Adopting a child with additional needs

A young girl playing in a sensory room with an adult raising awareness about adopting a child with additional needs

The most recent statistics show that there were over 2000 children waiting to be adopted in 2022/23. Of those, many have additional needs. The sad truth is that having additional needs often means they wait, on average, 11 months longer in care than their peers.

To address this concerning statistic, voluntary adoption agencies VAAs) across the UK have joined forces to find more adoptive parents for children with additional needs who are waiting for a family, and provide them with comprehensive information about the process involves.

ARC Adoption North East is among 21 VAAs from all over the UK who have together created a guide for people considering adoption containing helpful information and advice from parents who have already adopted children with additional needs.

Talking about the experiences of adopters who have adopted children with additional needs, Terry Fitzpatrick OBE, Director at ARC Adoption North East said:

“It may sound daunting for people thinking about adoption to consider a child with additional needs but our adoptive parents who have done so say it is incredibly rewarding. It gives a child the chance to flourish and to grow up with the love and security that every child deserves.

“All children can have additional needs at times. These could be to do with their development, learning, communication, behaviour or emotional wellbeing. There are also children with physical disabilities.

“Many of the thousands of children waiting in care who have additional needs, wait nearly a year longer than other children. We want to change that.

“We are excited to be part of this project sharing first hand, heartfelt experience and advice from families who have already done this incredible thing of adopting a child with additional needs.”

Raising awareness about adopting children with additional needs

ARC Adoption North East recently launched a regional appeal for an adoptive family for two sisters, one of whom has additional needs including a form of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. The agency is urging people to come forward who may be able to offer the stability, care and attention that both children need after a difficult start in life, and almost two years spent in foster care.

It is hoped that the advice guide, will give people who have seen the appeal, or are thinking about adoption generally, an additional insight into adopting a child with additional needs.

Sharing experiences

Parents, Kevin and Deb, went through the adoption process for a second time after Deb met a little girl by chance at an adoption activity day where she was volunteering. They had this to say about adopting a child with additional needs:

“We learnt about her cerebral palsy straight away and started to research the implications. A lot of information was given to us from the Social Work team and were supported well by ARC Adoption to consider the implications for us. We decided that, to be honest, why would we not want to adopt this bundle of joy with such a spirit for life!

“Since adopting again, the best things for us have been having a little girl grow in our family and be the best she can be. Seeing her incredible progress, constantly achieving more than people thought she would. Looking at her character and not her disability. We would 100% recommend adopting a child with additional needs – the rewards and pride are a million-fold more than health appointments and worries.”

Adopters Kevin who is in a wheelchair and Deb pictured with their two daughters against the backdrop of a beach, share their experiences of adopting a child with additional needs
Kevin, Deb and their daughters

Voluntary Adoption Agencies

VAAs are specialists in finding families for children who wait the longest in care. They work in partnership with regional adoption agencies and local authorities to find families for children waiting for a permanent home.

VAAs are independent, not-for-profit organisations who have intensive services to provide families with vital support both when the children are placed and into the future.

Satwinder Sandhu, Chief Executive of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) which represents VAAs across the country said:

“We are so grateful to the adoptive parents who have contributed to this new CVAA advice guide to share their personal experiences of the reality of adopting a child with additional needs.

“What is clear from their advice is that there may be challenges but they are far outweighed by pride, joy and love. And so prospective adopters should not rule themselves out of being able to achieve the same in their own families.

“The voluntary adoption sector are specialists in finding families for children who wait the longest to be adopted and being there for them with bespoke, lifelong packages of support.”

Guidance about adopting children with additional needs

The guidance created by the CVAA about adopting children with additional needs provides information about what additional needs can mean. It also shares some of the rewards and challenges of parenting a children with a range of needs from adopters who are doing it every day and wouldn’t change it for anything.

Front cover of the guide to adopting children with additional needs

About ARC Adoption North East

ARC Adoption North East is an independent not for profit Voluntary Adoption Agency located in Sunderland in the North East of England.  They use their extensive knowledge and skills to recruit, train and guide potential adopters through the adoption approval process, in order to provide permanent loving homes to looked-after children.

They also operate an experienced, multi-disciplinary team who deliver a wide range of services aimed at supporting adopted children and their families. This has contributed to them being one of the most successful agencies in the North East region for recruiting families and placing children.

Registered and rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2017 and 2022, ARC works in partnership with Local Authorities and Regional Adoption Agencies to help them deliver high quality services to some of the most vulnerable children in their care.

Through memberships of The Northern Consortium of Adoption Agencies; Coram BAAF Adoption and Fostering Academy; the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA); New Family Social and Adoption UK, ARC makes a major contribution to the adoption process nationally.


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