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question about mild, moderate special needs

I am waiting to be matched with a child from foster care. While I wait I’m looking are certain sites and other things. I noticed that they mostly state the special needs as mild, moderate, and severe. I was just curious as to what type of needs fall into each catorgory. I sent for more information on a certain child who is listed with a mild under emotional.

Also I sent in the inquiry for the children and noticed that we have the same caseworker, if my caseworker didn’t suggest these children for me from the start does that mean she doesn’t think they would be a good match for me. Also I think they may be newly listed to the site because they are legal risk children.


Here is my two cents on the Mild/Moderate/Severe rating scale as the Mom of 15…most of whom have special needs.  smile

ANY child from foster care is going to have special needs.  ANY CHILD.  The M/M/S “labels” should be thought of, NOT as a scale that might apply to children who have not experienced trauma and/or neglect but as a scale that applies to children with some serious issues. 

So…..your “Mild” label might be far more than you are expecting if all you have to “compare” it to are “typical” children. 

Here are some of the behaviors of my “Mild” kiddos:
Lying (often), Hitting, tearing up their rooms (and I DO NOT mean messing them up), food gorging, food hoarding, Pica, learning disabilities, chronic adjustment disorder with anxiety. 

My “Moderate” kiddos: BIG learning disorders (MR), communication impairments, defiance, developmentally about 2 years/developmental stages behind their chronological age. Heart defect (corrected), cranio-facial defect (corrected)

My “Specialised” kiddos: MR (Will not live independently as adults), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sexual Abuse Survivor, Fetal Alcohol Effect, Aggression of Early Childhood, Conduct Disorder, Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine, aggression (often), neurological meltdowns, tethered-cord syndrome. 

Hope that helps!

Posted by preparedforrain on Oct 21, 2012 at 3:12am

Oh, and caseworkers will TOTALLY down-play their needs too!  If they say mild, prepare for moderate…if they say moderate, prepare for specialized.  If the say specialized, you better believe it!!!!!!!!!  And then some!

Posted by preparedforrain on Oct 21, 2012 at 3:13am

One person’s mild is another person’s moderate. It all depends on what the family can deal with.

Some people find bed wetting as mild others as major.

Posted by Regina on Oct 21, 2012 at 5:49am

ditto to every child from foster care having special needs! I was told when I brought my daughter home that she “missed the bullet” even though she was born with SO much—fast forward a number of years and she would now fit a “specialized placement” with all the letters and acronyms used to describe her.

How do I describe her? Perfect, amazing, joyous, inner-light-sharing, filled with strength, resilience and the fight that has proven her well. She is the daughter I have always wanted—I seriously could not have birthed a better child.

My life is richer because of what she brings to it—special needs or not, she’s the light of my days and the reason I smile so broadly and love so deeply.

Posted by mama-de-margarita on Oct 21, 2012 at 8:52am

Thanks this helps alot

Posted by ashk on Oct 22, 2012 at 4:12am

I know this post is really old, but I had the same question as the original poster and really appreciate the info.  I also noticed on our state listing that some kids (even within sibling groups), have no designation in the M/M/S column. Does that imply that not enough information is known, that they are afraid to make a designation (because it may be “severe”), or that they believe the answer is “none”?

Posted by inquiringmom on May 19, 2017 at 2:46pm

Personally, I consider those designations to be worthless.

First off, your view of a condition may be totally different from someone else’s.  As an example, you may consider a boy born without a right forearm and hand as moderately affected, figuring that he would not be able to play sports, not be able to drive, not be able to write.  In fact, I know a man with that disability who drives a stick shift, has woodworking as a hobby, golfs, has had a profession, and so on.  Limb differences can have minimal impact, if parents focus on building their child’s self esteem and finding him appropriate challenges.  Some kids don’t even want a prosthesis, as they manage to find workarounds without them, even in sports.  Medical followup is generally unnecessary, so no costs, etc.

In the intellectual sphere, many people can’t imagine parenting a child with Down’s syndrome, because their expectation is that their son or daughter will go to college and have a profession.  They regard Down’s as a significant special need.  But many other people, who have Down’s children, know that they can be wonderful family members, can learn a surprising amount, though slowly, can hold a simple job, and sometimes can even live on their own with support.

Second, not all special needs will be obvious at the time of adoption.  As an example, many children come into foster care because they were born to women who drank during pregnancy and continued to drink afterwards.  Prenatal exposure to alcohol often causes brain damage, which can be anywhere from minimal to severe.  But it is often hard to diagnose accurately until a child is of school age.

As an example, children with prenatal alcohol exposure often have difficulty with quantitative reasoning.  If you adopt a toddler, you don’t expect that he/she will understand that if you have three cookies and give one to Johnny, you will have two left.  But understanding subtraction is important for success in the early elementary grades.  And you don’t expect the toddler to understand that a dime is worth more than a nickel, even though it is smaller.  But that’s the kind of reasoning that he/she will need to do in order to learn about money.  Especially if a child doesn’t have the facial features of a child with severe alcohol exposure, you may not know that he/she will struggle with math virtually all his life.

Likewise, an alcohol exposed child often has a high degree of impulsivity.and cannot control it.  If you are the parent of a toddler, even a totally healthy one, you expect impulsivity.  That’s why you hold his/her hand when out and about—so he/she doesn’t run into the street or up to a strange dog.  And it’s why you keep the sharp scissors and the knives out of reach.  But if your child is 10 and darting into the road to retrieve a ball without looking both ways, or grabbing someone else’s Game Boy because he wants to play with it, without asking permission, that could be a sign of a lifelong problem caused by alcohol exposure.  And that can have serious consequences, eventually bringing him to the attention of police and so on.

Finally, as someone already said, virtually all children in foster care will have “some” degree of problems, if only because of feelings of abandonment and loss.  All too many will have far more serious problems, such as behaviors related to a history of sexual or physical abuse, past neglect, food insecurities, genetic transmission of certain parental mental illnesses, a history of prenatal exposure to multiple drugs, and so on.  And if a child has been in multiple foster homes or in care for years, the likelihood of behaviors related to past life experiences will increase. 

Unfortunately, some children’s problems are not diagnosed early.  Social workers in the foster care system are often seriously overworked, with ridiculously large caseloads, so they may not make all the visits to foster homes that they should, and may spend too little time documenting the child’s behaviors and the foster parents’ comments.  And although many foster parents are wonderfully attentive to the needs of their charges, there are, unfortunately, a few bad apples who add to their charges’ problems, via abuse, neglect, and so on.  All too often, what happens in such homes never make it into a child’s record.  And, indeed, some social workers, in a hurry to get children placed, gloss over some problems that are potentially severe—abuse of pets, starting fires, association with gang members, attacking a parent with a knife, etc.

I would recommend taking everything you see on line with a very large grain of salt.  If a profile seems promising, try to get as much additional information as possible before making a decision.  See if you can speak to previous foster parents or to the birthmother.  Get as many written records as you can. 


Posted by sak9645 on May 19, 2017 at 6:45pm

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