Wednesday, May 29, 2013


We all have limits. In my definition, limits are places that the mere thought of them sends us over the edge. The great part about being human is that those limits are different for all of us. As I sit in this fancy-schmancy coffee shop and write this blog, I can audibly hear the illustration of this point, as people talk about galas and little Michael’s summer camps…I can only imagine that their limits are somewhat different than mine.

But today I want to focus on your limits, and specifically talk about limits with medical or special needs for the child you hope to adopt. As you begin your adoption process, you will be faced with a ton of difficult decisions. The most of which will be the time when you have to sit down and decide what, if any, special needs you are open to in the child you plan to adopt. This is one of the most difficult pieces of paperwork for adoptive families. You will start to work on it, check a couple of the obvious choices, and then leave it. And then think about it more, then start to research some things you have never heard of, then stop the checking, and then see that you haven’t checked many at all, then feel like an awful person for not checking too much, so you check more, and then doubt those decisions.  And then you fall into the trap that every adoptive family falls into, “if I birthed a baby, I couldn’t control what special needs that child would have.” So then some of you decide to check them all and leave it up to the Lord.

And for some of you, you honestly and truly do believe that and are comfortable with that decision. And I am in much admiration of you. But you make up about 2% of the home studies I write. For the rest of you, its just guilt. And guilt, my friends, is simply no reason to adopt a child.

So through the home study process we talk about special needs, what you are open to, what you need to learn more about, where you live, your school district, your health insurance, the needs of your other children, etc. and I give you my favorite Nikki home study speech, “Your priorities are the kiddos in your home today, not the child that doesn’t exist or isn’t yours yet.” And then you think and pray and research and you see where your limits are and make some decisions that are right for your family. And then we finish something that we have all come to with comfort, prayer, and resolve. And then I send a draft of the home study to your adoption agency, and our weeks or months of work are promptly thrown out the window.

(The rest of this is geared towards families adopting internationally)

This is happening more and more, with the needs of children adopted internationally increasing and the countries referring more children as healthy referrals, therefore increasing the special needs of the children available for adoption. And then you feel terrible for being too picky before and you just blindly accept everything your agency suggests, because, after all, they are the experts. And yes, they are the experts, and that’s why you have selected them to assist you with this huge step in your life journey. All that aside, they do not live in your home, they are not in your family, they are not your spouse, they are not your paycheck, they are not your health insurance provider, they are not your childcare provider, but yet they are encouraging you to make decisions that can dramatically impact all those items.

Let’s look at one situation with one of my families that just happened. We’ll call them Tom and Judy. Tom and Judy are wonderful people. Tom and Judy don’t have children yet and are choosing to adopt from China to begin their family. During their home study, we talked at length about special needs. And in the end, Tom and Judy reported that they felt comfortable adopting their first child under the age of 2 and were open to correctable special needs only, specifically listing cleft lip and/or palate or correctable orthopedic deformities. These were not decisions they came to lightly or carelessly, so I felt comfortable writing their approval for such a child. I praised them for coming to a conclusion they felt comfortable with. And then we sent their home study draft to their placing agency who felt their special needs parameters were not broad enough. Broad enough for who? (or whom? I never know.) It seemed plenty broad for Tom and Judy. So I had more talks with Tom and Judy and more talks with the agency while I advocated for them and explained why and how they decided what they did. And then the agency had a call with Tom and Judy and I got an email from Judy stating that they would accept all the suggestions the agency made. So now, as I finalize this home study today, Tom and Judy’s home study states:

….Tom and Judy Doe to be approved for the adoption of one child of either gender, 3 years in age or younger, from China, with mild to severe special needs.  

Bless these sweet folks. I am confident that the Lord will bless them with the perfect child in his perfect plan.  

People, if your social worker or adoption agency makes some suggestions about special needs that they are telling you that you should be open to, but you don’t feel good about those decisions, please, don’t allow them to dictate the decisions for your family. Take their suggestions, and stop and think. If you are offered a referral that has more significant needs than you feel comfortable with, you do not have to accept that referral. If you planned to adopt one child and your agency offers you an additional child with significant medical needs, you do not have to accept the referral of two children. Now that the child is paperwork ready, the chance of that child being adopted by another family who is more prepared and open to his/her medical need is very good.  It is not your responsibility to save every child that comes across your computer screen.

These are lifelong decisions that you will have to live with. True, your adoption agency will be there to support you, but they cannot come into your home and provide respite care for you when you are at your wits end or take the kiddos so you can have an overnight and remember why you married your husband in the first place! Be good stewards of your resources and remember that no human person knows you better than you.  

*This article is dedicated to two very kind and loving families who had some very difficult decisions to make over the past two weeks. Bless you both!    


  1. I totally agree, Nikki. It is a commitment not to be taken lightly, & certainly not to be coerced into out of guilt. It's so important to be completely honest with what your family can handle. As you know, we stretched way out of or comfort zone with Lucy Kate, & have never regretted it.....but much prayer & research needs to go into each decision. Thank you for speaking of the limits that adoptive families must take into consideration before committing to a child. So thankful for the support you provide to many!

  2. Wow, this was a GREAT read for me. Thanks for the insight. You addressed very compassionately and honestly something that I've been struggling with. Letting go of guilt when going through this process is very difficult for me.