Would Your Family Consider Adopting a Child with Special Needs?


Has your family considered adopting a child with special needs? A special needs adoption is defined as adopting a child with an additional need, a sibling group or a hard to place 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 or children in sibling groups of varying ages.  Sibling groups can be groups of two, three or even four children that the country’s adoption authority does not want to separate, but who cannot be placed with a family currently in the program. And finally, special needs usually incorporate children with medical needs that are also far reaching 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. On one of my visits to an African orphanage an older boy around six years old approached our group and sadly asked when we would be finding him a home too.  I later learned that this little boy had watched as social workers had come to the orphanage time and time again to take the infants and toddlers to be placed with adoptive families. The older children, including this six-year-old little boy, knew no one was ever coming for them, leading him to ask when he would be leaving to join a family.  My heart was broken. What hurt and sadness he must have felt.

While your family may not initially think that an older child or a child with medical needs is something that you’re open to, it’s worth doing research.  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 a Waiting Child Photolisting. In some cases, younger children may be considered special needs due to correctable medical conditions such as cleft lip or palate, being born to a mentally ill birth mother, hepatitis as well as more serious illnesses such as HIV, sickle cell or limb deformities. Medical needs are wide ranging and should be researched fully before committing to being open to a child with a specific need.

In most countries, the adoption authority doesn’t 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 parents. While it does take a special family to adopt more than two children at the same time, it meets a critical need in international adoption, and allows the sisters and brothers to remain together. In several of our country programs, families who have been open to adopting a sibling group of three children have been matched quickly, and the children have been relatively 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.

MLJ Adoptions 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 needs in our Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Nicaragua and Ukraine. To learn more, contact us.

Our Special Needs Adoption Program connects harder to place children with loving adoptive families willing and able to meet their needs. To make a donation to our Special Needs Adoption Fund, and help a family overcome the financial barriers of adopting a child with special needs, click below.

Photo Credit: Feed My Starving Children

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.