Why You Should Stop Waiting and Switch to the China Special Needs Program

If you have you been waiting for a “healthy” referral from China or are signed up to receive a referral from another country and have been waiting, you may want to consider making a change.  Last year, 2,040 children entered the United States through Intercountry adoption from China.  China remains the largest Intercountry adoption program and the majority of these children are children with special needs.  However, let’s talk about what China considers special needs versus what we here in the US consider special needs.

In the United States, when we hear the term “Special Needs” we usually think of a child in a wheelchair or in a special classroom.  For the sake of adoptions, please know that special needs can certainly encompass those children, but more often than not, these children have a medical condition which made them “undesirable” in China.  First, China does not have a good support system for families who have a child with special needs. Secondly, because of their one-child policy history, most parents desire a “perfect” only child. Any medical condition, even the most minor, will cause the child to be abandoned.  This means children are available for adoption who have repairable heart conditions, cleft lip/palate, club feet, were born premature, have thalassemia, and various other repairable or manageable conditions.

China classifies their children into “Special Focus” and “non-Special Focus”.  Typically, Special Focus children have more moderate to severe special needs and the CCCWA gives us up to 3 months to match those children with families.  The non-Special Focus children are usually younger and have more minor special needs.  The CCCWA only gives us 3 weeks to match these children with families and they can only be matched with families who are logged-in and who have a valid home study and USCIS approval.

__ Pan Xue with pig art June 2011Lately, we have had much success in matching many of our families who are waiting for children with special needs, and because we have expanded our One to One partnerships and are now working with 3 orphanages, we anticipate receiving an increased number of files for children who would be considered non special focus.  These are the children who can only be matched with logged in families who have a valid immigration approval.  We want to encourage those of you waiting in the China traditional program or waiting in another country program with Nightlight to consider the special needs program.  If you are in this position, please contact us to discuss.  Nightlight desires to place waiting children into waiting families and does not desire to see families waiting in other programs.  Because of this, we are willing to credit these NCA transferring families with fees already paid to another NCA program, as much as possible, toward fees due in the China program.

For those of you who have a dossier logged-in through the traditional program, we encourage you to update your home study and apply for a new I-800A USCIS approval so that if we receive files of children with minor special needs, we can at least call you and tell you about them.  As of now, we are prohibited from matching a child with a family if the family does not have the proper government approvals to be matched.   China places this restriction because they want the children to come home to a family as soon as possible.

It can take 3 to 4 months to update your home study and immigration approval for China.  If you are also completing a dossier for China, it will likely take 4 to 6 months to get your dossier logged in so that you are ready to accept a referral.  Don’t delay getting started as soon as possible.

Once you make the decision this is something you will consider, we will have you complete a Medical Conditions Checklist and provide information to help you research various special needs which are commonly seen from China.  You and your family would have an opportunity to review these medical conditions and mark those you would be willing to consider.  When we received the file of a child which meets your preferences, we will call you to discuss and you will have the opportunity to review the file prior to accepting or declining the referral.

If you would like to discuss the possibility of switching to the China Waiting Child program from either the traditional China program or another NCA adoption program, please call or e-mail Stephanie@nightlight.org or Hannah@nightlight.org.

Best of Nightlight: Extraordinary Kids – Understanding Special Needs Adoption

cerebral Palsy“Focus on: Cerebral Palsy”

Many families pursuing international adoption are intimidated by the options, the process, as well as the potential challenges. So when a family hears about “special needs” adoption, they can feel completely overwhelmed.

But the truth is that most of these special needs are quite misunderstood and often can be corrected with minor treatments or training.

This week, we put a special focus on special needs adoption by taking a revealing look at cerebral palsy. The following was written by Joan Francis, an attorney whose expertise is in Family, Disability and Juvenile Law, and who has also adopted a special needs child.

“What is cerebral palsy (CP)?

Any situation involving any level of brain damage immediately before, during, or within about a year after birth is essentially by definition “cerebral palsy,” unless other diagnoses also apply. Typically this is due to deprivation of oxygen on a temporary basis or bleeding in the brain, which sometimes occurs in very premature infants.  Injury to the brain after a child is one year old is usually called TBI (traumatic brain injury) —for example: a blow to the head, near-drowning, shaken baby, etc.

