Sunday, September 28, 2008

Adopting "Special Needs" Children

I’ve been thinking a lot about Special Needs (SN) adoption for the last few days… In case you’re not familiar with adoption, at least in Ch*na, Special Needs could be any child that is not a perfectly healthy child or a perfectly healthy child, over the age of 6.

I don’t want to disclose my daughter’s private medical information on an open blog, but I will say her SN was very minor…you would be shocked that it was even considered a SN.

But since we started the adoption process, the SN process has changed drastically.

Currently, there is one large list of children that goes out to about 30 agencies. I have heard rumor of some agencies still receiving their own list, but I can’t confirm that. So with the new large list, prospective parents complete a list of needs they’re willing to consider, and agencies match them with the children on this large list. But now, parents from 30 different agencies are essentially ‘competing’ for the same children.

Agencies lock the file of a particular child and then the parents have 48 hours to have the file examined by a physician, write a care plan and submit a Letter of Intent…that’s INSANE!! There is no way that a family can make a thoughtful, educated, non-emotional, prayerful (if you’re like us and depend on prayer) decision.

Add in the concern that the extent of a child’s needs may not be fully apparent at the time a file is submitted by the orphanage and I think you have a recipe for disaster. I recently heard of an agency that had 7 adoptions disrupted in one month… I don’t know if the families disrupted while still in Chi*a, or after they came home…but how tragic…primarily for the child, but also for the families.

Adoption is hard…we have had the best possible transition. Abby is amazing, I would do it all over again, but it doesn’t change the fact that even the best possible transition still has challenges. And then, if you have biological children, the challenges are multiplied by the number of biological children.

Are they good changes? ABSOLUTELY…we are all learning what it means to lay down our life for another, but emotionally, it can be tough. So I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if we had been surprised with more needs than we anticipated.

Scott and I had already talked at length about what we would do if we arrived in China and her needs were more extensive than we thought…we both agreed, that at that point, God would have put us there for a reason, so we would have moved forward. But I have to honestly admit, I’m so glad God didn’t allow us to face that test…

You see, for me at least, when you’re thinking about all of these precious children that need a forever family, it is so hard to remain objective about what you can and can’t handle. It becomes very emotional, the heart gets involved, and sometimes you think you and your family can manage more than perhaps you really should… I think it would have been very easy to find ourselves there.

But having walked this path now, I’m so thankful that God knew better than us and He protected us from making a decision about a SN that was bigger than what He was calling us to. Would He have equipped us to handle anything He called us to? ABSOLUTELY…but sometimes it is so hard to separate what He is actually calling us to and what is simply His heart, in us, responding with compassion and love.

What do I mean by that? Well, if I jumped on a plane and responded to every tragedy that tore at my heart, my family would never see me. The more I grow in my relationship with Christ, the more my heart breaks at the stories I read…AIDS and orphans in Swaziland…children living on garbage dumps in Kenya…orphans in China…lepers in India…young prostitutes in Thailand…on and on it goes… But just because my heart aches for all of these situations and just because there does need to be someone who reaches out, it doesn’t always mean it’s me.

I have to pray and seek God’s will, what is He truly calling me to and then step out in obedience…that’s when He will equip me to handle whatever He calls me to, no matter how difficult it is…

And just in case you’re wondering what I mean by “called” to do something… don’t worry, He’s not dialing me on the phone and I’m not hearing big, booming voices from heaven… But for me, He will often confirm the desires that He is placing on my heart with a word from Scripture, perhaps something in my morning devotion, my Bible study or even a word from a friend or in a sermon…usually I just keep running into the same message over and over…and if it involves the entire family, like with adoption, He changed Scott’s heart too…I know for certain that He will NEVER lead Scott and I in two separate directions.

I pray for the families that are in the midst of dealing with this new system…I am so thankful that we found Abby on the last ‘paper’ list for our agency and that we had time to wait and pray…for God to show us clearly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was our child. She is truly the most amazing blessing…perfectly matched with our family.

