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Indiana Department of Child Services

DCS  > Adoption  > Terminology Terminology

Common Challenges of Children with Special Needs

Children in the Indiana Adoption Program are often considered to have "special needs." Special Needs can mean different things to people. The Adoption Program has been referred to as a Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP) and the regional representative coordinating the adoption process for a child is called a SNAP Specialist.

Special Needs are the unique challenges each child faces and will require parents to assist them in their childhood development and schooling in a knowledgeable way. Special Needs can describe physical disabilities, medical conditions, emotional difficulties and developmental issues.

A prospective adoptive parent can be given a more detailed biography (or social summary) of a child if they have an approved Family Preparation Assessment (Home Study) or by having a confidential conversation with a child's social worker or SNAP representative.

Abuse

Many of the children, regardless of their age, in the Indiana Adoption Program have experienced abuse. This can mean physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or any combination of these types of trauma. Abuse generally leaves its mark with behavioral problems, physical impairments and therapeutic needs that require the attention of parents and professionals working together to benefit the child's future development.

Attachment

This term describes a child's ability to form relationships. Children who have been abused, neglected or have experienced disruptions in significant relationships may face challenges in creating new relationships.

Attachment Disorder

An attachment disorder is a condition in which children have difficulty forming loving, lasting close relationships. Attachment disorders vary in severity, but the term is usually reserved for those who show a nearly complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They may seem distant, insincere or uncaring and have difficulty trusting others.

Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

ADD/ADHD is a diagnosable, treatable, biologically based disorder. The primary symptoms include some combination of being inattentive and being distracted, being impulsive, and in some children, physical restlessness or hyperactive behavior.

Developmental Disabilities (DD)

This term describes many conditions that may be mild or severe and generally includes any physical, mental or emotional condition, which will continue to inhibit the normal developmental progress of a child. Many children have educational requirements that must be met through the Special Education process of their school.

Drug-Exposed

A child born to a mother who used drugs such as cocaine or certain pharmaceuticals while she was pregnant may have damage to their nervous system. A newborn will appear stiff and rigid and have prolonged crying episodes and be at an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Some children will develop behavior and learning difficulties.

Emotional Disability (ED)

Abuse, trauma and sometimes genetics can result in various degrees of multiple emotional challenges. This term is also used as eligibility criteria for services at school through Special Education under state and federal law.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE)
Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

FAS/FAE is a set of physical, mental and neurobehavioral birth defects associated with alcohol consumption by a child's birth mother during pregnancy. Prenatal alcohol exposure does not always result in FAS - although there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Some children affected by alcohol exposure before birth do not have the characteristic facial abnormalities and growth retardation identified with FAS, yet they may have brain and other impairments that are just as significant. Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) describes the functional or mental impairments linked to prenatal alcohol exposure.

Learning Disability (LD)

Children with learning disabilities may be of average or above average intelligence but have difficulties remembering or understanding information. This term is also used as eligibility criteria for services at school through Special Education under state and federal law.

Mental Disability

Mental disabilities is a term that is used to describe a wide variety of different challenges and can affect children in ways that are unique to each child, especially in regards to levels of severity. This is also a term used as eligibility criteria for Special Education services.

Neglect

Neglect is the absence of essential and healthy nurturing of a child for their physical, intellectual and emotional development. Neglect includes physical neglect, child abandonment and expulsion, medical neglect, inadequate supervision, emotional neglect and educational neglect by parents, parent substitutes, and other adult caretakers of children. Children who have experienced neglect may be challenged with emotional problems.

Glossary

Adoption: The creation, by a court, of parental rights and responsibilities between a child and an adult or adult couple.

Adoption agency: Entity that provides one or more of the following services: Family Preparation Assessment services for potential adoptive parents, counseling for birth parents, placement services for children in need of adoption, post placement/pre-legalization services and post legalization/finalization services.

Adoption Assistance programs: (Title IV-E/federal) Created by the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, this program provides federal financial support for some children who are described as having special needs who are adopted. In addition to a monthly money payment, children who are "IV-E eligible" are entitled to a state medical card and certain services under the federal Title XX program.

Adoption exchange: An organized way for "waiting children" to be listed along with "waiting families" with the goal of making matches between the children and families. There exist local, regional, statewide and national exchanges designed for this purpose. The primary goal of the exchange is to assure that a permanent home is identified for a child as quickly as possible.

Adoption triad: The three primary persons affected by the adoption: the birthparents, the child and the adoptive parent(s).

Attachment: An emotional bond between two people that lasts over a long period of time, sets up a relationship and helps each person reach their potential and feel both secure and connected.

Birthparent: Also called biological parent. The term used for the two persons who genetically created a child. These two persons have rights and responsibilities defined by law and the Constitution of the United States.

Closed adoption: An adoption in which all of one triad member's identifying information is concealed from all other triad members.

Facilitator: A doctor, attorney, minister, or other individual who informally aids or promotes an adoption by making a person seeking to adopt a minor aware of a child who is, or will be, available for adoption.