Many with CP may have great difficulties in one area (such as severe dyslexia) but display almost photographic memory, dramatic intuitive thought, and comprehension, as well as  other unexpected gifts as well.

CP is a STABLE condition; it does not worsen, but can definitely improve over time. By itself it does not shorten life expectancy and so on. Continue reading

Neurochemistry and the Adopted Child

Karyn Purvis, a professor at TCU and the author of The Connected Child, discusses how children’s brain neurochemistry can be negatively changed due to early life experiences, causing the child to have learning, social, and behavioral issues. Neurochemicals are the chemicals in the brain that send signals. So if the brain is not sending the right signals this can affect the brain directly as well as the child’s behavior.

There are six major risk factors to a child’s healthy brain development:

  • Difficult pregnancy:
    This can include drugs, alcohol, and a mother’s dealing with stressful situations.
  • Difficult birth:
    If the mother had a prolonged labor in which child was removed harshly by forceps, this can cause bleeding in capillaries in brain.
  • Early hospitalization:
    Usually an infant will have received less touch, disrupted time with mother, painful procedures, and overstimulation due to medical equipment and procedures. This can be experienced as neglect by the infant and the overstimulation can result in impaired sensory response. Continue reading

Adopting the HIV Positive Child, Part III: Telling Your Family and Friends

(Also read Adoption and HIV, Part 1: Know the Facts and Adopting the HIV Positive Child, Part II.

You can study and learn lots about the HIV/AIDS, how a child may become HIV positive, how the child will fare, what medications are available, and even how contagious the child is to other family members. But all the facts still do not answer the questions that every prospective adoptive parent must ask: “What is it like to raise an HIV Child?”; “What does the future hold?”; “What will others think?“

Before you adopt a child—any child—it is only natural to consider what the response of friends and family will be. After all, this is one of the steps in the adoption process—telling others.

As with all adoptions, your family members may expect that you will adopt a child who will be like a birth child. But instead of announcing that you are adopting a healthy, newborn infant, you may then be explaining to them that you are adopting a child of another race, an older child, or a child with special needs. Continue reading

Adopting the HIV Positive Child, Part II

Because HIV infection is so serious, and children and adults alike are more prone to other infections, keeping a child strong and healthy is very important. And because children do not have the same reserves as adults, good nutrition is especially important for them.  In poorer countries and in orphanages, where children oftentimes receive less than optimum nutrition, their bodies are further compromised and more prone to infection.

That is why in other countries, orphanages dedicated to the care of HIV positive children receive extra funding  and attention so that the children can receive the extra medical and nutritional care that they need.

If you are considering adopting an HIV positive child, most likely you are adopting a child who is a true orphan and you will truly be giving a child the gift of life. We at Nightlight will be featuring children from Eastern Europe and Africa who are HIV positive. There are certainly considerations that need be taken before you and your family decide to adopt a child who is HIV positive and you will want to be well educated regarding HIV and AIDS in general and the issues you and a and HIV-positive child will face. Continue reading

Adoption and HIV, Part 1: Know the Facts

AfricaAIDsRibbonMany families are now choosing to adopt children who are HIV positive. The children can come from any country, but the majority of HIV positive children come from Africa.  About 3 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with the HIV virus, and 90% of all children with HIV come from this region.

Because of parents dying from AIDS there are an estimated 25 million more children who are orphaned. [1] In Uganda, there are about 2 million orphans. Of those, 1.2 million have lost one or both parents to AIDS. [2] There are millions more who will become orphans.

In the U.S. and Western Europe, the incidence of HIV infection in children has been drastically reduced due to pregnant women taking what are called antiretroviral drugs, which lower the rate substantially of a mother’s passing on the infection to her unborn child.

