“I want to be adopted. I want a family of my own. I want to feel like I belong some place. I want to stop moving around and I want to feel secure.”
~Twelve year old foster child
County and State Adoption Programs Mission
Many children reside in foster homes in Nevada awaiting adoption. The primary mission of state and county adoption programs is to find homes for these waiting children, the majority of whom are identified as “special needs” due to histories of abuse, neglect, or exposure to drugs or alcohol during fetal development. As a result, these children may experience physical, emotional, developmental or behavioral challenges. Older children, and those who need to be placed with brothers and sisters, are also classified as special needs due to difficulties in securing adoptive homes for them.
Adoptive parents of special needs children have learned it can be a challenging, yet rewarding life experience. They have discovered these children can learn to be part of a loving family and realize their unique potential.
Characteristics Needed to Parent a Child with Special Needs
- Sense of humor
- Advocacy skills
- Willingness to try new parenting skills
- Acceptance of child's limitations
- Support network of friends/family
- Knowledge of community resources
- A grounding in reality
- Unconditional love
Learning More About the Children Available for Adoption
Families interested in adopting special needs children should contact the adoption recruiter in their area. Families can also view photo listings and descriptions of children currently available for adoption. Follow this link for Children Available for Adoption. If you find a child in which you are interested, you can email the special needs recruiter directly for further information about the circumstances of the child, and the adoption application process.
Steps in the Adoption Process of Special Needs Children
First, families interested in adoption must complete parent preparation and training coordinated by the State or county agency. The agency will provide information on resources for ongoing support, training and advocacy group activities for special needs children as part of the training process.
Second, families must participate in a home study conducted by a public or private agency worker; which includes questionnaires, interviews, personal references, a home safety inspection, law enforcement and child abuse/neglect background checks and medical examinations.
Third, families who complete the home study process must be approved by the agency to proceed to adoption. Prospective parents will be matched with a waiting child(ren) whom they would be best suited to parent, based upon factors discussed during their home study process; i.e., age, gender, types of circumstances or conditions the child (or sibling group) may present.
Fourth, if a match is found for a child with a prospective family, the adoptive parents will be given a report to read about the child known as a social summary. The summary is prepared by the child’s case worker, and contains as much non-identifying information as is available to the agency concerning the child and his/her family’s background. Information available to an adoptive family on a child or sibling group will vary; is determined by their age, physical and mental conditions, and the circumstances surrounding their removal (or voluntary release) from their family of origin.
Details in the social summary may include, but are not limited to:
- Child and family’s social history
- Reasons for adoptive placement
- Child’s personality and temperament
- Child’s self help skills and functioning level in comparison to his/her age
- Child’s residential placement history
- Child’s/sibling’s history of abuse/neglect/abandonment, if applicable
- Information on child’s siblings and strength of their relationship, if applicable
- Child and family’s health and medical history, including known hereditary conditions or problems
- Child’s birth records and developmental history
- Child’s psychological and psychiatric history and reports, if applicable
- Information on child’s specific special needs
- Child’s intellectual functioning and educational reports, if applicable
The exchange of the information contained in the social summary is intended to assist the prospective adoptive family in further understanding the child and his/her current and possible future needs. It is also utilized to determine whether the family will require financial and/or medical assistance to meet those needs. Due to its vital importance, a copy of the summary and other pertinent records available will be provided to the adoptive parents by the child’s case worker at the time he/she is placed in their home.
Fifth, families who have reviewed the child’s background and wish to pursue an initial meeting will have one arranged by the agency worker. Other visits will be scheduled, depending upon the results of the first meeting; and if it appears to be in the best interest of both the child and the family. Successful visitation will lead to the arrangement of a date for the child’s placement in the home by the agency. Factors such as age, the child’s adjustment to the family, and his/her special needs will be considered in the commitment to a move-in date.
Finally, the child must reside a minimum of six months in an adoptive home before he/she may be legally adopted by the family, which is known as finalization. A case worker will supervise the placement and make periodic visits up until finalization by the court. The worker will also assist the family with any issues or circumstances that may arise related to the child’s adjustment. The supervision period may be extended, depending upon the child’s needs and those of the family before the court’s issuance of a decree of adoption. The family will need to retain the services of an attorney to finalize, and the agency worker will provide details on the process, as well as information on available assistance with legal costs, well in advance of the final court date.
Due to the challenges adoption of children with special needs may present, the agency worker will review options for post adoptive counseling and possible financial assistance which may be available to assist the family in meeting their child’s ongoing needs.