The following was excerpted from Lifetime Adoption Founder Mardie Caldwell’s most recent book, Called to Adoption:
Special needs children usually have varying degrees of physical, mental, or emotional challenges. They include school-age children who were neglected and have learning disabilities, or adolescents who were traumatized by sexual abuse and have psychological disorders. Others may have physical conditions like Down’s Syndrome or cerebral palsy. Some, born addicted to drugs, are at risk of eventual physical and emotional difficulties.
Many children with special needs will struggle with the effects of mistreatment or physical challenges through childhood and often throughout their lives. They require adoptive parents who can provide them with stability and structure, special care and professional help, patience and love, and the Lord’s guidance.
Helpful Tips for Adopting a Child with Special Needs…
- Do not jump in just because you hear of a child in need. Take time to pray and decide if this is the adoption to which you’ve been called.
- Observe and talk with parents who are raising a child who has needs similar to the child you might adopt.
- Think about the severity of the disabilities and behavioral problems you can handle—don’t take on more because you feel sorry for a child.
- Be prepared. Enroll in instructional parenting classes available locally or online. Read books recommended by your adoption home study provider.
- Visit Internet forums to read about adoptive parents whose lives are filled with purpose and joy after special needs adoptions. Also, learn from those who are struggling.
- Seek guidance by emailing and relating to parents you meet online who’ve been there and done that.
- Make sure you apply for the Adoption Assistance Program (AAP), a government financial assistance program for adopting a child with special needs.
- Always finalize a special needs adoption through an agency, even if an attorney or facilitator has located a child for you. This is required to qualify for AAP in most adoptions.
- Search the Internet for information about your child’s condition, new treatment methods, and expert advice. Also search for medical resources, equipment, and supplies.
- Commit yourself to providing the quality of life, patience, understanding, unconditional love, and spiritual guidance your child deserves.
- If your agency requires counseling for your family to adopt a special needs child, accept it graciously and don’t be offended, because it will help you all.
- Stay in touch with social workers and adoption professionals for guidance and to help you adjust to your new reality.
- Learn new skills to meet the child’s needs and be prepared to make a lifelong commitment.
- Do your praying now so you are in tune with the Lord’s leading.