We have had a lot of questions and concerns lately about children from Russia being considered Special Needs Adoption. The terms Special Needs versus Non-Special Needs Adoption is not entirely accurate, for any child adopted internationally. The purpose of today’s blog is to address the differences between Minor Correctable Special Needs and a Special Needs Adoption.
The definition of special needs can mean many different things. The same is true when you apply special needs to adoption. Each adoption agency and country has its own definition of a special needs adoption and this can be confusing for adoptive parents.
A cleft lip and cleft palate is a perfect example. A CL/CP is sometimes considered a minor correctable special need, or in China for example- a special needs adoption. However because of the long term cared required of a child with CL/CP; involving multiple surgeries, through adulthood or beyond, (and as a parent of a child with CL/CP), this clearly falls into my definition of a special needs adoption.
A child with Minor Correctable Special Needs is one who has: no known special needs or one who has minor or correctable conditions. This definition should encompass and be used to describe all non- special needs children adopted from orphanages, regardless of the country that they are being adopted from. Children are considered to have minor correctable special needs by virtue of residing in an orphanage; where developmental delays should be expected and anticipated. These developmental delays are most often seen in the form of gross or fine motor skills, speech and language, and under or overdeveloped sensory systems. Children in this category may have medical or developmental conditions that can be corrected or treated with proper medical care: minor surgery, intervention or therapy. It should also be noted that many children are relatively healthy and not all will need or receive this care.
Common correctable special needs could include medical diagnoses such as: rickets, anemia, under developed muscle tone, functional heart murmur, strabismus, intestinal parasites, lice, eczema, scabies, exposure to lead, malnourishment, poor dental hygiene, frequent ear infections, prenatal exposure to Hepatitis A, B, C (with current negative test results) or treated after birth as a precaution for syphilis, possible prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, and a host of other, sometimes scary looking medical diagnosis, that may or may not actually mean anything.
Children with Special Needs have a medical diagnosis or condition that will require ongoing treatment or therapies. Children are given the label of Special Needs Adoption because they are considered harder to place for adoption. This includes children requiring multiple surgeries, children with permanent cognitive, behavioral, or psychological disorders, children who are medically fragile or children whose circumstances require special attention or interventions that most other children do not.
Children with special needs could include: Cleft lip and palate, positive for Hepatitis A, B, and C, Heart conditions, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, missing or extra digits, club foot, known exposure to drugs and alcohol, or experience withdrawal symptoms at birth. Older children (over the age of 4) and children in siblings groups may also be considered Special Needs adoption.
Since 1992, more than 60,000 children have been adopted from Russia and international adoption medicine has significantly improved over the last 5-10 years. A physician who works with internationally adopted children can assist families in the accessing the risk factors of an individual child. The vast majority of children adopted from Russia will grow and thrive in their new homes. Closely monitoring a child’s developmental milestones will assist parents in meeting their child’s needs- special or not.