adoption · child development · finland · life · multicultural families

Getting ready for the special needs list

During the counselling phase, we were asked to fill a special needs list (“Adoptiolapsen tausta – ja terveystietolomake” in Finnish), to assess which special needs we were ready to take on and which not.
I recall how my first instinct was repulsion (is this a shopping list?) but rationally I got to understand that no one – not even the child- would have benefited from a situation that we parents were not ready to handle. So we sat down and started researching and discussing each condition one by one. It was still a guessing game, but that’s the best we could do.
 
The adoption counsellor made us aware that there are specialist doctors in Finland who works with agencies (see here or here for instance) and usually advises waiting parents about conditions. However, this service was not in English so not accessible to us (did this change? Let me and the readers know in the comments below).
 
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Researching all conditions was long and heavy. We split the job but it took several weeks anyway (consider starting early on, the counsellor or the agency can share the form with you upon request). I remember we tried to assess:
  • life expectancy of the child
  • how daily life would look like (and was it sustainable for our family?)
  • what support would we get, realistically?
    For example: it’s hard to babysit kids with certain conditions. Would the child be able to access childcare? Would this condition mean one of us was bound to stay home for several years?
  • would we be able to access professional help?
    Also financial considerations were made.
  • would this child be able to live independently later in life?
Most conditions can be researched on Wikipedia. At the time I used to read this lovely blog to try and understand how daily life looked like for some special needs children:
Parenting blogs in general are a great resource to read about that. You may even be able to ask questions directly to authors, many people are open about that nowadays.
 
One final note. Not all special needs are assessed/diagnosed before you meet the child and you never have any guarantee on what the future holds. Some special needs solve themselves simply with your exclusive care or with small operations. Others pop up at a later age. Healthy children end up in the special need category simply because they are not toddlers anymore.
Our son had a “fake” special need that will never cause him trouble, but then revealed to have attachment special needs. It’s very important to ground yourselves and be honest about your limitations, but there’ll always be a component of uncertainty you cannot control. That’s a risk every parent (adoptive or not) always has to take.
I hope I’m helping others by sharing our experience. I remember how confusing it was for us to go through this on our own. If you have other resources to share or questions, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments’ section.

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