Providing Hope and Life to a Special Needs Child: The Folbrecht Adoption


The need for adoptive parents continues worldwide, and the need is the greatest for special needs children. The term “special needs” encompasses a wide variety of medical needs, but also includes children who are considered hard to place, such as older children (usually age 6 and above) or a sibling group of two or more children. Medical special needs can include children with easily correctable medical issues, as well as children suffering from needs that will take a lifelong commitment to medical care. Special needs children come from every country, however specific special needs may be more common in particular countries. Whether you wish to adopt from Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Haiti, or Peru, special needs children or hard to place children need forever families in all these countries.

Special needs children are available for adoption in the U.S. as well. Psychologist Jeanelle Folbrecht and her husband took the adoption plunge when they decided to adopt a special needs child domestically. Dominick was a 13-year-old boy when Jeanelle first met him, battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than four years. The recommended treatment for Dominick was a bone marrow transplant, however the procedure could not be done because Dominick had no family to provide aftercare support once the transplant was completed. Jeanelle worked with patients suffering from depression and anxiety at the City of Hope in California, the hospital where Dominick was receiving care. When Jeanelle met Dominick and reviewed his case, she sought to provide some much-needed therapy to Dominick, but could not assess Dominick’s mental state because there was no one to sign a consent to allow Dr. Folbrecht to assess and treat him.

“After reviewing his case and talking to those providing care for him, I realized he didn’t need a psychologist,” Jeanelle said. “He needed a mom.” After speaking to her husband and teenage sons, the family decided to adopt him. Not only did the Folbrecht family provide Dominick with a forever home, they saved his life! After months of chemotherapy, Dominick was finally released from the hospital and able to go home with his new family. Now with a family able to provide care after a bone marrow transplant, Dominick was placed on the donor list and a compatible donor was found. The transplant was a success, and Dominick is now cancer-free, attending high school, and thankful for his new family and home.

Children such as Dominick exist worldwide, not only in need of a home and family, but also in need of medical care. For some, the medical care may make their lives easier, while for other children the care could be life-saving. Many children such as Dominick are waiting for families on adoption wait lists. These lists exist in most countries, including Hague adoption program countries.

While there are many families who choose international adoption to expand their families and provide homes to children in need, fewer families take the extra step of adopting a child with special needs. The need is there, and the children are waiting for families; it is up to us to see that these children’s needs are met.

If you are interested in adopting a child with special needs, please visit MLJ’s Waiting Child Photolisting.


Adopting a child with additional needs isn’t the only way your family can be part of meeting this critical need. Families called to adopt children with special needs have the heart and the time to dedicate to caring for these children. However, they may not have the necessary funds to complete an international adoption in the timeframe required of a special needs adoption. It is our desire to minimize the financial barriers that stand between children in need of families and the families willing and able to meet their needs. You can come alongside these families by donating to our Special Needs Adoption Fund. All donations are tax-deductible.


Photo Credit: People Magazine


Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.