4 comments:

laranou said...

Sharla,

I love reading your blog and following your family's journey of life. Sometimes your remind me so much of myself! I love how you see God in every part of your daily life.

Just had to update you on some of the changes that keep happening to the "New, Waiting Child, Shared Agency List".

First of all, there are no longer just 30 agencies receiving the list. It is now over 50.

I would agree that as this List process has evolved during 2008 that there are definitely times when it looked more like a competetive race for kids than a process of bringing forever families together. However, the addition of some other changes along the way have attempted to make it more "fair".

Now an agnecy can only lock a particular child's file once and they must have the family's LID (or ask permission for the family if they don't yet have everything to China yet) to lock the file. If the family decline or takes no action within the 48 hour window, the file reopens, but is no longer available to that particular agency. These types of changes are aimed at encouraging agencies and families to do some of the leg work of contacting doctors and considering the child's file BEFORE they make the decision to proceed.

For all the yucky parts of this new plan, I can't help but hope that the idea behind it - getting more kids home with their forever families - is happening because more than just one agency has access to the kids.

It is a rough and wild ride! But God is still using it. Our family personally considered three other children on the shared list before finding our daughter.

One child was matched with another family before we could race (at a snail's pace) to attempt to request her. And thanks to God and the internet, I've found their blog and know that she is happily matched with the perfect family for her.

One of the two other children we considered, we said "No" to because ultimately when I considered her as my daughter God helped me see that given her needs I loved her too much to bring her home. Now, I have also found her family through the web-world and have seen her smiling face with her forever family.

We are still waiting for the final approval for our family to bring home our six-year-old, little girl (this is why I have so enjoyed reading about Abby's transition, adjustment, and challenges). We prayed very hard...and fast. We rushed around to visit with doctors about her referral file, hoping that no one else would lock her file before we could. Ha! Our agency was not as worried as we were because at six she is OLD to be adopted, but all we could see is how perfectly God designed her to be in our family!

Sorry for the LONG comments! Yes, the Shared List has its faults, but our great, big God can use anything He wants to to accomplish His will...even earthen vessels like us.

Truly Blessed said...

Sharla,

Your post so resonates with me -- home with my two beautiful blessings from God (one NSN, home for 22 months and one SN child, home for almost 3 months).

How the CC*AA has decreed the current SN program run is ridiculous. I think it has created a "feeding frenzy" among PAPs who are, let's face it, after 2+ years wait (when they were expecting much less) and with no end in sight to the wait...desperate to have a child (any child) to parent...I think the whole things is a recipe for disaster.

I personally feel that there will be a huge increase in the number of disruptions in China, as parents meet these children and realize that they have a much more severe issues to deal with then they were aware of (because of the short turn around time in making that decision). My heart aches for those children, and for those families who will have to endure it.

Having said all of that, I'm very happy that more families are at least considering SN -- these lovely, wonderful children are as deserving of families as those "perfect" NSN AYAP little girls that so many people have requested.

Oh, and I just read the previous comment (by poster laranou) and it sounds like some of the new changes may be helpful for this program. The way it was just a few months ago was awful...I sure hope it begins to work better for the children (and the waiting families).

The Ferrill's said...

Hey new friend!
This is a fabulous post, you said it all so perfectly: about SN children, about God's callings on our life, about challenges...
Your blog and travel website are like a library of resources for me...I wish I could print it all out and bring it to China in a book! ;)
And that verse from Philippians was our CBS memory verse for last week! ;)
Blessings,
Laine

momof4jones said...

I just found you blog and so enjoyed this post. The Lord has just told us that we need to adopt again. We adopted domestically last time and God is directing us to China this time. We want to adopt a SN child, but are concerned about this. We are also seeking God's direction to show us what age He wants for us. I so appreciate those of you that post information that will help us through this process. Thank you and God bless your sweet family, Suzette