Chapter 9 of our Adoption Story

“Peeling back the label of ‘Special Needs’…”

Great news! We were officially logged in with China’s special needs program last week. After working on paperwork since last August, this is a HUGE accomplishment. The reality of this means that we can now adopt from China’s Shared List, which contains waiting children with mild/correctable special needs. This list is updated every month with new children, so our agency thinks we’ll get a referral in 1-6 months.  They are using our medical checklist to make this prediction.

 When we discuss our adoption with people, and the topic of special needs comes up, it’s obvious people are curious about what that entails. Most people don’t ask questions. They just look at you with raised eyebrows, scanning your face for as much information as they can get without having to ask questions.  Whether they don’t want to appear rude, or they are too shy, we can’t presume, but I thought a post would help answer some questions that are clearly “elephants in the room” for some.

First of all….Jim and I are not saints. Well, some people would argue that Jim is! We started this process like everyone else does…”looking to adopt a healthy little girl.” After meeting with our agency, we were informed that China receives about 30,000 applications for healthy baby girls each year, and the wait time for such a child has grown to over 7 years. Um….no. I”m not that patient. “But,” she continued, “you can fast track your adoption by joining a special needs program and could potentially adopt in 11-15 months.”

At first, the term special needs made me think twice about the whole process. I knew it didn’t make Jim as unsure though. Jim left a lucrative law practice to become a teacher for children with special needs. He has a passion for the less fortunate, a heart of gold, and he’d treat a snazzy business man with the same respect as a child using a walker for mobility.  I trust Jim with all my heart. I’d follow him anywhere. But I needed to be sure for myself, so…(surprise surprise)….I started to research.

Special needs is quite a broad term.  It has become clear that cultural differences between China and the United States puts some children, who are otherwise healthy on the special needs list.  For example, our agency told us of a couple that, about a year before, adopted a perfectly healthy girl from the special needs list. Her “disability”….being bi-racial. This apparently makes her “bad luck” in China, while in America it makes her beautiful.  Additionally, children over the age of 3, that are otherwise healthy, can also be on the special needs list, as older children are not usually preferred over infants. Therefore…they wait.

The medical form that we were given from Holt did not list either of these two things as “special needs.” It did list things like:

Albinism, Cleft lip/palate, Anemia, Partial/Total Hearing Loss, Ear Atresia, Heart Defect, Club Feet, Rickets, Webbed Fingers, Missing Limbs, Birthmarks, Vision Problems, Scoliosis, and many others.  All of these things are, in our mind, mild and/or correctable. I have scoliosis, birthmarks and poor vision, for crying out loud….I guess I’m “special needs” too!

What I’ve come to realize with just the tiniest amount of research, is that when you peel back the label of “special needs”….underneath you’ll find a child that was abandoned, for whatever reason, who just wants to be loved. And that is something we can do!

You can click here to watch a short video about some beautiful children who started out as a special needs adoption…see for yourself that it’s not that big of a deal!

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