Adopting and Advocating for the Special Needs Child: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

By L. Anne Babb; Rita Laws | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1 Special Needs Adoption in the United States

I figure, if I'm not perfect, why should I expect the child I adopt to be perfect?

--Overheard at an adoption conference


WHAT IS SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION?

Special needs adoption refers to the adoption of children with mild to severe special needs such as mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. Other special needs include age, sibling status, race (in some states), and risk factors such as pre-natal exposure to drugs. Special needs children waiting to be adopted are referred to as waiting children and have usually spent some amount of time in foster care. About two-thirds are boys, many are sibling group members, and about half are members of minority groups. Roughly one-fourth of our nation's 500,000 foster children will need an adoptive parent or parents. Exact statistics, long promised by the federal government, have yet to materialize.

Under federal guidelines, children with special needs are those who cannot or should not be returned to their birth parents and who have a condition, history, or circumstances that make the child difficult to place without government assistance such as adoption assistance payments ( AAP). Healthy Caucasian children under age six are usually not considered to have special needs; all other children, depending on federal and state definitions, may fall into the special needs category. These are the children who are waiting in line for a birthright most of society takes for granted: a permanent family. In the past, when death rates from poverty, illness, and drugs were much higher,

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