Adoption can be a rewarding experience for any parent, and even more so when the child has special needs. A special needs child is one that requires additional attention or has specific care demands that other children do not. These children may have chronic or terminal medical conditions, psychiatric or cognitive issues or physical impairments that typically require assistance to improve their quality of life. In South Carolina, children of mixed racial heritage, those over six years of age and groups of siblings also meet the adoption criteria.
How to Adopt a Special Needs Child in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the Department of Social Services administers the process of adopting a special needs child, which is similar to that of most other adoptions. One difference is that non-residents, as well as residents of the state, may petition the court to adopt a special needs child.
According to South Carolina law:
- Children over 14 years of age must consent to their adoption unless they don’t have the mental capacity to do so.
- The child must live with the adoptive parent(s) for at least 90 days before the final adoption hearing.
Specific steps in the adoption process include:
- Contacting the DSS to schedule a time to participate in an orientation
- Attending a training session to help you determine the types of children who would be the best fit for your family and household
- Completing all the required paperwork and submitting to a home inspection
- Submitting medical forms and providing references
- Meeting with an adoption specialist at your home for interviews
- Participating in an adoptive home study
- Having a selection committee match your family with a child
- Meeting the child to begin the visitation process
- Taking the child into your home if you decide to move forward
- Commencing the post-adoption phase, which can last up to one year
- Finalizing the adoption in South Carolina Family Court
Financial Assistance for the Adoption of Special Needs Children in South Carolina
Caring for a special needs child often requires a larger financial commitment. Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, adoptive parents may be eligible to receive federal adoption assistance funds if the child meets the criteria for a “special needs orphan,” which follow:
- The child cannot or should not return to live with his or her birth parents.
- The child has one or more of the special needs factors (medical condition, emotional disability, physical impairment, etc.) that makes it more challenging to place him or her with an adoptive family.
- The state has made a reasonable effort to place the child without providing financial assistance.
Adoptive families in South Carolina may also be eligible for a $2,000 deduction on their state income tax return if they adopt a child with special needs or one that’s at risk for special needs.
Getting Legal Help With the Adoption of Special Needs Children in Charleston, South Carolina
Lauren Taylor Law is an experienced family law firm that can assist with the adoption of special needs children in the Charleston area. Contact us to learn more about the process or to schedule an initial consultation today.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor is an authority on family law in Charleston and Greenville. Lauren Taylor Law is an authority on divorce, child support, and alimony in South Carolina. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for several years now. Lauren Taylor relies on her experience and passion to fight for you during this stressful time. Learn more about her experience here.