Down syndrome. Autism. Cerebral Palsy. Intellectual disabilities. G-tube. Tracheotomy. Wheelchair.
These terms often scare the shit out of hopeful adoptive parents, sending them running for the hills. What they SAY is "We just aren't ready for that" and "It takes a special person" and "We have to know our limits" but what they MEAN is this:
We are looking for the perfect child, and kids with disabilities aren't perfect. We have been waiting to be parents for so long, and we need a child who will fulfill OUR wants and OUR expectations. We are adopting for selfish gain, to GET a child for our family; we are not looking to GIVE a family to a child.
You don't know what you don't know, but I am here to tell you: if you are not open to adopting a disabled child, you are missing out. I wish I had a magic wand that could open your eyes to the incredible privilege that it is to raise a disabled child, but I don't.
And while so many of you sit around and wait for that stereotypically "perfect" baby that may never show up, actual perfect babies are already waiting. Waiting for years in foster homes and institutions. Waiting for you.
And one thing I CAN do is break down the process of adopting a waiting child with a disability from the foster care system so that those of you who are willing and ready to say YES can have an easier road to your child.
Step 1: Identify an agency in your area that can provide what you need. They need to be willing to do a foster to adopt homestudy. They need to be able to facilitate an ICPC (placement of a waiting child from another state). Most foster agencies will do all of this for free since they receive funding from the government, but some will include a cost. Any cost above $2,000 is exorbitant; keep looking if the price for their services is higher than that! If you're in Ohio, check out the agency we're licensed with, Caring for Kids
( https://cfkadopt.org/ ) We really love them!
Step 2: Get licensed with your agency. While you're getting licensed, educate yourself as well, because foster parent training is only the tip of the iceberg. I like following people who have lived the same experiences that our children have (adult adoptees, adults who were in foster care, and adults with disabilities). Also look into the services for disabled children in your area so that you'll be able to get your child connected with support quickly.
Step 3: Make an https://adoptuskids.org/ profile. You need to wait until you already have a homestudy for this part. Your profile should be engaging and create a picture of who you are as a family. You can see the profile I had when I was hoping to adopt here https://www.fosteradoptivemom.com/post/family-profile-on-adoptuskids-org.
Step 4: Apply to be considered for waiting children. This part is important! If you sit there and wait thinking that social workers are just going to find you, you won't find your child. Social workers do not have the time for that! So be proactive. Inquire about kids. If their social worker's name and contact information are listed on their profile, call or email them (or both!) It's there for a reason! Keep an eye on your pending inquiries on the site. Social workers will often respond to your inquiry by asking for a homestudy. When they do, make sure your agency sends it ASAP. When I was matched with my son I applied to be considered for 10 children within 2 weeks. I heard back from 6 of their teams and was matched with my son within a month. If I had sat on my hands I would not have been matched with him.
Step 5: When you say yes, make it your best yes. This process is emotional, especially if multiple kids' teams are considering you. Make sure that when you say yes, it's with all of your heart. This is not the time to get cold feet. These children's caseworkers are too time strapped to waste their time and these kids need families too badly for you to be wishy washy. If a social worker says they want to invite you to a matching conference to see if you'd be a good fit for a child, make sure you are 100% ALL IN before you agree to that. That child deserves your best yes.
Beautiful Ky'lee really needs a forever family. I bet her foster family would love to teach you to do those beautiful twists, and can you even imagine the cool wheelchair adapted Princess costume you could make for her for Halloween?!
Sweet Thomas has been waiting for years; I've watched his wise face get older through a computer screen. He is growing up in a medical facility, but he deserves so much more. They say he loves to swim.
Tre'von reminds me SO much of my Julian. That smile...He's waiting right here in Ohio and has been for years and years. He likes light up toys and tickles, and seems so silly.
Josh has autism just like our youngest, and they seem very similar to each other. His caseworker reached out to me some years ago, when I wasn't really in a place to take on an additional child. She sent some videos of him playing at school. He has such a sweet spirit! Those blue eyes...he deserves a family too.
All of these angels can be found on adoptuskids.org, waiting for someone who is brave and open minded to say YES.
It could be you.