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“Can You Put a Disabled Child Up for Adoption?” & Other Questions

Everyone wants their baby to be born healthy, with no major issues. But when you find out that your baby is facing larger medical or developmental needs than the average child, you feel frightened, confused and overwhelmed — for yourself and for your baby. This has led many people to ask, “I’m thinking about giving up special needs baby for adoption. Can you give a special needs child up for adoption?”

Maybe you’ve decided that you’re not ready or able to parent a child with special needs or medical issues. Or maybe you had already decided that you weren’t planning on raising this child, even before you found out he or she had additional needs, and now that you’re “giving a baby up” for adoption with special needs, you’re worried that nobody will want to adopt him or her.

Don’t worry! “Giving up” special needs children (or any child) is always an option if you feel that’s what’s best, regardless of whether your child is 100% “healthy.” Additionally, there are always waiting adoptive families who are ready and excited to welcome your child, regardless of the additional care that he or she will require.

A Note about the Language Used in This Guide

You might feel like choosing adoption is “giving away” your baby or “giving up”, especially when your child has special needs and you don’t have the resources to care for him or her. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Adoption is a difficult but loving choice that involves a great deal of effort, consideration and sacrifice. It’s for this reason and more that “placing” a child for adoption is the preferred term over “giving up” or “putting up.”

These terms are commonly heard in everyday conversation typically because the person using them doesn’t know the preferred term. Similarly, you’ll notice language regarding children who are differently abled throughout this article. Many of these terms are not the preferred language, but for now, they remain in the popular lexicon.

We encourage you to learn about preferred terminology when it comes to adoption and children with additional needs. For the purposes of this article, we use these phrases because they are commonly used and understood.

So, if you’re thinking about placing your child for adoption and they have some kind of special need, here’s what you need to know about how to put a special needs child up for adoption:

Defining “Special Needs” in Adoption

In adoption, professionals may consider a child to have “special needs” any time he or she might have a harder time finding the right adoptive family. Many adoptive families are not able to take on the financial challenges, additional time, effort, education, energy and physical demands that a special needs child may require.

When a child who is being placed for adoption is considered “special needs,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that this child has serious health or developmental challenges (although sometimes that is the case). Sometimes, a child may be considered “special needs” because he or she is an older child, part of a sibling group, or has experienced trauma that requires specialized care.

Essentially, any child who needs a little help finding the right family might be considered a “special needs” situation. Only families who understand the needs of this individual child (and who are prepared to meet those needs) are ready to welcome a “special needs” child into their lives.

Depending on the extent of your child’s needs, your adoption agency may partner with a specialized adoption agency to find that ideal adoptive family.

Placing a Child Based on Their Specific Needs

As a prospective birth parent, you might have questions about your child’s specific needs and how they will affect the adoption process. Here are some of the questions that are frequently asked:

How to “Give Up” an Autistic Child

Here are some commonly asked questions about placing a child for adoption when he or she has autism:

  • “Can I give up my autistic child for adoption?” That depends. Not on the severity of your child’s autism, but on his or her age.

    Most children aren’t diagnosed with autism until they’re older. Private agencies are only licensed to place infants, and sometimes toddlers.
  • “Can you give up an autistic child who is older to foster care?” You can’t voluntarily place your child for adoption through foster care, no. So if your child is older, adoption (outside of a kinship placement) may not be an option for you.

  • “Can you put your autistic child up for adoption with a family who is trained to work with autistic kids?” Potentially, yes. If you happen to know a family who you feel is prepared to raise a child with autism, and they are willing to legally and permanently adopt your child, you may be able to work with an adoption attorney to do so.

    However, remember that placing an older child for adoption should always be considered a last resort after you’ve exhausted all other resources.

    Again, autism typically isn’t diagnosed until a child is older, which makes adoption less likely of a legal option. You may consider reaching out to local resources, like groups for parents of autistic children, for help parenting your child. Being the parent to a child with autism can be tough, but there is support and help available.

“Giving Up” a Child for Adoption with Down Syndrome

Considering giving a child with Down syndrome up for adoption? Here are some frequently asked questions from people in your situation:

  • “I’m pregnant and just found out that my baby has Down syndrome. Is giving up a Down syndrome baby for adoption an option for me?” If you feel that’s what’s best, then yes. You can always choose adoption for your unborn baby, including “giving up” a baby with Down syndrome for adoption.
  • “Can you give up a baby with Down syndrome to the family of your choice?” You always have the right to choose the family that you feel is best for your child. Your adoption agency may reach out to specialized professionals to find an adoptive family who is ready and excited to welcome a child with Down.
  • “If they’re older, is putting a child with Down syndrome up for adoption still an option?” If your child is older, adoption becomes less of an option. Not because of your child’s Down syndrome, but because there aren’t many agencies that are licensed to place older children.

You may benefit from reaching out to local Down syndrome parenting groups to find resources that can help you parent your older child.

Just like placing any child for adoption, “giving up” a child with Down syndrome is hard. However, parenting a child who has additional needs is hard, too. Only you can decide if “giving up” a baby with Down syndrome is the right decision for your pregnancy.

Placing Babies Who Have Major Health Issues

If you’re considering “giving up” your baby, major health issues may be one of the factors that led you to this path. Whether your unborn child has a physical, mental, or developmental challenge (or some combination of these diagnoses), you may feel that you’re unable to provide for your child’s physical, mental and financial needs.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting your child to have the best life possible, even if that means placing them with an adoptive family who is ready and willing to meet their unique needs. So, if you feel that you need to learn how to “give up” a disabled child for adoption, these questions and answers may help:

  • “Can you put a disabled child up for adoption?” Placing a child with disabilities is tough. You may feel guilty that you’re unable to provide for your child’s additional needs. However, there are many families out there who will love and care for your child just as you do, and they are able to meet those needs.

    Can you “give up” a disabled child for adoption? You can always choose adoption. But whether or not adoption is right for you is entirely up to you!
  • “Are you allowed to give up your handicapped child?” As your child’s parent, you can do whatever you think is within his or her best interest. As long as you go through the process of “giving up” a disabled child legally, with the help of a licensed adoption professional, then you will never “get in trouble” for choosing adoption.
  • “Can I give my disabled child up for adoption even if their disabilities are severe?” However, you may be referred to an adoption professional who specializes in finding the right families for children with severe disabilities.
  • “Is putting a disabled child up for adoption possible if their disabilities are minor?” Sometimes, even minor disabilities that won’t largely impact your child’s life can be intimidating for an expectant parent. Maybe you weren’t ready to be a parent at all. No matter what, there is an adoptive family out there who is ready to love and provide for your child if you are “giving up” a child with disabilities, regardless of his or her needs.

“Giving you disabled child up” for adoption isn’t always the right path, but for some parents, adoption is the best way to ensure their child’s additional needs are met. No matter what, your child will be loved and cared for.

Resources that May Help

Adoption isn’t always the answer, especially if your child is past toddlerhood. If your child is older and you’re struggling to parent as a result of your child’s additional needs, there is help.

Parenting is hard, even in “perfect” circumstances. Parenting a child who requires extra care and resources is twice as hard!

It’s understandable that you’d feel stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, sad and at times, defeated. Reaching out for help is often the best way to care for yourself and for your child. Here are some resources that may help you continue to parent your special needs child:

If you’re considering adoption for your child, you can always reach out to a specialist for free information.