In lesson 3, we spoke about three common types of adoption. But, we are not done yet! There are two other types of adoption that might be a part of other types we mentioned last week or they may be classified/stand? Alone: special needs adoption or transracial/transcultural.
Adopting a child with challenges, or special needs is common in adoption. These children face challenges and you as their parent will face challenges beyond what is "normally" expected or required. What kinds of challenges are considered special needs?
Let's start with any physical challenges. Generally, you will be asked at some point in the adoption process – with an agency or with the state’s social services department handling adoption – to fill out a lengthy form that asks what you’d be willing to consider in terms of physical situations. It does feel somewhat strange to discuss this but it is most important that you take this opportunity to discern what will work best or what is the best fit for you.
And something else that’s important to recognize, as the child gets older, let’s say a learning issue presents itself where you thought it otherwise was not. Learning issues can show up because when a child is younger the learning does not require so much critical thinking – like at grade 3, you might start to see the child has challenges in say, math, for example.
If you do adopt a child who is older, you will have more information. And remember you are your best advocate…get curious, ask questions, get the information you need so you can determine if you are up for these challenges. If you do decide to adopt, you’ll benefit from having it.
Next are emotional challenges, the older the child gets the more you will be able to have information about these kinds of challenges. These challenges can include depression, anger management, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.
Finally, there are behavioral challenges. By the way, even a baby could have some of these challenges – like failing to make eye contact, crying insistently or irritability. For older children behavioral challenges are easier to identify, such as self-harm, acting out, destroying property, acting oppositional, challenging authority, refusing to do homework or self-care. Starting at about age 11, challenges might show up in social interaction like being a loner or demonstrating an inability to make friends.
I’m wondering if you’re getting a bit overwhelmed right now? That certainly is a natural response to all this information! It’s hard to take it all in and imagine it when we don’t have a child, in the flesh, in front of us. But, that is what is so helpful about this course – you can take the time to consider these things before you are presented with a child. Thinking about possible challenges now will help you avoid disillusionment and disappointment down the road. The more you know now, the better.
Plus, you have people like me who are here for you, who have made the journey and now can pass our hard-won knowledge on to you.
Aside from the physical, emotional, behavioral challenges in adopting a child with special needs, there is another type of adoption to consider: transracial adoption. Several of my colleagues and I have adopted transracially. For us, this means that we are white and our children are people of color.
It is one thing to say Yes, I am open to parenting someone outside of my racial and cultural identity and it is another thing to realize what it takes to do so. The common idea, "all you need is love" is not true. If you are going to be a parent of someone who is a different race and ethnicity than you are, you will want to be ready to do whatever it takes to make your child comfortable in their own skin. This may mean moving to a racially diverse neighborhood, choosing schools that have children who look like your child, attending social events that have people from diverse backgrounds, and making your own friends with people who have the same background as your child.
When thinking about adopting a child, it may be hard to imagine making such changes. But, if you are a child-centric parent, then you will want to make the necessary changes so that your child can be who they are in all their fullness.
Between now and your next lesson – take out that trusty journal again or simply get out a pen and paper. Write down what you think you would be able to manage in terms of special needs. What would you need to do to prepare to parent a child who needs more? Also, write down what you would be willing to do for a child who is not of the same race or culture. Would you be willing to move, to change involvement in social groups, and so forth? Planning now will help you know if adopting a child with special needs or a child who is racially and culturally different is right for you.
Next, you will want to get out your notebook! We will be covering all the different avenues that are available to you when adopting a child.