Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

Susie McGee
down syndrome

The number of parents interested in adopting a child with Down syndrome has increased significantly in the last few years. Research has shown that a large number of children with Down syndrome grow up to become self-sufficient adults. As a result, there are numerous people who are clamoring to embrace these children into their families.

Understanding Down Syndrome

Down syndrome occurs in approximately one in 800 pregnancies. Fewer children are born with this condition, however. Most likely, early testing and diagnosis of the syndrome prompts many expectant couples to abort the fetus.

Down syndrome was often characterized as a "hopeless situation" in decades past, and many of these children were institutionalized soon after birth. Fortunately, that attitude has changed significantly. In fact, researchers are discovering that very often people with Down syndrome have a wide and untapped potential for understanding much more than originally believed.

Down syndrome, a form of mental retardation, occurs because of an extra chromosome. Not all children with Down syndrome experience all of the more than 50 characteristics associated with the condition. The most prevalent characteristics include poor muscle tone, short build, slanted eyes, respiratory infections, congenital heart disease, and delayed mental development. Today, the heart defects and respiratory infections that once meant certain early death to those with Down syndrome are now often corrected through surgery or treated with medication.

What to Know About Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

Why would someone be interested in adopting a child with Down syndrome? A better question might be "Why would they not?" Those families who have opened their homes to a child with Down syndrome commonly talk about the joy the child has brought to their family. Many of these families consider the addition of a child with special needs a blessing, and they believe that the lessons they have learned from the experience far outweigh the difficulties.

Adopting Families

People who are interested in adopting a child with Down syndrome often have other special needs children in their home. They feel competent and committed to dealing with the developmental delays and health issues that commonly arise. They also understand that most children with Down syndrome are able to function in a normal world. They attend regular school, play sports, participate in dramatic arts, pursue hobbies, graduate from high school, and work outside the home.

Other couples who choose to adopt a child with Down syndrome may feel a sort of "calling" to reach out to a child with special needs. Still others prefer to open their homes to a child with Down syndrome as soon as possible rather than wait for months and even years to adopt a newborn baby.

Obviously, there are varying degrees of developmental delays, from mild to severe. There are also other health issues that can arise, such as digestive problems, lung problems, immune system issues, thyroid problems, hearing and speech difficulties, and more.

Those who want to adopt a child or children with Down syndrome should educate themselves thoroughly. There are a variety of support groups available to offer information and guidance. Caring for a child with Down syndrome includes advocating for that child with doctors, caregivers, educators, and others. These children are often in speech, hearing, and other therapies throughout their lives, particularly through their childhood.

Starting the Adoption Process

Those who are interested in adopting a child with special needs should begin with the state adoption agency. From there, they can find information online regarding individual agencies who deal in special needs adoptions. Foster care adoptions are another option, and either a state agency or a private adoption agency or adoption facilitator should be able to help.

For more information on adoption or for support, check out the following links:


Finally, if you or someone you know has adopted a child with Down syndrome, please share your story in the comments section of this article.

Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome