Characteristics and challenges of families who adopt children with special needs: An empirical study

Thom Reilly, Laurie Platz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


An increased number of children with special needs are being placed in adoptive homes. Successful placements of these children are of critical importance to adoption agencies. The first purpose of this paper was to examine demographic differences in special needs adoptions that might exist in child, parent, and agency characteristics. The second purpose of this paper was to examine these child, parent, and agency characteristics to determine if they have predictive value in relation to positive adoption outcomes. Two hundred and forty-nine (249) special needs adoptive families representing 373 children responded to a mail survey as part of a study on special needs adoption. The majority of adoptive parents in this study reported good adoption outcomes despite problems obtaining needed services. As found elsewhere in the child welfare research literature, certain characteristics of the adoptive child and adoptive families coupled with agency practices appear to have predictive value in their adoptive experience. Child characteristics and parental expectations had the greatest influence on adoption outcomes. No differences on adoption outcomes were found between former foster parents to the adoptive child and new parents. Implications for practice and policy are advanced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-803
Number of pages23
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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