Sunday, January 15, 2012

Special Focus

There are mixed feelings about the Special Focus lists. I have had positive and negative experiences with them. The most positive thing about them is that children can get more exposure to a family that will be most interested in adopting them. Some agencies specialize in certain special needs and families know this. For example, Bringing Hope to Children is very knowledgable about spina bifida, though they also have children with other needs on their list. Families who are comfortable with this need can go directly to that agency to find their child.

One of the most huge advantages to having the Special Focus program, is that a family can "buy time" to take a file to a medical specialist and learn more about a child's need without locking the file or risk it being picked up by another family during their research period. For children with more severe special needs, this is crucial. It's also where my daughter's file got hung up for so long last year. It falls to the agencies to determine how long they will allow a family to research. No matter how long an agency gives a family, China only gives them three months, then the file goes back, hopefully, to the Shared List again.

Another advantage is that it buys a family time to raise money to fund the adoption. One can argue that the best way to go about adopting is to have all the money in place first, but it doesn't work like that in reality. Often a family travels to adopt one child and sees another on that trip that they fall in love with and end up adopting soon after the first one. Or, something just happens within a family that brings a child to their attention and they have that incredible feeling that this is their child and decide to move forward. Or, there are other circumstances that leave on a tiny window to complete an adoption in a certain span of time, like the child who will age out, of another concurrent adoption getting close, or paperwork expiring, etc... So, an agency can agree to hold the file without showing it other families, but they'd better be positive that this family will follow through, then, at the end of three months, have the family lock it, which buys them another 3-6 months to get their dossier in, then you figure up to three months more once travel permission is granted. This may sound awful, to make a child wait, but there is no guarantee that another family would ever adopt this child. Now if there is a family clearly ready, then I think it's a terrible thing to delay the child's adoption while waiting for another family to get it all together.

Some agencies do seem to get the younger babies with the most minor special needs. So far, I've not been able to determine how this is happening. Some agencies do have more Chinese speaking staff in the US and more staff in China. Perhaps this advantage leads to this since they don't have to translate the files. Perhaps there is some favoritism somewhere. I just don't know.

I've already touched on the main disadvantage, which is an agency holding a child's file when there is a family with another agency clearly interested and ready to proceed.

No family should ever proceed with an adoption of any kind without first accepting the risk that their child may not be perfectly healthy. On top of that, no family should ever be pressured to adopt a child with a known special need if they aren't 100% willing to do so. I don't care how long the wait is, you have to know what you can handle. On the other hand, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about the children in the Waiting Child program and I hope that if there is a family reading this who is interested, but needed more information to make their decision, that this helped them.


Karen said...

Thanks for the info. Very thorough.
Although, I've been told that it's rare for someone to see a child while adopting another child in China, and then request that second child's info later.
The second child's info has to be available with CCAA and the child has to be up for adoption during that time frame.
When we were adopting our first daughter, we were actually interested in a child whom we met at the orphanage, and ran into a lot of closed doors when researching it ourselves.

Karen said...

As to "pressure to adopt SN to avoid the wait" I don't think agencies need to do this (even though there might be incentive for getting more minor NSN children on their lists, if that is really the outcome), I think that China's pursuit of delays on LIDs has created that pressure on PAPs to adopt SN children, in and of itself. I have always believed the extended wait time for NSN children was created by China and not a natural result of less abandoned girls or more domestic adoptions. The extended wait times started happening when we adopted our first daughter, and happened way too fast for it to be a natural curve.