Why You Should Adopt a Special Needs Child: 130,000 Are Waiting for You

National   |   Virginia Cunningham   |   Aug 11, 2013   |   6:54PM   |   Washington, DC

The United States may be one of the most privileged nations in the world, but there are still over 130,000 children in foster care eagerly awaiting a stable home, loving parents, and a chance at happiness.

The struggle to find a family is increased when the child is categorized with the stigmatizing label of “special needs.” Whatever the reasons children may be branded with this euphemism, potential parents can be scared away with our culture’s often unforgiving demands for so-called normalcy. Couples (or even single parents) looking to expand their family should not only see through such facile stereotypes, but also be reminded that the love returned by a needy, innocent child can be more powerful than they could ever imagine.

Children sitting inside school bus

If you are pondering the process of bringing a special-needs child into your home, here are some broad but essential points to think about – and take into your heart:

Understanding “Special Needs”

The category “special needs” can be misleading when it comes to adoption. While it does include what many assume it to denote – children with acute physical, mental or emotional disabilities – it is simply a categorization that includes all children who, for various reasons, face additional challenges in finding placement. It could simply be a question of age or even being part of a larger group of brothers and sisters, and indeed, the ominous-sounding label is frowned upon by many social workers. The very definition of special needs is not even consistent, so be sure to check with state legislature to see individual status, as this may impact potential financial assistance.

Even if your prospective adoptee did not fall under this broad subcategory, you’d want to be certain of knowing his or her case history inside and out. Depending on the specific needs of the child, you may need to be more diligent in doing your homework on the whole life history of the child, from a medical profile to history of abuse. You may even want to take a course to be fully prepared to provide the wealth of nurturing this young human being may need. The whole process may be anchored on love, but it will be amplified through self-education.

Don’t Do It Alone

In the U.S., the paradigm of the self-sufficient nuclear family can make parents too ashamed to seek support when life throws one curve-ball too many. With a special-needs child, the pressure to seek outside support can be overwhelming, so letting pride stand in the way does no one any favors.

Many adopters-in-waiting don’t realize that the government provides subsidies for those willing to take on the challenge; however, support means more than just a check in the mail. As with any uphill climb in life, it’s always a good idea to surround yourself with people in similar circumstances, both for practical knowledge and for the inestimable power of ongoing emotional support.

There is a myriad of blogs and bulletins through which to build a virtual community, though sometimes there’s no alternative for the warmth of flesh-and-blood meetups. Finally, the job of the caseworker who guided you through the adoption process does not end with placement, so continue to seek him or her out as a resource.




Love Is All

All children respond to the power of no-strings-attached, unconditional love, but special-needs children may appreciate it even more. Some of these children have spent untold time waiting in the limbo of the system, and many have the feeling – and sometimes with good reason – that they were not wanted by their biological parents. Washing away all that pain and building a new foundation of love is something that no one can put a price tag on.

Just spending time with any child is a way of seeing the world through eyes untainted by the myopia of distractions we too easily slip into as adults. An adopted child, however, can be a veritable kaleidoscope upon your experience. Not only will you feel a beacon of gratitude radiating from your new son or daughter, but you’ll probably feel and even greater wave of thankfulness in yourself.

LifeNews Note: Virginia Cunningham is a health writer for Northwest and a mother of a special needs child. While her journey with her son, who has cerebral palsy, has been quite the bumpy road, she would never trade the life lessons she has learned for anything in the world. This originally appeared at LiveActionNews.