Do you think anyone will want me?
The quiet question from a 14 year-old girl with special needs still sticks with Anna Wolak, Director of Adoption Recruitment for the Children’s Bureau Inc., which works in partnership with the Indiana Department of Child Services to find families for at-risk children.
“No child should have to wonder about whether or not someone will want him or her,” she says.
Indiana’s Special Needs Adoption Program, or SNAP, was established in 1989 and applies to children in the custody of the state who are defined as hard-to-place, that is, two years or older or those who have a sibling who is two or older. Many of the children seeking homes also have special needs, ranging from autism to physical challenges and emotional issues.
Wolak and her team compile profiles for the bimonthly Picture Book (also available online at www.adoptuskids.org/states/in/browse.aspx). Medical privacy laws prohibit them from listing specific diagnoses, but they aim to give a comprehensive look at the child’s needs, personality and wishes for a new family.
“We are an extension of their voice, especially when they have diagnoses that prevent them from being able to tell us what they need,” Wolak says. “We are finding families for children because every child deserves a family.”
For Gary and Chanda Lacy, they know that their four adopted daughters, who all have special needs, were meant to be with them. The couple became foster parents in 2009 and cared for 12 children before adopting sisters Savannah, 13, and Anna, 7, in 2011 and then Jasmine, 6, and Bella, 5, also sisters, in 2012.
Savannah and Anna have developmental delays due to neglect suffered as babies, Gary says. Savannah has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder and mild retardation, and Anna’s delays are a result of failure to thrive as an infant, when her birth parents gave her water instead of milk or formula.
Jasmine and Bella were removed from a filthy, abusive home where they were often left alone. Jasmine has struggled emotionally but is developmentally on track, says Gary, while Bella has cerebral palsy and speech delays. “There are a lot of challenges, but it’s amazing to see them grow,” he says. “These are the kids who other people have given up on. We know it’s not going to be an easy road, but you just do it.”
Chanda homeschools all four girls, and the couple continues to attend classes and trainings to learn how to help their daughters heal and grow. Gary says it’s a steep learning curve, but stresses that he wants the girls to know that no matter how many times they were moved around in the past, this family is forever. “We just have patience and show them love. They went through the beginning of their life without the love they needed. They’re not going to learn overnight. You, as parents, have to be patient. They’re adjusting to normalcy.”
Indiana’s Special Needs Adoption process includes training, background checks and a home study, which must have a recommendation from SNAP officials. Wolak encourages families considering adoption to look through the Picture Book and read the children’s stories. “These children are sweethearts,” she says. “A lot of them do want a home, even if they can’t express it because of some of the challenges they face.”
For more information about the process, call 888-25-ADOPT or learn more at www.in.gov/dcs/2730.htm.