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From a humanitarian perspective, 'Compassion for Orphans' has a particular interest in facilitating the placement of children who are considered difficult to place in a family due to health or other reasons.

Below are some of the considerations that need to be taken into account if you are interested in adopting a child with Special Needs.

A child with Special Needs is a child who without medical, physical, emotional or developmental intervention will not be able to reach his/her potential. Adoptive parents of children with special needs are extraordinary. Some have already experienced caring for children, whether their own, or those of relatives or friends. They are often able to handle stress positively. They are (often) altruistic and independent in their thinking – (Source: Central Adoption Resource Agency).


DEFINITIONS (Source: New Zealand Central Authority)

Definitions of what is meant by Special Needs appear to have the following characteristics in common:

Children with serious or incurable medical conditions, diseases, developmental delay;

Children older than a specified age (age limit varies country to country);

A sibling group who are referred for adoption together.


THEMES AND RESEARCH (Source: New Zealand Central Authority, June 2008)

There is strong evidence to suggest that the older children are at the time of adoption, the more likely they are to experience poor mental health, including behavioural and cognitive problems and issues to do with their self-esteem and identity such as a reduced sense of belonging and being loved. The research on older children strongly correlates with the research on special needs children.

There is considerable discrepancy relating to what is meant by 'older children'. Some countries put this at older than one year and others focus on children between 2-10, 5 and 8.

It is not age per se that produces difficulties for adopted children and their families, but rather, the quality of the pre-adoption care that children experience.

Assessment of applicant's skills, experience and expectations specific to older and special needs children is critical as parenting these children brings extra complexities.

The research suggests that older adoptive parents with prior experience of adoption, fostering and/or the raising of biological children tend to attain better outcomes.

Research also suggests that:

Adequate preparation, and having realistic expectations of the adoption are also identified as significant family factors influencing the success of older/special needs adoption.

Families who utilise particular parenting strategies and attitudes report better outcomes with children with special needs.

The type and degree of support received by the adoptive family in the form of pre and post placement services and broader community and family support are also key predictors of success.

More information is needed by applicants to inform the decision they are making when contemplating children from a special needs list.  People need to understand that children with special needs require a commitment for life.



The following is a non-exclusive list of possible medical and psychological diagnoses which are frequently associated with children in intercountry adoptions. The inclusion of a diagnosis on this list does not necessarily indicate that the condition is present in a particular child, nor does the exclusion of a particular diagnosis indicate that the condition will not be present in any particular child.​



The following are medical conditions where New Zealand Immigration will not support the entry into New Zealand of an adopted child:​​


Active Pulmonary Tuberculosis (TB);

Severe Haemophilia;

Renal Failure (likely to need renal dialysis);

A Physical Incapacity (that requires full-time care)​.



A benefactor has provided funds to provide financial assistance to applicants who otherwise may not be able to adopt a child with special needs. Please contact us for more details.

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