Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adopting Children with Special Needs

When my husband and I were going through the training to become foster parents, one of my biggest fears was fostering a child who wouldn't be able to bond with us no matter how much love we showed. The technical term for children who "cannot" bond is Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD.

Given some of the neglect and abuse issues that foster children are bound to have, it shouldn't be a surprise that they have trouble forming healthy attachments. Furthermore, no matter how well-adjusted a child is, the fact that they are in foster care automatically places them in the category of "special needs". So, when I recently came across this story about a woman who adopted a little boy with RAD and then "gave him back" I was very interested- not just in the sad story itself but in all of the opinions and comments that resulted.

Some people villainized this little boy's adoptive mother for her decision [and while I see their point that adopting a child isn't like adopting a puppy that you can just find another home for if things don't work out] I think nobody can truly judge her unless they've been in her situation.

Other terms that "scare me off" when it comes to adopting or fostering children with special behavioral needs are Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Conduct Disorder. I think I would much rather prefer caring for a child who is medically fragile or has Down Syndrome than caring for a child who has "behavioral" problems. That is why I admire the foster parents out there who are willing to parent children with behavioral problems. I just don't think I would be equipped to handle that.

I am reading a book right now about a man and woman who adopted 12 children in just 12 years- and many of their children have special needs. "Wow!" is all I can say. Here's an excerpt from the back of the book which describes their family demographics:

"Five children are Hispanic. One is biracial. Two are Asian. Four are Caucasian. Ten are from four state foster care systems from across the United States, two are from a Guatemalan orphanage."

How's that for diversity! The book is Out of One, Many by Bart and Claudia Fletcher.

Another good read about foster parenting is Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison.

Just a Warning: Kathy Harrison's account is brutally honest and it might scare some people away from doing foster care as she has had to deal with some worst case scenarios. There were some parts of her book which were very hard to read- namely, when a young a foster child who had been sexually abused "acted out" abuse on another child in her home. I think that's got to be the scariest scenario a foster parent could face! But remember- if you are considering doing foster care YOU are the one who decides the extent of abuse or neglect or issues of the children who come into your home. (See paragraph 6 of this post.) It just so happens that Kathy Harrison was brave enough, comfortable enough, and confident enough that she was willing to take almost any child into her home.

And speaking of caring for children with special needs, my heart goes out to the 27-year-old woman and her husband who are caring for her nine adopted siblings, all of whom have disabilities since her parents were recently murdered, leaving these children basically orphaned.

I guess my point is that I really admire those individuals and families who are willing to welcome a child with special needs into their home. I don't know that I am capable enough or patient enough to do so myself.

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