Special Need Adoption


For many people, the phrase “special needs adoption” brings to mind children with mental and physical disabilities who need ongoing medical care or other special attention. However, the term is actually much broader. An Alabama adoption can be considered “special needs” for many reasons, including:

  • The child is over the age of five
  • The child is at risk due to a parental history of substance abuse, mental illness, or mental retardation
  • The child suffers from mental, physical, or emotional problems or disabilities
  • Two or more siblings are adopted by the same parents at the same time

While special needs children often require a greater investment of parenting time and effort, their exact needs and circumstances vary greatly.


People choose to adopt special needs children in Alabama for a variety of reasons. Some simply want to make the investment in helping a child facing challenges to live a happy, successful life, or in keeping siblings together. Others feel better equipped to connect with and parent an older child than an infant or toddler. Still others opt for special needs adoption because it may allow them to adopt more quickly, as the waiting period to adopt a healthy infant may be significant.

Whatever the motivation, choosing to share your life and your home with a special needs child can be a wonderful gift.


To adopt a child in Alabama, prospective parents must meet these basic criteria:

  • The adoptive parent must be more than 19 years of age
  • A single adult may adopt in Alabama, but if the would-be parents are married, they must have been married for at least three years
  • At least one of the adoptive parents must be a U.S. citizen
  • The adoptive parent(s) must have adequate space and living conditions for the adopted child or children
  • The adoptive parent(s) must be healthy enough to provide for the needs of the child or children

To establish qualification to adopt, the adoptive parents must be willing to undergo a background and criminal history check, and to cooperate with pre-placement and post-placement investigations, including home visits.

Special Needs Adoption Assistance

Adoption assistance may be available to those adopting special needs children in Alabama. To qualify for adoption assistance, a child must:

  • Be in the care and custody of the Alabama Department of Human Resources,
  • Be in the care and custody of an Alabama-licensed child placement agency, or
  • Be eligible to receive SSI benefits at the time of placement

These benefits are intended to allow qualified individuals and couples to adopt and provide for special needs children whose cost of care might otherwise be prohibitive.

The level of assistance available depends in part on the needs of the child being adopted. The base rate currently ranges from $462.78 to $501.30 per month, depending on the age of the child. In addition, some placements may qualify for assistance at a therapeutic rate.

Unlike the base rate, the therapeutic rate is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the child and the difficulty of care. Typically, this higher-level assistance may be available to families whose adopted children:

  • Are considered “medically fragile,”
  • Have serious illnesses or disabilities which require nursing care,
  • Have exceptional mental, physical, emotional, or behavioral needs, or
  • Are emotionally disturbed to a degree that requires more restrictive therapeutic care

The current cap on monthly therapeutic assistance ranges from $1055 to $1091, depending on the age of the child. However, the actual rate will be determined based on the specific needs of the child and the difficulty and expense associated with providing for those needs. Special needs adoptees may also be eligible for Medicaid coverage.


Qualifying for a special needs adoption, or the adoption of any unrelated child, is more complicated and generally takes longer than a stepparent adoption or grandparent adoption. Although a person or couple seeking to adopt may be matched with a placement much more quickly than those seeking to adopt a healthy infant, the process is still lengthy and involved. Prospective adoptive parents must complete group preparation, classroom hours, background screening and further investigation.

If you are interested in pursuing a special needs adoption, educating yourself is the first step. The sooner you get the information you need to move forward, the closer you'll be to completing the process and bringing your child home.


Whether you're just embarking on the journey toward adopting a special needs child or have begun the qualification process and are moving toward petitioning for adoption, an experienced Alabama adoption attorney can be your best resource. Give yourself and your family the benefit of knowledgeable guidance—call 256-519-9970 right now to schedule your initial consultation with attorney Sara Doty.


We are here to help. Contact Sara Doty Attorney at law, LLC to find out how we can help you with your Estate Planning, Probate, Adoption, Name Change, Family Law / Divorce and Bankruptcy Law needs. Contact us either by using the contact form or by calling us at 256-519-9970 for your free initial consultation.