You can read a little about how our adoption process started in this blog post, as well as a little bit on why we chose international adoption. Adopting a special needs child definitely wasn't our first choice, in fact – it was one of the only things I thought I could never do. God has been patient and gentle with me, however – and we are confident in the path that we're currently on.
Because I am a habitual list maker (and also love to see how God uses small things to make big changes), I've decided to list out the catalysts for this change of heart and direction in our adoption process.
1) We got educated.
One of the hardest parts of this process was realizing that I had my own misconceptions and suppositions about what a special need was, and what it was like as a parent to live with or treat. When we begin the process with the China program, our agency sent us a huge list of special needs that they commonly see. I was surprised to see that hemangioma – something that our biological daughter was actually born with– was on that list. Other small things like asthma, eczema, and missing a finger or toe were also listed. Don't get me wrong, there were many more severe needs and many of the "minor" needs were often in combination with another one or two. But, it was very interesting to realize that the Chinese definition of "special needs" is very different from ours as Americans.
We were asked to go through the list and do some research to see what we would be "ok" with. Our agency provided us with several excellent resources that were specific to China special needs adoption. It was a hard process. We felt like in saying no to some need that we were saying no to a child- and essentially that's what was happening. However, we had to be realistic about what our family could handle and how we could best meet the needs of our child. We eventually came up with our own list – and talked through it with our social worker and agency. We eventually decided that we were OK with anything that wasn't potentially life-threatening – things that could be treated with surgery or medicine.
We will not know what special need(s) our daughter will have until we receive a referral, review her file, do the appropriate research, and accept the referral. It is possible to just request one special need, such as cleft palate, but because we chose to list several, our agency can refer us a child with anything on that list. It is possible that after reviewing the files and seeking the appropriate medical advice, that we could choose not to accept the referral. But, I would have to say that is very unlikely.
2) We are wealthy by the world standards.
I mentioned it in this blog post, but once Shawn and I realized that in the world's eyes, we were wealthy- and by that I mean as average-earning Americans, we make more than 99% of the rest of the world- it was hard for us to forget. Our American dollars are able to buy excellent medical care, healthy food, and a safe place to live. We don't take that lightly.
3) We have ample resources in our city.
Speaking of excellent medical care, our city has two amazing hospitals and thousands of medical professionals available when we need them. Lubbock is a hub for the medical field in this region- and knowing we would have access to specialists, clinics, and expert opinions when we needed them was reassuring. It also doesn't hurt that we have a Pharmacist brother-in-law that doesn't mind midnight text messages about children's medicine dosages. :)
4) It could've been our biological child.
This was a mindset shift for me. I mentioned earlier that our daughter Liv was born with a hemangioma on the top of her head. This was and is hardly an issue (except for a few unusual comments from strangers)- and now that she is two it has almost completely receded and is covered up by her hair.
Liv was born in the middle of this long adoption process- and one day, it hit me- I do not have to fear- whatever special need our adopted daughter will potentially have could have just as easily been something our biological child could have been born with! Yes, the genetics are different- but if Knox or Liv would have been born with a cleft palate or limb difference, would we have said "no"? Absolutely not- how absurd would that be?!? So in many ways, that is my mindset. And, with adoption, we get the perk of knowing what is to come- preparing for her needs before she arrives.
5) It's Biblical.