When Marie and I first talked about adopting a child out of the foster care system it never occurred to either of us, well me for sure, that we’d be taking part in a special needs adoption. I’d like to you to consider, for the sake of argument, that almost any adoption out of any state foster care agency will be a special needs adoption.

Special needs, in this father’s opinion, includes the diagnosed cerebral palsy that they told us with which Emma had been challenged. Yet, there was more. What they didn’t tell us (or maybe we just didn’t hear it?) were the emotional needs of an adopted child and those of her brother, our son, Brandon. Special needs can include;

  • emotional needs
  • physical needs
  • health needs

Over the fifteen years I knew Emma I would watch peoples’ reactions to her. The way she walked foretold to anyone in sight that she was physically different. And people made allowances for that. Well, most people. Perhaps one day I’ll tell you a few stories of me nearly ending up in handcuffs. But I digress.

When people with physical handicaps interact with “regular” people the “regular” people can see that allowances should be made. Yet these very same people will completely miss the clues right in front of them when it comes to psychiatric, mental and emotional special needs. This includes our medical community, our churches and our schools.

Our society works easiest, I am not saying “best”, when people are easily slotted into boxes. We are all guilty of this. It’s an evolved sense of protection that allows us to size people up in an instant, I guess.

So what does all this have to do with a special needs adoption?

Everything. As strong as you think your marriage or relationship is with your partner I promise you there will be times you will question every decision they have made, every thought they have had when it comes this child. It will be considered a must that you have fierce conversations with your families, your extended families and your friends regarding your child.

Those closest to you love you and yet they will question, publicly or privately, your every move. It’s easy for them. After all, their biological children don’t behave that way. Their biological children listen. Unsolicited advice will pour freely from the fountains of helpfulness everywhere you turn.

You’ll need patience and understanding. Why? Because your families, friend, churches and schools didn’t adopt this child. They didn’t take the time to educate themselves about the environments these children came from or the mental/physical abuse they suffered or the impairment they’ve been physically or mentally challenged with.

No. This is a burden you chose. This is a challenge to which you were called. It was your faith that made you take that first step. Not theirs.

I’ll never forget the Day I Met Emma. My world view changed drastically that day and every day that followed. Everything I knew about children, child care, child raising, my marriage, my country, my upbringing, my political views, my friends, my family, chocolate donuts, everything…it all began to change.

Special needs adoption is certainly not for everyone. I write these blogs so that those that follow us will have more information and more points to ponder than we had available to us back in 2003. The world has changed. Technology has changed. Heck, even the amount of special needs children has changed. This is a new world filled with so much possibility.

Somewhere out there is a special needs child looking for someone like you. Someone who has done the research. Someone who knows that sacrifices will have to be made on personal and professional fronts. And still, someone who has the calling. That child is waiting for someone with love and time and effort to give. Someone who feels compelled to make the world better for that one starfish.

Sure, no one can save the whole world, save The One. Yet, you can save one. And I think you’ll find that the one will save you, too.