Each year, November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. While all adoption-related issues are important, our particular focus is on children currently at Mary Cariola Children's Center, over 20 of whom have been adopted! Adoption is wonderful and rewarding, and when it happens to be a child who has disabilities, the experience can be incredibly fulfilling for both parent and child.
There are some statistics that may surprise you. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States with an estimated 135,000 adopted each year. Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family whether this includes adopting or being adopted. Those with special needs or disabilities present unique circumstances for adoption and impact these numbers greatly. This population will continue to increase as technology enables growing numbers of children to survive disabling medical conditions, and as more children are being identified as having disabilities.
What an opportunity it is for families and individuals to adopt those with special needs. All children benefit greatly from both the stability and the love that comes from being part of a permanent family but it’s especially true for children with disabilities as they require consistency of care and relationships. The consistency and permanence of adoption is so valuable and important to the kids we serve. It is a critical component of their progress. At Cariola, all children’s families have a social worker to provide additional support and guidance. The child’s growth and skill progression requires engagement which can be achieved when consistent caregiver/parent communication with our team takes place and is supportive of the child’s goals. This is a critical element in their progress.
Families that adopt children with developmental disabilities many times have various reasons for doing so. Of course each situation is different, however studies show parents who desire to adopt children with disabilities tend to already have large families with a number of biological and adopted or fostered children. Potential adoptive parents have unique skills to parent a child with a disability; they commonly have prior experience in working with school systems, health care providers and have a level of awareness concerning how to advocate for a child with a form of disability. Ultimately, they understand what we at Mary Cariola Children's Center know—each child is empowered to discover their potential and that both child and family is unique!
Many parents speak of the incredible joy the children they have adopted bring into their lives. They discuss the levels of enrichment their children bring into their families in ways that they never imagined. Just ask our Cariola Family, the Jencik’s who have multiple adopted children with disabilities. Brittany Jencik has posted their story on her Facebook page and I encourage everyone to read it. You can link to it at www.facebook.com/brittany.jencik. You’ll be inspired about how they “see” a child and can bond with them through love and support.
Rochester adoption attorney and friend Greg Franklin has a great deal of experience in the adoption of children with special needs. Greg shared while some laws vary from state-to-state, the end result is that remarkable families are adopting children who have special needs or disabilities and it’s not only rewarding for the children, but the entire family. Franklin says it’s important to know the three primary paths to adoption. To become foster parents, specific training and certification is required including background checks and other child safety training is required through the county. The second path is to work through a New York State licensed agency for child placement. Finally, the third path is private adoption. While the county is not involved in this method there will be a home inspection for safety and appropriate checks and balances to assure that the child will be entering a loving and caring environment. Ultimately the family would be registered as a “certified adoptive family.” The best advice is to seek professional input.
The need is there and the rewards are numerous or as Brittany Jencik says, “you’ll feel like your life has meaning that you needed and never even knew...” Could there be a child out there just waiting for you to take the first step?