My husband and I have adopted five children from the foster care system. In addition to parenting special needs children, I also co-moderate an online support group for parents of special needs children and serve as executive director of Indiana Post Adoption Network. While it is true that many adoptive parents receive financial support, we found that support in other areas is severely lacking in our community. There are also many families raising special needs children who were adopted privately, both internationally and domestically, without any monthly financial support. Even families of means find that these children tax their finances almost to the point of bankruptcy. In our experience, one of our children needed residential treatment due to serious emotional and behavioral issues that threatened the safety of everyone in our home. The country refused to pay and offered no support, even when I sought help at the highest levels of both the county and state government.
While we felt alone in our struggles at that time, we have come to find that there are many, not just a handful, of families who find themselves in the same boat. In some cases these children require very specialized attachment therapy that is very expensive (most often not covered by insurance) and very difficult to find. If the child requires residential treatment, this can cost $300 per day, and is also not covered by insurance.
Adoptive parents can suffer second hand Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of the behaviors that their adopted children bring into their family. Families would benefit from crisis counseling and respite.
We truly believed going in to our adoptions that love, structure, and consistency would be enough -- it was not. In pursuing our desire to provide a loving home for waiting children, we eventually found ourselves living with video cameras, door alarms, and hyper vigilance in order to protect our family. Few can comprehend the intense strain of living like that 24/7. It appears taboo to openly discuss the severe behavioral and emotional issues related to the adoption of special needs children. I think it is important for these issues to be openly discussed, so that families can make informed decisions. It is not in the best interest of the child to go from adoptive placement to adoptive placement. We were the sixth placement for four of our children. This creates a host of additional issues for the children and their ability to attach to the adoptive parents.
That 20 percent of special needs adoptions fail is testament to the fact that many families cannot find the support and resources they need to maintain their adoptive placement. Families need more than financial support. I believe it is possible to reduce the number of failed adoptions and residential placements if Marion County makes a commitment to providing quality, appropriate support to families post adoption.
Executive Director, Indiana Post Adoption Network