To a person unfamiliar with adoption law and practice, the term “special needs child” might conjure up the image of a child with significant mental, emotional, or physical challenges. In truth, many children placed for adoption in South Carolina can meet at least one of the various definitions for a special needs adoption.
There are assorted definitions of special needs, which apply to different statutes and programs. To navigate this labyrinth requires consultation with an experienced adoption professional that is mindful of the facts at hand, the client’s goals and the full range of private, state and federal adoption programs.
Our law firm is experienced with handling a wide range of special needs adoptions. Not only is attorney Jim Thompson available to handle the legalities of your adoption process, but our in-house social workers can provide emotional support and resources for you if you’re considering or in the process of adopting a special needs child in South Carolina. To learn more about how our services can help you, please give us a call at 864-573-5533.
Here’s what it means to adopt a child with special needs in South Carolina:
How “Special Needs” is Defined in South Carolina
While children with disabilities certainly fall under the “special needs” adoption category, perfectly healthy children can also be defined as special needs. Typically, this term applies to children who:
- Are members of a sibling group
- Have mixed racial heritage
- Are 6 years of age or older
- Have physical, mental or emotional disabilities
Whether you’re pursuing a private infant adoption, a foster care adoption or even an international adoption, your adoption may be considered a special needs adoption.
If you’re considering adopting a child from foster care, it’s likely that they will qualify as having special needs. Many foster children are members of a sibling group or are older when they become legally available for adoption. In addition, because many of these children have gone through traumatic events, including separation from their legal parents, it’s only natural that they may face lingering challenges.
What to Consider Before Adopting a Special Needs Child
Choosing a special needs adoption can be an immensely rewarding way to grow your family — but it will come with its own unique challenges you should be aware of before you begin. You should be honest with yourself about what kind of adoption situations for which you feel prepared. Here are some things to consider before you decide to adopt a special needs child:
- Fully research different kinds of special needs and their level of required care to find out which you are prepared to handle.
- Use your resources to educate and prepare yourself for adopting a special needs child. (We’ve provided a list of good places to look below.)
- Anticipate your child’s needs by preparing yourself to be a successful parent. For example, if you plan on adopting a deaf child, you will want to become familiar with the deaf community and begin learning American Sign Language.
- Create your own community of parents who also have special needs children to use as support when you need it. You might want to check out certain online groups as well, which can be tailored to everything from adopting a child with Down syndrome to adopting sibling groups.
- Be prepared to adapt as your child’s needs change over time. For example, your child may develop symptoms later in life in relation to their specific situation, such as developmental delays due to prenatal exposures. You should be ready to provide your child with the resources they need to excel in life.
As with any kind of adoption, the more prepared and educated you are ahead of time, the more successful you will be in adjusting to your child’s specific needs.
Resources for Special Needs Adoption
It’s impossible to complete a special needs adoption on your own. That’s why, in addition to legal counsel from the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, you’ll want to take advantage of all your possible resources.
First off, know that the state of South Carolina will provide financial assistance for non-recurring adoption expenses if you adopt a special needs child, whether or not the child is in the custody of the state. This can be up to $1,500 per child and can be applied to the legal services we offer here at the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson. If you’re an employee of the state who is enrolled in a state employee health plan, you may be eligible for even more financial assistance.
For children placed by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, there are resources for you before, during and after your adoption. This can include anything from training to support groups to respite care. We recommend you contact your local DSS office for more information on the services available to you.
Other good sources of information for special needs adoptions include:
We may also be able to provide you local resources for special needs adoption support, if necessary.
How We Can Help with Your Special Needs Adoption in SC
As one of the most experienced adoption lawyers in South Carolina, attorney Jim Thompson can help you through every step of your special needs adoption process and answer any questions you have along the way. Our social workers will also be available as a support system to you, should you need it.
No matter whether you’re completing a foster care adoption or a private infant adoption, we’ll determine whether your adoption is considered special needs and, if so, whether you’re eligible for financial help from the state. If you complete a foster care special needs adoption with us, our services will be reimbursed by the state and may be offered to you free of charge.
We encourage you to contact us anytime to discuss your adoption situation. Please give us a call today at 864-573-5533 or contact us online.