Adopting a “special needs” child doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating (more intimidating than any other adoption, that is) and a child with special needs could be the perfect addition to your family. The phrase “special needs” may conjure up visions of a significantly disabled child or a child with multiple medical traumas. But many agencies actually use the term “special needs” to describe any child that is not a Caucasian newborn baby who is ready to be placed for adoption. Older children (from toddlers to teens), sibling groups, even kids with very mild, medical needs like cleft palates or vision impairment are often classified by private and foster agencies as “special needs.”

International adoptions may also classify those kids who are aging out of the system soon as “special needs.” In addition, those kids with conditions that will require life-long medical intervention are also labeled “special needs.”

Kids who are disabled also need homes, and a prospective adoptive parent can feel overwhelmed at the idea of raising a child with ongoing medical needs. Luckily, however, there are many resources available to prepare and help a family looking to adopt a “special needs” child; there are internet forums, both online and in-person support groups, and social work agencies that are all available to guide and prepare any prospective family. If you adopt from foster care the child will most likely have all the doctors and therapies in place and it will simply be up to you to step in and take up where the state has left off.

Bottom line, every child deserves a family, and even those with different circumstances can fit into your home. Don’t be discouraged or scared off by labels, just do the research and find your forever family—no matter how it ends up being categorized.

Written by Jennifer Galan.