ANDERSON — “Special needs” means a mental or physical handicap for most, but in the adoption world, it means children who are harder to place. For the families who adopt them, though, the words have no meaning.
While the term does include children with certain medical and emotional needs, most children in the foster care system who are considered special needs are 2 years of age and older or have at least one sibling, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services. The circumstances add extra challenges that fewer prospective parents are willing to face.
Lapel resident Kristy Allender understands those challenges. She and her husband, Carl, have been foster parents to 53 children.
Allender said she considers all of her foster kids her children, but there was something about biological siblings Kadan and Julian that made her choose adoption.
“They grew in (their biological mother’s) tummy, but they grew in our hearts,” Allender said.
Allender and her husband have two biological children, Kourtney, 22, and CJ, 19, but she said there’s no difference between them and her adoptive children. In fact, the word “adopted” as an adjective was often referred to as “the a-word” in the house.
“You’re only born once,” Allender said. “You being adopted is a one-time event. You’re not forever my adopted son. You’re my son.”
Allender said she knew the brothers belonged in her home permanently their first day there and the boys’ circumstances allowed them to be adopted. Their biological mother was young and there was neglect, but Allender said the woman cares about them and was happy they were adopted together.
Carolynn Barr, a case worker for adoption and foster care agency The Villages, said children in the system know their parents can’t care for them but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier for them to adapt.