Finalization: (See legalization)

Foster-Adopt placement: Definition varies somewhat from community to community but, in general, this term is used to describe legal risk placements (see definition below) and/or the adoption by foster parents of a child, currently placed in their home, whose initial plan was reunification with birthparents, whose plan has now, after diligent attempts at reunification have failed, been changed to the goal of adoption. In case, the child, or children, is in foster care status upon entering the caregiver's home. The caregiver is a licensed foster parent who also has completed an approved adoption Family Preparation process or is in the process. In Indiana, some agencies offer a combined Family Preparation process designed in a way that the applicant becomes a licensed foster parent and is also approved to adopt at the end of the process.

Guardian ad litem: A person, sometimes an attorney, appointed by the court to make sure that the child's best interests are addressed in court hearings and other proceedings.

Family Preparation Assessment (has been referred to as Home Study): A question and answer process by which a potential adoptive parent educates themselves about the challenges and rewards offered through parenting an adopted child. This process is led by an adoption worker to assess your life skills, life experiences and strengths to determine how your family could be compatible with an available child.

Identifying information: Information such as name, address, place of employment, Social Security number, etc., which could significantly assist one individual in locating another individual.

Indiana Adoption History Program and Registry: Adult adoptees (ages 21 and over), birth parents, adoptive parents, pre-adoptive siblings, spouses or relatives of deceased adoptees or deceased birth parents can get identifying information from the Indiana Adoption History Program, for those adoptions finalized after December 31, 1993. The Indiana State Department of Health maintains these records.

Interstate adoption: The adoptive placement of a child (or children) who is a resident of one state with an adoptive parent (or parents) who is a legal resident of a different state.

ICPC: The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. An agreement enacted in all fifty states which coordinates most types of placements of children across state lines. This includes, but is not limited to, the adoptive placement of children. The Compact guarantees that each state's laws and procedures are met and the child's placement is supervised according to state laws and proper court procedures are followed.

Legalization: (Also called finalization) The legal act that establishes a family connection between the adopting person and the adopted person. Usually done in a courtroom setting, this act grants rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parent and child equal to those rights and responsibilities granted to families created by birth.

Legally free for adoption: A child is legally free when the parental rights of both birthparents have been terminated and the time period for the birthparents to appeal the decision is over.

Legal risk placement: A placement of a child with a family who is interested in adopting the child, however the child placed is not legally free. The placement family is usually both a certified foster family and an approved adoptive home. The risk is that the birthparent's rights may not be terminated and the court may order the child be returned to the birthparent or a suitable birth relative. The benefit is that this type of placement decreases the number of different placements a child may have.

Life Book: A chronological record of a child's life, usually in a photo album or binder, created by the child and/or the caregivers, that documents for the child, in concrete ways, the events and relationships important to the child. It may include photographs, mementos, descriptions, etc. that help the child understand their biological origins and others who have played a significant role in their life.

Loss: The emotional and psychological state experienced when someone temporarily or permanently is separated from someone or something to which they have an emotional attachment or need. All loss causes trauma and crisis, though degree varies.

Medicaid: A type of medical insurance provided through the state, using combined federal and state funds, which most children who are considered to have special needs are entitled to receive. This can be used in conjunction with the adoptive family's medical insurance to meet the child's needs.

Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA): Sometimes now called "Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Placement," this is a federal law enacted in 1994, and amended in 1996, which prohibits an adoption agency from delaying or denying the placement of any child on the basis of race, color or national origin.

Non-recurring costs: One-time expenses incurred by a person adopting a child, such as travel costs, legal costs, and Family Preparation Assessment-related costs. These are frequently reimbursable through federal and local funds when adopting a waiting child. Indiana Picture Book- Photos and descriptions of children throughout Indiana who are legally free and waiting for adoption.

Parent support groups: Formal or informal groups of adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents coming together to share information and resources. They often also offer friendship, emotional support and recreational activities for adoptive family members. Support groups form for a variety of reasons, usually based on a shared interest or characteristic. Support groups can vary greatly from each other.

Photo listings: Published photographs and descriptions of waiting children and/or waiting approved adopters that are used by agencies and individuals to identify potential matches. Often an adoption exchange will publish a photo listing.

Post legalization services: (Also called post adoption services) a variety of services offered to adoptive families after the child in the home has had their adoption legalized. Many of these services are community-based, and may be formal or informal in nature. This includes such things as ongoing educational opportunities to learn about adoption issue, counseling, respite care, special medical services.

Post-Adoption Visitation Agreement: An option within adoption which recognizes the child's connection to both the birth family and adoptive family; usually an agreement made by the adults involved that can range from the sharing of only very basic information, to exchange of information through a third party to total information sharing and/or ongoing contact or visitation.

Putative Father Registry: A mechanism designed to allow birthfathers to identify themselves for the purpose of establishing their legal right to notification should an adoptive plan be under consideration for their child.

Respite care: The assuming of care giving duties for an individual (child) on a temporary basis, usually by a non-family member, designed to give the primary caregiver (parent) a break. Special needs: The term used in regard to a child waiting for adoption for whom identifying an adoptive home may be difficult.

Surrender: (Also known as relinquishment), the voluntary termination of parental rights by a birthparent.

Termination of parental rights: The legal severing of ties between a birthparent and their child. These parental rights and responsibilities may be voluntary surrendered by the birthparent or, if the birthparent is proven unable to meet the child's long-term needs, may by severed involuntarily through the court system.

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Updated as of Tuesday, 3/25/2008.

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