Adopting Children with Special Needs

By Allison Martin

Children with special needs - resources to help you in your adoption and thereafter.

Finding Children to Adopt

Babies and children in Vietnam may have special needs ranging from moderately severe to mild. It is important to note that while babies and children adopted from Vietnam may not be specifically identified as having special needs, some of these children do have some effects of issues related to poverty, such as malnutrition, sensory integration dysfunction, delays in motor skills, and short term asthma. In addition, impacts related to adoption such as issues caused by the lack of support for adoption in our society and stigmitism of adoption, adapting to a new language, change in situation and caregivers, and other similar adoption related issues may be involved. You can find information on issues common to adopted children who have long periods of institutionism, mild malnutrition, and other adoption related issues on the ComeUnity Adoption website.

If you are interested in adopting a special needs child, I suggest you begin by contacting the major adoption agencies who have experience both with special needs and with Vietnamese adoptions. Be sure to use care to select an agency with good qualifications and experience in special needs adoption support. Also go beyond looking at photolistings and talk with agency personal directly about different types of special needs children may have.

Finding Information on Children's Special Needs

Quality and availability of information varies by province, agency and child. In general, medical and other background information for children adopted from Vietnam can be scanty. In some cases your agency or facilitator may be able to request additional information, such as photographs, videos, physician checks, and medical tests. This is information you can take to your pediatrician or to a professional in the speciality to discuss the long term impacts and care needs of your child. Most are very willing to do this.

Start by educating yourself on the identified special need. No matter how excellent the agency, they are unlikely to have the resources to provide a detailed overview of the medical and practical information you should have to make your decision. If you have questions about a particular child or special need, an international adoption doctor and or international adoption clinic, as well as physicians specializing in either the identified special need, international medicine or genetics may be among your best sources of information. They will analyze the information you have, suggest additional information that would be useful, and provide counsel. Be sure to ask if there are other issues or conditions which may be related to the identified medical condition.

In addition, research the internet for support groups and information on the particular medical need your prospective child has been identified as having. Start with You can find great resources for all of these relatively special needs. Start with these two resources: special needs adoptions and common special needs in adoption. Educate yourself on specific, relatively commmon conditions, including cerebral palsy, allergies in children, sensory issues, ADHD, speech and language, and even traveling with a child with a disability.

It may not be obvious from the information you are given, but it is important to be aware that one "label" may or may not indicate subsequent issues. For example, premature birth can result in educational, mental, physical and emotional impacts of prematurity not apparent early on, but also may not occur at all.

Vietnamese children are generally smaller than the American average, so don't be concerned if your child is not meeting the standard growth curve. What matters the most is that they match the curve, but this varies by child as well. Here are some older Vietnamese and Asian Growth Charts that your physician can consult for babies and children adopted from Vietnam.

Other topics relevant to the adoption of children with special needs or those who are older on the ComeUnity adoption site include Adverse Impacts on Children Living in Orphanage Institutions and Malnutrition and International Adoption. For sspecific special needs issues, consult the Childrens Disabilities Information website.

Adopting a Boy

While Vietnam does not consider being male to be a special need, the majority of Americans are interested in adopting girls. If you are willing to consider adopting a boy or boys, visit the Adoption of Boys from Vietnam where Vietnam adoptive parents encourage the adoption of boys by sharing their blessings, with stories and photographs.

Allison Martin, biologist, writer and web designer, is an adoptive parent and a parent of children with special needs.