Both private and public adoption agencies
in Canada have children who are considered to be special needs
in terms of adoption. These children are not always considered
special needs because of a developmental delay or disability.
The term special needs adoption can mean many things such
Age: Most prospective
adoptive parents want to adopt babies or very young toddlers.
Children ages 5 to 18 years are often more difficult to
are often considered 'special needs' because they have suffered
abuse (physical, emotional or sexual) and neglect at the
hands of their birth family.
Disabilities: A child
may have mental, physical or emotional disabilities and
disorders ranging from mild to severe.
Sibling groups: There
are many children who come into care with their siblings
and must be placed together in an adoptive home.
agencies try to match children with families that are the
same culture. These children are not considered 'special
needs' because they're a minority race; rather, it's because
adoption agencies don't have many waiting adoptive families
that are a minority race.
At Risk: These children
are presently healthy but they're considered 'at risk' because
they were exposed in utero to alcohol or drugs. Other 'at
risk' children are those with birth parents who have mental
illness and there is a risk of inheriting such disorders
as schizophrenia or manic depression (bi-polar)
For families considering special needs adoption, it's very
important to discuss what type of 'special needs' you can
reasonably handle. Be honest with yourselves and your adoption
worker. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
How many children can I effectively parent?
Can I cope with a child who has suffered
extreme abuse and/or neglect?
Am I prepared to parent a child who has
How will a special needs child affect
Do we have a support system in place?
Can I be an advocate for this child and
get him/her the proper services and care he/she needs?
Do I have the patience and strength to
deal with difficult behaviours or learning disabilities?
Adoption Assistance Programs
In Canada, most public adoption agencies
offer families a subsidy to help offset the costs involved
in raising a child who has special needs. These payments are
granted to families for such things as medical and dental
services, equipment, respite care, as well as for a variety
of therapy and counseling services not covered by health insurance.
If you are considering adopting a child
(or already have!) that has some special needs, ask your adoption
worker about the possibility of financial assistance to pay
for equipment and therapies not covered by your province's
health care plan. Information about adoption subsidies for
provinces and territories can be found at the North
American Council on Adoptable Children's web site.