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Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome: Tips and Resources

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
10/16/18  11:15 AM PST

When we had a child with Down syndrome, we enjoyed parenting him and realized we were naturals as parents of a child with special needs. After having two biological children and adopting our niece, we didn’t need any more children, but we did have room in our hearts and home. We decided that since we have a knack for outside-the-box parenting, we should adopt a second child with Down syndrome.

Our first step was to get in touch with the agency that supported us through the process of adopting our niece. We looked at many options, including international adoption, but decided the logical option was to use the evaluations of our home and family that had already been compiled to adopt another child domestically. Our first choice was adopting from foster care, but there were no children in foster care in our state waiting to be adopted, so we looked elsewhere.

We jumped through some hoops, got the paperwork updated and sent it to what is now known as the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. It was late January when I mailed them our packet of required documents. On February 15, I got a phone call from them which I assumed was just to touch base and perhaps request additional documents, so I was shocked when the woman calling told me there was a baby who was a potential match for our family. We brought our son home with us just five months after starting the process. Though in hindsight it seems fast, at the time the wait seemed to stretch out forever.

After bringing Ben home there were a few more social work visits and a court date before the adoption was finalized in December of the same year.

If you are interested in adopting a child with special needs, the best place to start is to identify a local agency that can help you discern the best path. There are children who need homes waiting to be adopted, some of their profiles can be found at the following websites:

Rainbow Kids: Adoption & Childhood Welfare Advocacy


Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children

The Cradle

Chask: Christian Homes and Special Kids

National Down Syndrome Adoption Network

Let me end with a few disclaimers:

  • First, the process is hard; there are setbacks and frustrations. Understanding that this is part of the process means having realistic expectations, making the experience less stressful. Educate yourself and ask questions before making a decision.
  • It is almost universally recommended to keep an open relationship with the biological parents of an adopted child if it is feasible. I recommend preparing your heart to include your adopted child’s biological parents in their life and yours.
  • Last, I’m just a mom, and this is just my experience. My understanding of the laws, which vary state to state, is limited. Whenever it’s possible, it is best for a child and their biological parent to remain together. Some agencies are more ethical than others about ensuring that mothers and fathers have objective counseling during the decision-making process to place their child for adoption. If you have any qualms about the ethics of an agency, don’t be afraid to seek out another opinion.

If you have questions specific to me, I will be watching the comments on this post and will be happy to reply.

inclusion on the playground

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Follow her on Facebook.

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