that my daughter has....I will have to keep that website in mind when we're ready to make that decision!


Guinevere: Oh, yes, i know that "predictions" are pretty much worthless.....with my daughter's condition, some have it so mild that they don't even know they have it til they're grown and have their own kids...others have it so severely that they have hundreds of seizures a day, extreme mental retardation, regression, and even SUDEP (death from epilepsy)....or heart tumor problems, kidney failure, etc.......The doctors all pretty much promised us when Audrey was 4 months old that she would regress to the point of a newborn and would stop smiling, stop responding, and "be a vegetable" her whole life. Currently she is 20 months old, just started regularly walking and is climbing over the back of the couch......It's been a LONG road and it is STILL uncertain (she's been seizure free for 4 months now...if this med fails, our next option is 3 stage brain surgery) but you would NEVER know by looking at her that her brain has too many tumors to count. Anyway i guess my point is, yeah, i know that's kind of a silly question to ask, and i know that with all kids but especially special needs kids, the future is always uncertain....I guess I would just have a gut feeling on if a child was right for us or not....


thanks everyone for the responses! I really appreciate it :-)

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