Tips for Adopting a Handicapped Child

Many, many children who are eligible to be adopted fall under the category of special needs, whether emotional, mental, or physical.  If you are considering adopting one of these special kids, you are special yourself.  And, you are probably wondering about the myriad of unknowns that you may be facing.  Here are a few suggestions that may help you get things better settled in your mind as you begin this adventure.

* Consider carefully what handicaps you will be prepared to handle.  You will, of course, include in this discussion your spouse, other children that live in the home, and also extended family.  Some people may be well suited to children with sensory handicaps such as blindness or deafness, but may not be able to deal with the emotional needs that autism may present.  Make a list of possibilities to narrow your preferences.

* Research the handicap carefully.  If you are considering a specific child with diagnosed special need, seek out all the information you can.  Having said that, however, when you read all the dire predictions, take it with an optimistic attitude.  Reading all the bad news on what could happen is often a far cry from the reality with which you will presented when caring for a cherished child.  Often doctors feel it is better to face the worst case scenario and then hope for the best.  If you can talk to an actual parent of a child with the specific handicap, so much the better.  Your family doctor or websites and forums are good resources for this.

* Consider the fact that you will be getting older and your child will be getting bigger.  Some children with special needs will need much physical help, such as kids who are non-ambulatory.  Some handicapped kids will need diapers all their lives.  Some will need help dressing, with feeding, or will need parents who can contain them during adolescent rages.  Many parents, as they get older, will need to have helpers with these children, at an added expense.

* Consider economics.  Many adopted children will come with governmental medical assistance, but many times that will not cover everything a handicapped child will need.  If special equipment for bathing or ramps for entrances are needed, you will need to research grants or other agencies who will help defer costs if you are unable to do so. 

* Consider respite care.  Even while your special needs child will be the light of your life, it will be taxing.  Both parents and special needs kids benefit from time spent away from each other.  Research day and sleep-over camps for summer or weekends away from time to time.  Respite care can broaden handicapped kids’ horizons, just as camps for non-handicapped kids do.

* Consider future needs.  You will need to be realistic about who will provide for the special needs child if and when you are not alive or unable to do so.  You will need to consider other children in the family and if they will feel burdened by the care of a handicapped sibling, or if other arrangements such as a group home should be considered.  Although this hurdle may seem far in the future, it would be a wise move to begin to make arrangements financially as soon as possible in case it should be needed.

* Consider the layout of your house.  Look at the home where you live and spot any obstacles that there may be.  A home does not have to be perfectly wheelchair accessible, for instance, for a child in a wheelchair, but it does help.  Doorways, however, may need to be wider, bathrooms need plenty of space for more complicated bathing and toileting, many levels with stairs may limit your child’s living spaces.  While for a baby with special needs these things will not pose much problem, as he grows you may need to make adjustments.

* If you are just beginning your search for a handicapped child, talk to the adoptions branch of your local Family and Children’s Services for any list of children with special needs.  There are usually pictures, descriptions and data on each child.  DFCS can also refer you to other adoption agencies if needs be.  They will be able to tell you if there could be an adoption supplement paid, or a list of agencies who can help monetarily on a case by case basis.  They can also answer questions about your local school system’s policies on education, from pre-school on up, including transportation for handicapped kids to and from school.

Special needs kids have wonderful traits that far surpass their disabilities.  If you have decided to adopt in this category, you have figured that out already.  The challenges that will need to be faced by you and your child will not be insurmountable when faced with humor, patience and love.  With a handicapped child, the love comes easily.  And when you have love, the rest will follow.