February 7, 2022

Adopting a Child Internationally with Special Needs

The landscape of international adoption has changed throughout the years, with most countries focusing efforts to place children who are considered hard to place. A special needs adoption is defined as adopting a child with an additional need, a sibling group, or an older child. How it is defined can vary from country to country. Definitions and references to special needs can be vastly encompassing and wide ranging.  Hard to place children can include older children sometimes starting as young as five or six years’ old who are considered “healthy” or children in sibling groups of varying ages.  Sibling groups can be siblings of two, three or even four children that the country’s adoption authority does not want to separate, but who cannot be easily placed with a family. Finally, special needs can also include children with medical needs ranging from slight and correctable medical needs to more severe and lifelong medical needs to children exhibiting behavioral, emotional issues or developmental delays.

Sadly, a child with special needs can be categorized and statistically have a much smaller chance of finding a forever family. They are just as deserving as other children, but for many reasons, prospective adoptive families seek to adopt younger and healthier children. All countries have children who have been orphaned, and are considered hard to place. I have personally seen these children in each country I have visited and in every orphanage and am sadden when I realize some of these children will never realize a family and will age out of the orphanage to a life with little hope.

While your family may not initially think that an older child or a child with medical needs is something that you are open to, it is worth researching.  You may be surprised the medical needs of some of the children that results in them being placed on a special needs waitlist or on Nightlight’s waiting child site, Adoption Bridge.  Children with a medical need may be younger children and considered special needs due to correctable medical conditions such as cleft lip or palate, being born to a mentally ill birth mother, hepatitis, positive for the Sickle Cell trait as well as more serious illnesses such as HIV, Sickle Cell disease, epilepsy or limb deformities. Medical needs are wide ranging and should be researched fully before a family commits to being open to a child with a specific or medical need.

In most countries, the adoption authority does not want to split sibling groups. This can mean that one older sibling, or the size of the sibling group prevents multiple children from ever experiencing the love and commitment of a family. While it does take a special family to adopt siblings of two children or more, it meets a critical need in international adoption, and allows the sisters and brothers to remain together. In several of our international adoption programs, families who have been open to adopting a sibling group of two, three or even four children have been matched quickly, and the children have been considered healthy.

For families considering adopting older children, children with known medical needs or a large sibling group should not only have done research about the needs that the children potentially have, but should also have a strong support system and fully understand how the needs of the adopted children will impact their family.

Nightlight believes that every child deserves a loving and permanent family, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, number of siblings or health status. We are specifically seeking families to adopt a child with special or medical needs in many of our programs, including adoption from Bulgaria, Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso.  Nightlight’s Ukraine and Colombia programs are focused on older children and sibling groups and both countries offer hosting programs.

Where to begin? Adoption Bridge connects harder to place children with loving adoptive families willing and able to meet their needs.

To make a donation to help a family overcome the financial barriers of adopting a child with special needs, please visit our donation page or Adoption Bridge.

 

By: Sonja Brown

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