There are thousands of children currently in the foster care system that fall into the category of “Special Needs” waiting for a family to love and support them. The term special needs instantly brings to mind the thought of a child with a disability, in adoption terms the term encompasses a larger meaning. The term special needs pertaining to adoption means a child that is difficult to place by the state adoption unit or adoption agencies. The majority of these children have no health or temperament problems; they are just considered “hard to place” by most adoption agencies. The range of ages for children in this category are from infant to 18 years old. Adoption can be a very good experience for both the child and the new family, however there will be challenges such as attachment disorder, jealousy, confusion. If the adoption agency will prepare both the child and the family for these difficult times the adoption can be successful. (Babb & Laws, 2007)
Adopting Special Needs Children
Adoption has the potential of touching the lives of millions of families throughout the world. For many families adoption is the only way to complete their family. In the United States, more than 110,000 children with special needs are waiting for permanent homes (Utah Adoption 2000a). Families wanting to adopt children with special needs must take the time to decide if they have the emotional, physical, mental, and financial resources available to be successful as a family. Statistically couples who want to adopt children with special needs already have large families with many biological children and/or other adopted children. The adoption of special needs children can cause added stress to the birth or previously adopted children because the dynamics of the family change dramatically.
For established families the motivation for adoption shifts from wanting to form a family to providing a safe and loving home for a special needs child. When families adopt special needs children, the parental responsibilities throughout the adoption process are organized by the adoption agencies. The soon to be siblings and their responsibilities many times are not adequately addressed which can cause confusion and resentment. Studies have shown that families with birth or previously adopted children are at the greatest risk for failure from the lack of proper therapy to prepare the children for this life altering change. The adopting parents need to be aware of the role the siblings will play in “making or breaking” the adoption. Because there are many demands and added stresses that accompany the adoption of a special needs child, adoption agencies should provide training and counseling for the entire family.
There are agencies that recognize the need for specialized therapy to assist the family as a whole when adopting special needs children. The program “Partners: A model program for special-needs adoptive families in stress” has been developed to assist families to receive the crucial therapy which helps with help adoption process. This program states that once the adoption process has begun it does not end for any family. They believe agencies should be ready to help whenever needed with the availability to provide services at anytime, is vital to the success of the adoption. Family oriented therapy and mental health resources should be considered a routine part of an adoptive family’s experience (2000a).
There is a growing number of children entering the foster care system during the first 3 to 4 years of life. The first few years of life is when the brain is developing personality traits, learning processes and emotions. The nerve connections that are forming during these critical years are influenced by negative emotional and physical conditions, including neglect, child abuse, or violence within the family. If portions of the brain go unused for any length of time the brain structures will atrophy and die....