Friday, September 25, 2009

Special Needs Adoptions on the Uptick

I'm sure you've all seen the articles, news stories, tweets, and so on about Katherine Heigl and her husband adopting a special needs child from South Korea. Since I don't follow Hollywood too closely (you would laugh if I told you the latest movie I've seen; and TV, ha!) I didn't really dare to add my thoughts to the mix of commentary. I couldn't avoid seeing everyone else's opinions in the feeds of special needs stories that I watch. Everything from opinions about Ms. Heigl's acting, characters, and need for a publicity stunt have been posited as possible factors in her adoption decision. Since I'm not familiar with her, or her work, I have no opinion on her individual choice except that in general our family is very pro-adoption, and I wish the new three-some well as they address the child's medical needs and bond as a family.

When I saw this story, however, I felt the need to comment. Again, in general I am pro-adoption. Our family has seen first-hand the power of attachment between an adoptive parent and their child. We know how God can use this modern arrangement to bring a child, or a parent, or both into His Kingdom. For a while the "thing to do" was to adopt a child from overseas. It is somewhat faster, less expensive, and can move children from an impoverished situation to one of relative wealth and ease. According to this story, the demand has out-paced the supply and international adoptions are now taking longer and costing more, too. What should the desperate-to-adopt parent do? Where should they turn? It seems the next big boom in the industry is special needs children. The recent celebrities who have followed this route have perhaps added some "glamorous" patina to the idea of adopting a special needs child, but it appears the uptick was happening before they got on board. Is adoption becoming such a consumer-driven process?

Some are concerned that the adoptive parents "don't know what they're getting into." I share their concern at some level -- except I also know there are plenty of biological parents who are not prepared for the challenges of special needs parenting (self most definitely included) and there is no "Now you can be a Special Needs Parent" exam. It's not like we're certified or concerns are at a different level, though currently they are only questions.

  • Why is it a recent phenomenon? There have always been special needs children available for adoption. Why are they being adopted more now and not before? Is the motivation solely because the process can be so much more rapid? What does this say about the quality of compassion that is directing these decisions? What does it say about society's view of people with special needs?
  • Which special needs are "adoptable" and which are still being set aside? I've heard there are "checklists" for which special needs a prospective parent is willing to take on. Is there a hierarchy of disabilities? If a generally misunderstood condition such as autism or some complex medical issue is present do the boxes get checked?
  • Do these parents receive the support they really need? Adoption is a complicated process. Add special needs for the child and you have a doozy of a need for a support system.

Bravo to the brave hearts who are walking through this process. May God bless you as you join the ranks of special needs parents. May we as a society learn from your compassion that every child deserves the safety and security of a loving family.


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