The term "special needs" in adoption refers to any kind of condition or disposition of an adoptable child that may interfere with the ease of placing him or her with adoptive parents. Special needs adoption is commonly facilitated by public or government-run state agencies as it's easier to gauge the needs of a child who is older, save a few infant conditions. The use of this term takes on several meanings that can include children with severe medical conditions and disabilities or those who are hard to place, such as biracial children or those who have experienced previously disrupted or dissolved adoptions. An adoptee may also be considered special needs if he or she has had a tumultuous childhood prior to an adoption placement or an attachment disorder.
Special needs adoptions are preferred by nontraditional adopters or those who may be just as difficult to place with as a special needs child may seem to be. Nontraditional adopters include those who intend to be single parents, gay and lesbian individuals and couples, adopters with disabilities or those who are older than the adoption age limit. Nontraditional adopters may also have lower incomes than the average adopter or actively be in the military.
To provide incentive for adopters to place with children with special needs, state and federal subsidies are sometimes offered to these parents either to cover a home study or medical care in the child's future. These arrangements must be made prior to the finalization of an adoption.
Adopting a child with special needs can make for a difficult home life. Adopters should be fully aware and prepared for the kind of decisions and parenting style that the child's condition requires. According to research published in the 2007 chartbook Adoption USA, surveys have indicated a higher percentage of adopted children have conditions like anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorders than children of the same age in the general population. While many of these conditions are treatable, they do require extra parenting and, sometimes, medication.
Before pursuing a special needs adoption, one should know the pros and cons of the terminology and be completely honest with him or herself about parenting limitations and just how comfortable he or she may be with certain special needs.
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