Even in poorer countries, such as Uganda, this medication is available. However, many people, especially those in rural areas, do not have access to the medication.  Unlike children in Western countries, those in sub-Saharan Africa are much more likely to die from the infection. For these children who do become HIV infected, 50% will die before they reach their second birthday. In fact, the mortality rate due to HIV/AIDS in children under 5 years old has increased by 20-40%. [3] Continue reading

Spina Bifida Occulta: Part II

bigstock_Adorable_Asian_Baby_With_Spark_938600Spina Bifida Occulta (SPO) is considered the least detrimental of the Spina bifida disorders, and is estimated to affect 10-20% of the population, so clearly many people have the disorder and do not know. The children from China or other countries who have no symptoms would not be classified as having special needs. However, there are types of SPO that do have symptoms.

These are the main categories of Spina Bifida Occulta

  • Thickened filum terminal: The spinal cord is too thick.
  • Fatty filum terminale: There is fatty tissue at end of the spinal cord.
  • Diastematomyelia (split spinal cord) and diplomyelia: The spinal cord is split in two and this split is often caused by a piece of bone.
  • Dermal sinus tract: The spinal cord and the skin on the back are connected by what looks like a band of tissue.
  • Tethered spinal cord in which the end of spinal cord is attached in the wrong way and, therefore, becomes stretched
  • Dipomyelomeningocele and lipomeningocele where the spinal cord is attached to a fatty tumor [1] Continue reading

Spina Bifida: Part I

Welcome to the first in a 6-part series on Spina Bifida. In the following posts we will discuss each of the types of Spina Bifida (SB); making the decision to adopt a child with SB; and the treatment and prognosis for these children.spinalcolumn

SB is a condition that occurs during the first month of fetal development in which the bones on the child’s back, called the vertebrae, do not fully enclose over the spinal cord.  It can be very mild and never noticed or it can be very severe, causing a child to have paraplegia or quadriplegia. It is a neural tube defect, and here in the US, with more women taking folic acid before conceiving and during pregnancy, the incidence of SB has decreased significantly.

In the US, the condition is most common among Whites  and least common among Asians. However, in China  there are reportedly 200 infants born with SB for every 10,000 births (see footnote); in the US, the incidence is 5-10 for every 10,000 births.  Certainly, SB is represented among the more than one million Chinese children born each year with special needs.

There may be a genetic component to SB as well as environmental factors that contribute to the condition. Continue reading

New Home Study and Post-placement Requirements for China Adoptions

The  China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption released some new home study and post-placements requirements. These new guidelines and regulations for the home study go into effect as of October 1, 2011; and those regarding post placement visits and reports apply to families who receive Notice of Coming to China for Adoption after August 1, 2011.

personwritingHome Study

First, you must have a home study completed by a Hague accredited adoption agency. Please contact Nightlight before you begin the home study process so we can advise you as to the selection of a home study agency. (As a Hague accredited agency, Nightlight provides adoption home study services in Southern California, Colorado, and South Carolina.)

China also requires certain applicants — anyone who has a history of alcohol or drug abuse, has experienced emotional loss or trauma or abuse, or is in counseling — to provide a psychological report as part of the home study process. The type of report required and the contents are not specified:  it will be up to the home study provider to determine the type of evaluation that the family may need. For example, emotional loss is a common experience — especially among those who have gone through infertility and possibly miscarriages — and the home study provider will want to address these issues with the couple. If someone has experienced serious trauma and abuse, then it may be more appropriate for counseling to be recommended if certain issues have not been resolved.

Continue reading

China changes course: singles are now able to adopt

international-infant 082412This week we received two breaking news items from China. The first is that the CCAA, as of February 15, 2011, is now referred to as the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA).

The greater news, however, is that single women are now permitted to adopt from China.  Years ago, when single women could adopt, there were quotas for each agency. Now there are no restrictions as to the number of single women who can adopt.  The CCCWA is now permitting single women to adopt the 2,000 or so Special Focus Children – children who have been waiting for a family for more than 60 days.

The requirements for singles are nearly the same as they are for married couples. In addition, the CCCWA knows that these children who are older or have special needs will require more attention and, therefore, requires that single women indicate the extra resources they have in place. Most of the requirements are in line with Nightlight’s conditions as well as good social work practice.

Adoptions from China to the US were at an all-time high in 2005, with nearly 8,000 children finding homes. In 2009, 3,000 children were adopted by US citizens from China.  As we are all aware, back in 2005 more babies and non-special needs children were being placed for adoption. Continue reading