Special Needs Adoptions

All across the world, there are children who are in need of a loving home and family. These children span all demographics in terms of race, age, gender and whether or not they have special needs. Early on in the adoption process, prospective parents are faced with a major decision. Would they be comfortable adopting a child with special needs?

This question tends to throw some prospective parents off. Perhaps they had not even considered the possibility of adopting a special needs child, but they don’t necessarily want to rule it out completely. The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of special needs children in the United States who need homes, just as much as their counterparts.

Prospective adoptive parents must thoroughly research and discuss whether or not they would be comfortable with adopting a special need child. While there are two definitions of “special needs adoptions,” this article will focus on the adoption of children with special needs.

What is a Special Needs Adoption?

There might be some confusion as to what exactly qualifies a child as “special needs.” The phrase is a vague umbrella term that categorizes a number of disabilities or challenges that a child may have.

There are four main types of special needs. They include: physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional, and sensory impaired. Each of these types has specific medical diagnoses that fall underneath them.

  • Physical – Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, and others
  • Developmental – Autism, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia and others
  • Behavioral/emotional – ADD, ADHD, and others
  • Sensory Impaired – Blindness, Deafness, and others

Some delays, such as ADHD, can be caused by drug and alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Typically, abuse of these substances can lead to the child being affected by these delays.

“Special needs” is such a broad term. Adoptive parents will need to do research on everything that the term covers. This knowledge will be very helpful when coming up with a definitive stance on whether or not they are comfortable with adopting a special needs child.

How Can Adoptive Parents Help in a Special Needs Adoption

First and foremost, adoptive parents need to recognize that it is not a failure on their part if they are not comfortable with the idea of adopting a special needs child. It is imperative that a child is placed in a home where the parents are sure of their capabilities when it comes to raising the child. So, while many adoptive families have open hearts, it is important that they consider this fact.

Depending on a child’s disability, there may be additional time and resources that need to be allocated strictly for the child’s well-being. This can range from behavioral therapy to regular hospital visits. Adopting a special needs child may cause a significant shift in both your family’s dynamic and daily routine. Sometimes trauma manifests as a behavioral or emotional special need. This can include acting out or attachment problems.

Most public and private agencies handle the adoptions of children with special needs. There are also local adoption agencies that specialize in giving a baby up for adoption and placing them with loving adoptive families. Special needs children can be harder to place as not many adoptive families feel well-equipped or knowledgeable enough about how to parent children of different abilities.

The Process of Adopting a Child with Special Needs

There isn’t much of a significant difference between adopting a child with special needs and a common adoption, especially when the child’s disability is mild. However, from the very beginning, you will be asked if you would be comfortable adopting a child with special needs. Search for a “medical conditions checklist,” you will be given the opportunity to decide what, if any, special needs you and your family would be comfortable with.

Many children with special needs end up in the foster care system in the United States. This is due to a variety of factors including the birth parent’s inability to parent a special needs child, prenatal alcohol/drug abuse, and many others. If you are considering adopting a child from foster care as the child’s current foster parent, then the process is still similar to a common adoption. You may also find that you have the advantage of familiarity with the child’s needs and how to address them.

Why You Should Consider Adopting a Special Needs Child

The statistics of adoption are clear. In 2014, there were 50,644 adoptions involving a public agency in the United States and Puerto Rico. Of these adoptions, over 81% of the children who were adopted were identified as having special needs.

While many people may shy away from the term “special needs,” the truth is that it can relate to such mild disabilities that they don’t actually have a major effect on the child’s day-to-day life. Before deciding whether or not they are comfortable with adopting a special needs child, adoptive parents should perform research to learn more about parenting a child with special needs.

Special Needs Adoption

Adoption is a special and beautiful journey at the end of which you and your family are blessed with the addition of a great child. While it may be your desire to give a child a home, it is important to consider whether or not you and your family would be the best fit for a child with special needs. Doing research and having an open and honest discussion with your family and your agency will help you to make an informed and definitive decision.

Adoption Choices of Colorado

For more adoption info or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can be reached via our website or our phones: 303-670-4673(HOPE).



  • “Child is Identified as a Special Needs Adoption: October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014 (FY 2014).” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/special_needs2014.pdf
  • “Medical Conditions Checklist.” CCAI Adoption Service. Https://www.ccaifamily.org/WaitingChild/Docs/MedChecklist_Print.pdf
  • “The Anatomy of a Special Needs Child.” Masters in Education. https://www.masters-in-special-education.com/special-needs/

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