What do you mean by Special Needs?
The name “Special Needs” can be somewhat misleading. It refers to the adoption of children who come to adoption through the child welfare system because of reported conditions of abuse and/or neglect. Some agencies prefer to use the term “waiting children.” Usually these children become available for adoption after a period of time while social workers try to help their birth parents change the conditions that caused them to come into care in the first place. When, after six months to a year, those conditions don’t change, a court process takes place to terminate birth parent rights so that another permanent family may be found for the child. This legal process can take from six months to two years to complete before a child is fully free to be adopted. Many children are placed for adoption during the process in what is known as “legal risk” placement.
“Special Needs” does not necessarily mean that these children are handicapped or developmentally delayed, although, as with all populations of children, some are. Primarily it means that these children are older than infant or toddler age, may have siblings, may be children of color, probably have histories of abuse or neglect or parental substance abuse and may not yet be completely legally free for adoption. Most of these children require therapy and/or medication.
- There are no fees for any part of this type of adoption.
- The average age of special needs adopted children is around seven. Children who are both younger and older are also available in lesser numbers. Younger available children may have more serious medical issues or developmental difficulties. Because of the higher proportion of children of color who are waiting, there may be younger children who are African American or Latino descent.
- Most waiting children are in foster families. Some are in residential group placements.
- All children placed within the system have experienced loss and abuse and/or neglect in varying degrees. They all require parents who have a strong degree of commitment and skills and knowledge to help them overcome the effects of earlier trauma and deprivation.
- There is comprehensive and free training for prospective adoptive parents and for those who have already adopted.
- There is a system of post adoption services in place in Massachusetts for all adoptive families.
- Prior to placement, adoptive parents are given complete information about the child, or children, which includes medical, social and emotional information so that an informed decision can be made.
- Unlike the other forms of adoption, the transition into the adoptive family can be done gradually with increasing visitation over a period of up to three months.
- For most special needs adoptions, an adoption subsidy is available which provides both financial assistance and health care coverage until a child reaches adulthood. *Subsidy is subject to annual review/change.
- For families open to older children or siblings, special needs adoption is an excellent choice that provides both the experience to parent as well as a chance to make a real difference for a child in their community.
What is MAPP Training?
MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) training is an eight week (24-hour) course in which both a trained social worker and an adoptive/foster parent work with families to teach them about the needs of children in the foster care system and how best to parent children with these specific needs. The course delves into behavioral and emotional needs, legal issues with adopting them from foster care and other important topics. Once MAPP training is complete, a social worker will be assigned to a family to complete a home study.
What’s a Home Study?
A home study is an extensive document detailing the family’s composition, background, strengths and child interest characteristics. This document will help other social workers match children with families that would best meet their needs.
The home study is both a process and a document. It involves a series of interviews by an adoption social worker who helps with the family’s submission of documents. The Home Study serves three purposes:
- It assesses a family’s appropriateness and skills to parent an adoptive child.
- It helps inform and educate adoptive parents about adoption issues and needed skills.
- It provides social workers who will be matching children with you a good look at who you are so that they can make a good match.
Home Study Documents include:
- A written application.
- Autobiographies of the applicants.
- A statement from a physician regarding the physical and emotional health of the applicants and of any children in the home.
- A statement from physician regarding the applicant’s fertility situation if considering an infant.
- Copies of Birth, Marriage and Divorce Certificates.
- References from employers, family and friends at the discretion of the caseworker.
- A criminal record review.
Mass. Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) standards include:
- Motivation for fostering or adoption.
- Emotional and financial stability and compatibility of the applicants.
- The social, education and health history.
- The family composition, a description of the home and the adjustment of the applicants own children, if any.
- Have adequate living space for another child or children in addition to any they have already, which conforms to the state and local laws governing health, sanitation and fire. A separate bedroom is not a requirement, but a separate bed is.
- The family’s attitude toward accepting a foster or adopted child, relationship with extended family and their attitudes toward accepting a foster or adopted child. Have demonstrated tolerance for cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds dissimilar of their own.
- Parenting ability, including child rearing and discipline.
- The family’s attitude toward birth parents of the child.
- Expectations for child, including the family’s plans to discuss adoption with the child.
- If single, be able to meet the needs of a child in ways usually shared by two parents.
Additional Home Study Procedures include:
- Attendance at a training series.
- Completion of matching criteria for characteristics of the child desired.
- Physical requirements and safety assessment for adoptive homes.
- In-person interviews, joint and individual, with caseworker in home and office.
- Permission to solicit information from other agencies at the discretion of caseworker.
The Agency may infrequently refuse or request the withdrawal of an application for reasons, which include the following:
- Insufficient knowledge and consideration of the needs of children generally and adopted children in particular, and unwillingness to explore and learn.
- Demonstrated physical and emotional inability to provide a suitable environment.
- Refusal to provide medical care under any circumstances.
This Agency wishes to be as flexible as possible in its requirement regarding age, sex, race, religion, cultural heritage, national origin, sexual orientation, locality and type of home, etc., in the belief that the essential qualities of love, tolerance, sense of purpose and maturity are of greater importance in the selection of permanent families for children.
Results of The Home Study
Following completion of the Home Study process, the home study will be reviewed by the Adoption Team and a decision will be made at that time. Applicants will be notified of the result of the study in writing within one month of completion of evaluation.
Applicants not approved for adoption should be offered an in-person interview to explain reasons for this action. It is at the family’s discretion whether to exercise this option.
Prospective adoptive parents whose applications have not been accepted and who believe they have a grievance, shall have the right to appeal in writing to the executive director, and the right to an interview with him or his designee to discuss their grievance. A summary of the interview shall be provided to the applicants. After the appeal, any decision made will remain final. Our adoption program is fully licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). Regulations require that this information be shared with all prospective adoptive parents before an agreement is entered into between the Agency and yourselves.
Online Adoption Information Form
Child & Family Services | Fall River
66 Troy Street
Fall River, MA 02720
Telephone: (508) 676-5708
Fax: (508) 676-1948