Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Adopting Children with Emotional Disabilities

01/27/2016 | Published by: Kelli Zermeno

So you’ve decided to adopt. Congratulations! Adoption is a beautiful gesture—bringing a child you may not know into your family as one of your very own.

The process of adoption requires an amount of patience that you may not know you possess. It is going to be the most important strength you can draw upon. Adoption takes forever. Even a quick adoption is a lengthy process. The state is very thorough in researching the adoptive family to make sure each child is put into a safe and loving environment.

Adopting children from foster care is a much more affordable option than private adoption. But you need to know that adopting children from foster care can often involve extra steps because of the requirement to dissolve the rights of the birth parents. It is very emotional. Being a foster parent is a hugely rewarding experience and it can be either heartwarming or heartbreaking to send the children in your care back to their birth parents. So prepare yourself emotionally and physically.

Diane and her husband Mark have been foster parents to 24 children since they opened their home to foster children in Odessa. They experienced a roller coaster of emotions during their journey to adoption. Though they experienced many heartbreaking moments, the pure joy and love they feel for their 3 adoptive children made it all worth it.

“I wish I had known how broken the system is. I wish I had known that it doesn't happen overnight and until those papers are signed, anything can happen,” Diane says of the process of foster care adoption.

One of the most important decisions is who you select as your adoption attorney. Choose wisely. Do not base your decision on which attorney is cheapest. You need someone who will make sure every loose end is tied up so you don't run into legal problems in the future. This is a very complicated process and you do NOT want it done “on the cheap.” Know that whichever route you take, adoption costs money. Save for it.

A high percentage of children in the foster system have emotional disabilities because of the abuse and neglect that many of them experienced with their birth family. Children with these ”invisible disabilities” can be tough to care for. Children with emotional trauma often lash out and get overwhelmed easily. These sweet children need the utmost care and attention to help them break down the walls of pain and live as an emotionally balanced person.

Diane speaks of the things she wishes she’d known to prepare her emotionally. “I wish we had known how extremely traumatized a child over 3 could be and how lasting the trauma can be. I wish we had known that not all babies want to be snuggled. That children with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) will react differently to situations than you’d expect. Like the way they can have a negative reaction to a positive situation because they don't know how to handle it. I wish I had known that my heart would break every single day for my kids.”

When you are caring for your children, there will be times when they act out. While you don’t want them to think this behavior is ok, you have to handle and teach your children with a gentle hand. They have to be shown - with love - that they are safe and that there is a better way to behave. Give them a new ”normal.” Their world has likely been extremely terrifying and disturbing. You have to show them that life doesn’t have to be that way.

Consistency is the key to raising children – all children. A routine will save your life. Get on their level to speak to them, because if you speak “at” them, you will get nowhere and run into a brick wall. Remember, patience with all children. Especially, those with emotional or sensory needs. This is just a moment in time and it too shall pass. The reward is far greater than the ailment.

For more information on trauma and trauma-informed care, please look at our page on Trauma. There are several websites about adopting children with disabilities that you may find helpful.  Take a look at Love without Boundaries or Adopting a Child with Special Needs.  The Adopt America Network and the Special Angels Adoption Facebook page also offer valuable information.

Our Find Services, Groups and Events page is also worth a look!