Each year, World Down Syndrome Day is recognized on March 21. This global awareness day has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date was chosen as the 21st day of the 3rd month to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome.
World Down Syndrome Day seeks to raise awareness of the condition. Down syndrome is a genetic condition in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome, resulting in physical differences in their eyes, nose, and ears. As a result, children with Down syndrome may be smaller than their peers and have physical ailments in vision, hearing, and digestion.
Adopting and raising a child diagnosed with Down syndrome is a big decision. A child who joins your family through a Down syndrome adoption will require extra attention and care.
Many children diagnosed with Down syndrome are cherished and thrive in adoptive homes. Lifetime often hears from birth mothers who are happy that someone is ready and accepting to adopt their baby diagnosed with Down syndrome.
If you decide to move forward with a Down syndrome adoption, you can still pour your love into this child and bond with them in a special way. Adopting and raising a child with Down syndrome comes with challenges, but it is also one of the biggest blessings. Keeping some of these helpful tips in mind will help make the process smoother.
Allow for an adjustment period.
Once you bring your child home, there will be an adjustment period. Depending on the child and their medical situation, this could take months or sometimes longer.
Allow plenty of time to familiarize your child with your home, family dynamic, and routines or schedules. Children with special needs often process significant changes differently, and the adjustment period can be longer than you might expect.
Remember that you are both getting used to each other and that patience is key. Celebrate small victories and take things slow. Trust and love will grow by learning to express your love and gratitude for them in a way they understand.
Get insurance lined up.
Adopting and raising a child with Down syndrome often requires a lot of medical or therapy appointments. Before you bring your child home, make sure you get your insurance adjusted to cover your child.
Ask about issues that may arise with preexisting conditions, and determine what visits or procedures your insurance will cover. Knowing what insurance will pay for will give you peace of mind. As a parent of a child with special needs, you’ll want to make sure there are no unexpected, expensive surprises down the road.
Know that there will be some obstacles.
Parenting is hard work. Raising kids is difficult at times. And raising a child with special needs can be even more challenging.
So give yourself grace. You will give much of yourself to raise your child, so remember that you will sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed.
But always remember that your strength is more powerful than you think. Your love for your child and understanding of your child’s condition will always be the greatest motivator to get you through the daily struggles.
Become an expert on your child.
Doctors, therapists, friends, your mom, someone you meet at the park or an IEP meeting — there will always be people trying to give you advice. But only you are the expert on your child.
Parents of a child who joined their family through a Down syndrome adoption know their child is a unique, one-of-a-kind creation. The hours they spend interacting and caring for their child will make them the most knowledgeable about their quirks, personality, and specific medical situations.
Use your hard-earned knowledge to be an advocate for your child with special needs.
Surround yourself with a trusted support system.
The old saying “it takes a village” is especially true for raising special needs children. For single parents or those whose children have severe impairments, you’ll need to rely on other special needs parents.
This support will be in addition to trusted family and friends. Your support group is made up of people who love you and your child, and they will likely be willing to help when needed.
Maybe it’s making dinner occasionally or offering to watch your child while you run errands. Asking for help and surrounding yourself with people that want the best for you and your child is vital for your well-being.
Raising a Special Needs Child: Additional Resources
In addition to personal support, there are also some very helpful professional resources to tap into, including:
- Federation for Children with Special Needs is a national organization that offers information, support, and assistance for parents with children with disabilities. The Federation also has peer support networks that help connect families that may be going through similar situations with their children.
- National Down Syndrome Adoption Network: NDSAN’s mission is to ensure that every child born with Down syndrome has the opportunity to grow up in a loving family. To that end, their website offers detailed information about parenting a child with Down syndrome.
- Best Buddies. Your kids need friends and social interaction. This wonderful organization does a great job helping them develop those while also encouraging children’s communication and other independent living skills.
- Parent to Parent. This organization empowers and supports parents around the country. They connect parents and families with other parents and families with the same disability, creating space for people to get the emotional support they need.
- DDD (Division of Developmental Disabilities): A child born with Down syndrome may need speech and occupational therapy to develop fine and gross motor skills. The DDD is a person-centered system of community agencies that provide high-quality, outcome-based services. Check your state to see the requirements for enrollment.
Many children with special needs will struggle with challenges through childhood and often throughout their lives. They require adoptive parents who provide them stability and structure, special care and professional help, patience and love, and the Lord’s guidance.
Helpful Tips for a Down Syndrome Adoption
- Do not jump in just because you hear of a child in need. Take time to pray and decide if this is the adoption to which you’ve been called.
- Observe and talk with parents who are raising a child diagnosed with Down syndrome.
- Think about the severity of the disabilities and behavioral problems you can handle—don’t take on more because you feel sorry for a child.
- Be prepared. Enroll in instructional parenting classes available locally or online. Read books recommended by your adoption home study provider.
- Visit Internet forums to read about adoptive parents whose lives are filled with purpose and joy after a Down syndrome adoption. Also, learn from those who are struggling.
- Seek guidance by emailing and relating to parents you meet online who’ve been there and done that.
- Make sure you apply for programs like California’s Adoption Assistance Program (AAP), a government financial assistance program for adopting a child with special needs.
- Always finalize a Down Syndrome adoption through an agency, even if an attorney or facilitator has located a child for you. This is required to qualify for AAP in most adoptions.
- Search the Internet for information about Down syndrome, new treatment methods, and expert advice. Also, search for medical resources, equipment, and supplies.
- Commit yourself to providing the quality of life, patience, understanding, unconditional love, and spiritual guidance your child deserves.
- If your agency requires counseling for your family to adopt a child diagnosed with Down syndrome, accept it graciously. Try not to be offended because it will help you all.
- Stay in touch with social workers and adoption professionals for guidance and to help you adjust to your new reality.
- Learn new skills to meet the child’s needs and be prepared to make a lifelong commitment.
- Do your praying now, to be in tune with the Lord’s leading.
Adopting and raising a child with Down syndrome comes with its own set of challenges. Parenting can be exhausting, but it can also be a blessing. A Down syndrome adoption is an opportunity to pour your life into someone who needs lifelong assistance.
If you have the opportunity for a Down syndrome adoption, surround yourself with positive people who have been down this road before. Get “me-time” when needed, and make positive memories with your child along the way. It will be well worth it!
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”