Would you adopt a special needs child?
There’s a desperate need for families to care for children with special needs.

Finding a suitable home for a parentless child is always a challenge, but when the child has special needs that challenge is even more daunting.

Jo’burg Child Welfare is highly concerned about the children with mental and/or physical disabilities that are being placed in the organisation’s care.

‘Many of the children that are coming into the system at the moment have major disabilities both mental and physical,’ says Marihet Infantino who manages the Child and Family Unit at Jo’burg Child Welfare.

These disabilities range from ADHD to children born with foetal alcohol syndrome.

‘At the moment it is already difficult to find families for the children in our system so it is even more of a challenge to find adoptive parents or foster homes for children with special needs,’ Infantino explains. 

‘The reality is that it is more challenging to take care of a child with special needs,’ says Infantino. There are more costs involved for doctors and medication. Some children may have special dietary needs and oftentimes require extra care during the day which can also be costly.

Another major challenge is to find a home for a child who is HIV-positive. ‘Parents are afraid of taking a child into their home only to lose him or her soon after,’ says Pam Wilson, who manages the adoption department at Jo’burg child Welfare. ‘People are wary of taking on a long term responsibility of caring for children with special needs,’ says Wilson,

As a result of this, many of these children end up in institutions such as Little Eden and Avril Elizabeth - homes which care for children with such disabilities. While these centers offer excellent care, children who spend long periods of time in these facilities run the risk of becoming institutionalised and they struggle to develop relationships later on in life.

‘They are at risk of being unable to form good bonds with others and may tend to have attachment issues later in their lives,’ says Infantino. Their development may also be hindered. These institutions are also becoming flooded and placement for these children becomes more difficult as a result.

The reality is that the average adopter that comes forward is looking for a healthy child and cannot be convinced to care for a child with a disability, Wilson explains. ‘We need a specific outreach plan - to go out and make a special appeal to families to take care of these children.’

However raising a child with special needs today is very different to how it was just 10 years ago. The internet makes information readily available at the press of a button and parents can join a Jo’burg Child Welfare support group where they can talk to and share experiences and frustrations with other parents. There are also support groups nationwide for parents of children with disabilities.

For more information please contact JCW on 011 298 8500 or communications@jhbchildwelfare.org.za

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