Special Needs Children (Encyclopedia)

The term "special needs adoption" can be very scary to people. It conjures up images of severely disabled children who need extraordinary care. However, the term is just as often used to describe circumstances such as the needs of male African-American child older than 8 years old (considered to have special needs because these children are more difficult to place) or a child of mixed race.

The designation "special needs" can apply to children:

  • Who have developmental or emotional issues that range from mild to severe.
  • Of a particular minority if it has been difficult to recruit families from that ethnic background.
  • Who are older and therefore have a special need because they are more difficult to place.
  • Within sibling groups because of placement difficulty.
  • Who are considered at-risk because of poor prenatal care, history of abuse, or genetic predisposition.

The term "special needs" is used in very different ways in various foreign countries. It is often possible to receive a very young child very quickly and with lower fees if he/she identified as having special needs, and you can verify if the reason for the designation is a mild or correctable disorder.

In general, the adoption process for children with special needs is often faster and can be completed with lower fees or no fees, in some cases.

There are several important issues for you to know about if you plan to adopt a child with special needs.

  • There is a special non-taxable, monthly subsidy available to those who adopt a child with special needs from the U.S. foster care system.
  • You should use a public agency or private, non-profit agency for your adoption in the U.S. Otherwise, you may become ineligible for the special subsidy.
  • Children with special needs who are adopted internationally are not eligible for the special subsidy.

There is also important, free information available about adopting children with special needs from the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Call their hotline, the Adoption Subsidy Hotline at 800-470-6665 to receive state subsidy profiles and a newsletter with updates on federal legislation.