Adopting A Special Needs Child

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If you are exploring adopting a child with special needs, you probably have a lot of questions. You may be surprised to learn that the term 'special needs' is used in a variety of ways, depending on the agencies involved. Understanding these terms as they apply to a child you intend to adopt is vital to a successful adoption.

What are Special Needs Children?

According to Family Education each state or agency has its own definition of special needs. This may include bi-racial children, siblings that need to be placed together, abused or neglected children, children over the age of seven or children with physical and psychological disabilities. A child classified as a special needs child according to adoptive standards may or may not need special services in school. Many children in the foster care system or in state custody are classified as special needs children. If you are unsure, ask the agency to explain its use of the term special needs.

How do You Know What the Child's Special Needs Are?

The agency involved should provide you with the background on the child you are interested in adopting. This should include information regarding his special need status, as well as, a complete report of his physical, behavioral and psychological health. If the agency does not provide a detailed history of the child, you can ask for an evaluation by qualified professionals before adopting the child. Your insistence on detailed medical and psychological information shows that you are a concerned parent looking out for the welfare of your child. Should you decide to adopt, this information will make life easier for both you and the child and prepare you for your new family life. 

Will my Child Get Special Education Services in School?

By law, children with special needs receive supplemental services in school; however, the definition of special needs in the educational setting differs from the definition in the adoptive system. To receive special education services in school, your child must demonstrate that his 'special needs' (typically physical, behavioral, cognitive or psychological impairments) prevent him from getting a free and appropriate education in the regular classroom following the regular curriculum. Your child may need to undergo additional assessments and testing to qualify for special education services in school. His status as a special needs child in the adoption process will not automatically qualify him for special education services in school.

Will my Child Qualify for Other Assistance?

Raising any child can be an expensive endeavor. Special needs children often require more financial investment. According to CNN Money, a healthy child born in 2013 will cost approximately $245,000 to raise to the age of 18. Mint Life puts those figures into perspective. A child with autism costs up to $1.4 million for lifetime care. Fortunately, children who meet their state definition of special needs typically qualify for Medicaid and/or subsidy payments.They may also qualify for social services in your local community. You may also qualify for a tax credit when you adopt a child with special needs.

Other Considerations

Although it important to have the financial resources available to care for a a special needs child, it is only part of the equation. Special needs children typically requirement extensive supervision, more time commitment and a great deal of patience. Whether their needs are biological or environmental in nature, don't be fooled into thinking that love will solve all the problems. Behaviors and attitudes don't change overnight and disabilities don't disappear. Make sure you understand the nature of the child's special needs and have realistic expectations about how you can enrich each other's lives before you make the decision to adopt a special needs child. Explore support groups for adoptive parents, especially those who have adopted special needs children, and think carefully before you commit to a lifetime of parenthood.