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Special-Needs Adoption

Considering adopting a deaf infant

Hi There,
I have recently made a post on our family considering adopting international special needs.
We have recently found that I am unable to become pregnant and am also unable to conceive. We decided almost immediately that we wanted to adopt. We also feel as though we can bring a child into our home and give them the extra care that a special needs child would need.
There were a few special needs that we are thinking about but deafness is something that we think we can actually provide for. We are both familiar with the deaf culture and have been raised around deaf children and adults. I was wondering if anyone on here has adopted a deaf infant- 2 years old?
We are preparing ourselves and researching to find out if this is the right choice for us.
Any and all advice will help us!! Thank you


Don’t forget there are other issues with the child besides deafness. Adopting an infant (which probably will not happen internationally) would be different than adopting a two year old.

I would suggest reading Toddler adoption by Hopkins-Best and With Eyes Wide open ( I think by MIller)

Deafness is one special need, being in an institution for two years another. Then there are the cultural changes (food, temperature, smells, etc etc) and possible other prenatal issues or issues from the orphanage. Depending on where you adopt from there could also be transracial issues. There is a lot to think about.

I am sure you will make a great decision for your family.

Posted by Regina on Apr 17, 2016 at 11:40pm

Thank You so much for your advice. Do you have a deaf child? Or have you adopted internationally? I feel as though there is so much mixed information that I am reading and hearing from others. Right now, we’re trying to find the right info and find a family that has adopted a deaf child to share their journey.

Posted by Chelsi Rose on Apr 18, 2016 at 11:45am

no I have not but have worked in the field for years so know children rarely have one issue.

Posted by Regina on Apr 18, 2016 at 12:28pm

Don’t know if this book would be of interest -  Finding Zoe - Brandi Rarus, and Gail Harris, about a woman and her husband (both deaf) with three hearing children, and their adoption of a deaf infant.

Posted by Happy Camper on Apr 18, 2016 at 6:10pm

Great! Thank You, I will certainly look this one up for sure.

Posted by Chelsi Rose on Apr 19, 2016 at 3:44pm

Almost 6 years ago my husband and I adopted a 10 month old boy, who is legally blind. Not exactly the same, but in may ways similar. I grew up around hearing impaired people and felt motivated to adopt a child who was vision/ or hearing impaired. As with international adoption there are always a lot of unknowns. I think my biggest frustration is finding qualified help for my son since he has both trauma/ adoption issues and vision issues, which combine in ways that few experts can understand. On the other hand I live in a small country in Europe. In the US it might be easier to find qualified help. The situation would be similar for your though in that your child would probably have serious problems understanding what was happening and you would probably need to do more work on attachment, then with a typical child. On the other hand, If you like a challenge and are willing to fight for your child, you’ll do fine.

Posted by KateED on May 14, 2016 at 7:37pm

Congratulations on considering a child who is deaf.  In some countries overseas, children with special needs are considered “unlucky” or “cursed”.  Their parents may be told that they must have done really bad things, or their deity would not have caused them to have the special need.  Abandonment or relinquishment of a child with special needs is often the result, and few people within the country will be willing to adopt him/her.

In addition, in many of the countries from which Americans adopt, there are few education and career options for people with special needs.  As an example, there may be no schools for the hearing-impaired, where sign language is taught and deaf culture is celebrated. 

And there is no equivalent to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  There are no flashing lights in hotel rooms to warn the deaf that the fire alarm has gone off and that they should evacuate, just as there are no curb cuts for wheelchairs, or traffic lights that use sound, as well as color, to tell the blind when it’s safe to cross the street.  Employers often discriminate against applicants with special needs, and providing “reasonable accommodations” is a strange concept.  Too many young people, uneducated and unskilled, are taught that the only career for them is begging.

Luckily, some countries have made efforts to change the situation, but there is so much more to be done that international adoption is the best hope for children whose parents have rejected them and whose society is ill-equipped to provide for them.

If you already have exposure to deaf culture, know some American Sign Language, and live in an area with good educational options for the deaf, you have made a good start at readiness to parent a deaf child.  I would suggest that you develop even more awareness of deafness and of your community’s options for deaf children, ranging from schools to deaf culture play groups, to medical facilities that can do cochlear implants (if your child is a candidate), etc.

And yes, internationally adopted children “may” have adjustment problems, even if they don’t have special needs, and some of those problems can stick around for a while, or even be lifelong.  But the children who are adopted tend to be the “survivors”, and very resilient; many adjust surprisingly well, whether they do or do not have special needs. 

I know that my daughter, who does not have special needs but who came home with feeding issues, low weight, and many minor bugs, has turned out to be totally amazing—extremely bright, good at relationships, hardly ever ill, and so on.  She came home at 18.5 months of age, and is now 20.  She may be small enough to pass for a tween, but she has virtually a “free ride” at college, supports herself when not at school, has a nice boyfriend, and still seems to ask me for my opinions occasionally!

So be prepared for such things as attachment disorders, learning disabilities, some issues related to abuse or neglect, a few physical problems that were not diagnosed abroad, some emotional issues down the road—especially in adolescence—and so on.  But also recognize that the kids who come home with serious issues are actually fairly rare, especially if they were not alcohol-exposed in utero.  And also recognize that children under two tend to have fewer adjustment problems when adopted than older children, who have had more negative life experiences prior to adoption.

While I do believe that children should have more opportunities to remain within their families and birth cultures, before international adoption is considered, I truly believe that international adoption is the best hope for many kids, who would otherwise age out of orphanages and wind up living on the streets, without educations or job skills or family ties.  These are kids who might wind up in prostitution or slavery, who might become victims of violence or of diseases like AIDS, and who might become alcoholics or addicts.

And I do believe that the problem is most acute for children with special needs.  These kids, above all, deserve a chance to fulfill their potential, with good educations, good medical care, and so on.  They deserve parents who will love them unconditionally, who will not view their special needs as shameful.

Parenting an adopted child isn’t easy.  Once a parent, you may never again have enough time or enough sleep or enough money.  You may never be able to retire.  (I’m 70 and job-hunting.)  There will be times when you will cry in frustration, or get hopping mad and have to give yourself a time out.  If your child has known or previously undiagnosed special needs, or has adjustment problems, you will feel extremely stressed at times, to the point where you will wonder, “Why the heck did I ever think I could do this?”

But if you have prepared well for adoption—for example, by developing a strong social support system and by making a good financial plan, as well as by ensuring that you understand some of the “worst case scenarios” that could occur—you will probably turn out to be as resilient as your child has been.

My best wishes to you.


Posted by sak9645 on May 14, 2016 at 9:55pm

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