The questions don’t stop even after a family chooses between adopting domestically or internationally. Families may also need to consider whether or not to adopt a child with special needs. Like I said in yesterday's post, there is no formula to give a family a clear answer.
The term “special needs” conjures up different images for different people. For some it includes children with a learning impairment, ADHD, Down syndrome, etc., and for others they think of medical needs such as diabetes, blindness, a missing limb, a heart defect. For some countries, a special need might also be a birthmark or another physical difference that might be considered “unlucky.” It can also mean a child that is older and might be harder to place in a family. So really, it can be all of the above.
Part of the paperwork for adopting from the Special Needs China program includes a very specific list of special needs to consider. The list is very specific and asks about cleft lip and palate, blood disease, nervous system, ears and hearing, eyes and vision, urinary, heart, liver, orthopedic, skin, speech and then breaks it down under each special need.
Some great advice I received when we started our adoption paperwork was that 1) all children need a family...children with special needs, but also healthy children and there is no shame in saying a healthy child is what our family was made for. And, 2) if you decide to adopt a child with a special need, it is important to be very honest about what special needs you are able to parent. The agency wants to make the best match for the family and the child. Checking all the boxes to get a child more quickly is not a good idea nor is feeling like a “bad person” if you aren’t willing to accept any child.
Our family started with the healthy child list from China, but last fall we switched lists to the special needs list. I’ll explain more about our decision to change lists next week, but some of the things we considered when we were filling out the special needs form were:
-What kind of access to medical care do we have? Can we locate specialists and surgeons? Do we know where to take our child for on-going therapy (speech, physical, and occupational)?
-Do we have experience with any of these conditions, in our own extended families or at work? I worked as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools with children who had mild to severe disabilities, so I had a very unique perspective.
-What kind of support network do we have? Do we have childcare for our other children if we need to make multiple appointments? Do we have the emotional support needed to parent this child?
-What kind of insurance do we have and what financial adjustments need to be made?
Okay, that’s enough for today! Talk to you tomorrow.
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