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Older Deaf Child Adoption Is Not Easy… Part 13

This is #13 in a series entitled, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”  There are many more just waiting to be written, completed and shared.

To be linked with the other 12 start here.
Yes, I have covered much of this in previous blog posts.  The ongoing day-to-day challenges and frustrations that our Signs for Hope families face, who have adopted children with deafness, mandate the need for this redundant post.

This often comes from the new families who have adopted deaf children God connects to us sometimes on a daily basis and sometimes in crisis.

Do not!  I repeat…DO NOT…adopt a deaf/HOH child thinking this is going to be easy!

Technology does NOT make this easy!  In fact, I believe it makes it harder!

I will dedicate an entire post to support that opinion with research, soon.

Even if you are ASL-fluent, this will NOT BE EASY!

Adoption Agency Staff…PLEASE DO NOT tell your families, “The deaf/HOH child is an easy special needs adoption.”  If you have not checked in recently with your own families who have adopted deaf children, do so.  See how they truly are doing, before you proceed with any additional placements of children with deafness.

Deafness!  No family!  No formal natural language exposure!  No formal education exposure!

A deaf older child fluent in another sign language and then placed with a non-signing or newly signing family!  Please, do not do this, please!!
And if that is not enough…

Trauma – possible in utero, during birth mom’s pregnancy!

Trauma – possible during labor & delivery, premature birth, early hospitalization!

Trauma – from institutionalization & abandonment, lack of nurture & neglect!

Add to that…

The very real probability of multiple abuses, verbal (truly the nonverbal body language since they cannot hear), physical and more often than I care to think about… sexual abuse.

All of the above have a great impact on the brain’s development, or lack thereof, of adopted children with deafness.  Research is growing in so many of these areas relating to deaf children, especially those who have been abandoned and institutionalized with no exposure to an environment of natural language learning of any kind during that critical period, that first year of life.

Since some of you are thinking about this, I will go ahead and mention it.

If by some miracle the deaf/HOH child you are seeking to adopt was abandoned at an older age you may be thinking they MIGHT have received that initial nurture/bonding in their birth family’s home, prior to abandonment.  Even if they did, the sheer challenge of dealing with abandonment can negate all that.  And their deafness has prevented them from being exposed fully to a spoken language whereby creating that great deficit during the first year of life.
The brain is the central command center for every system within the human body.  God designed it in such a way that “connection” with others is the fuel it needs to develop uniquely according to His plan.  Research now proves even babies between the age of 4 and 6 months recognize language over non-language and choose to turn toward it repeatedly.  Removing  “connection” through neglect, lack of nurture and lack of natural language exposure leaves challenges for a lifetime.

I recently completed an online course at Gallaudet University, offered by the Linguistics Department and will be sharing the incredible research related to the above in the near future.
The reality is, these many challenges require many years of tireless devotion by adoptive parents to help their adopted deaf child(ren) to reach their greatest potential socially, emotionally, academically, mentally and spiritually.  Often this comes without much effort or commitment from the deaf child(ren) themselves.  Lack of self-motivation by their adopted deaf child(ren) to learn and achieve success is a common complaint among our families.

The delays in exposure to language because of deafness brings with it cognitive, emotional and social deficits and delays, which can lead to a variety of disorders in these areas.  Often times these cannot be fully overcome, no matter how much opportunity and time is invested for such. This research is based on children with deafness born to hearing parents, not those coming from abandonment and/or institutionalization backgrounds.

Even after deaf children have been “home” for as long as 5 years parent’s expectations for improvements go unmet.  One of the hardest realities for parents is keeping an accurate perspective on the “real” age of their adopted deaf child.  The chronological age of the deaf child is so far removed from their real behavior-age, which is usually much less than half their age in months and years.

One way of keeping this more realistic is to ask families and then remind them often to think of their deaf son or daughter’s birth date as being the first day they bring them “home”.  Keep in mind though, they are not a “blank slate”, but rather this child already has deficits and delays, since they have never received what God intended in utero and from birth on, naturally…full nurture and full language.  And they have survival skills you and I will never understand, fully.

This is why I stress the need for families to be fully convinced this is God’s plan, not theirs before adopting.  This is why families who proceed with the adoption of a child with deafness must have a strong support system securely around them.  Even then, we have families who tell us that support system they thought was in place, was not in reality and disappeared once they brought their son or daughter home. This is not only those who can identify with them in the challenging adoption process, which is lifelong, but it is a support system that can and will support them in the deafness aspects, as well.

If you are a believer and you are reading this post, no matter if you are seeking to adopt or seeking to place a child with deafness…PLEASE pray before you proceed and pray every time. Do not trust something just because you have always thought this way or that or done it this way or that.  Joshua made assumptions about God’s plans for attacking Ai on the heels of his miraculous win in Jericho.  Thirty-six Israelites died because of Joshua’s lack of seeking His plan, His way.  And there was disobedience to deal with, as well; sin in the camp.  You and I must seek Him constantly when making decisions of this magnitude.

Let me pose a few questions for which I do not yet know the answers, fully:

Is there a BETTER way?

Is the trauma adoption causes equal to the trauma of no adoption, at times?


When is it “BEST practices” to support deaf children in their own countries in “family homes” with the $25,000+ it costs for one international adoption?

I am not asking you to do something I will not be doing, as well.  I will keep on asking, seeking and knocking until He gives me the answers and all for His glory!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6