Adoption of children with disabilities increases in Brazil

Tais, husband and daughter. I say ‘girl’ and she looks at me because she knows I am her mother.

Photo: Daniel Teixeira / Estadao

Last year, a “stork” flew over life Tais Rodriguez, 38 years old. It did not bring a baby, but a message: there was a girl, only one year old, without a home. Galinha is a fan of Pintadinha drawing, like many boys and girls her age. And with developmental delays, much like a Brazilian child. Stork, also known as Tais, was a volunteer for the adoption support group.

Tais was already expecting a child by adoption, but when she entered the adoption line, she initially ruled out the possibility of having an abnormal child. Communicating with the online course on the subject began to open up the family’s horizons, until he received the message from Stork. Maria (not her real name), now two and a half years old, was adopted in September 2021.

The mother, who lives in Sao Paulo, said, “We make love every day. We start making bonds and today we can’t see the house without her.” Maria was born with a fetal alcohol syndrome due to exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. After the adoption, she was hospitalized and operated on. Today, she can sit alone, stand up and take her first steps. “I say ‘girl’ and she looks at me because she knows I’m her mother.”

In shelters, it is common to find children with disabilities or health problems. Suitors are still rare among those who want to adopt. Between 2019 and last year, the number of children with disabilities, infectious diseases or health problems increased according to the National Adoption and Asylum System. Currently, 9.6% of adopted children have health problems. Two years ago, the percentage was 2.3%. In the case of persons with disabilities, the rate was 0.6% in 2019 and 3% in 2021. And, for infectious diseases, the percentage increased from 0.3% to 1.3% over the same period.

The numbers are still thought to be intimidating, but according to experts, they already reflect the results of the action by the courts of law and the “Storks”, in adoption support groups – spread dozens across Brazil. In addition to raising these rates, the challenge now is to encourage more difficult processes, such as those involving adolescent or disabled siblings. “It’s not a quick process, but we’ve seen the adoption of a group of older children, special children and siblings,” said Judge Noelli Sale Tavares Reebak, president of the College of Co-ordinator for Childhood and Youth of the Court. Judgment. Noli mentions rules that provide for expeditious adoption of children with disabilities and other guidelines that set deadlines for procedures.

Today, in order to stand in line for adoption, it is necessary to take a course on this subject. Some of this training is provided by the courts; Others, by special groups in the area. When registering in court, applicants indicate that they wish to obtain a profile of any child or adolescent (including race, age and disease). These criteria can be changed during the process.

For the lawyer Cecilia de Albuquerque Coimbra, vice president of the adoption support group Acolehar in the greater Sao Paulo Mairipora, advocates change access to information via the Internet. “We know more about autism or pregnancy-related diseases, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. We know the treatments,” said Cecilia, who has volunteered in the area for 20 years. “Today we rarely find a couple who do not have an HIV positive child,” he said.

At Acolehar Group, applicants have conversation circles, including periodic meetings, to begin designing their adoption projects. The stories of those who have been adopted – accidents and joys – are also presented. The exchange of information is essential. The profile of the person who stays at home waiting for the phone to ring is very limited. Even those who are not yet in the queue for adoption, but are interested in the subject, can ask for a lecture on social networks.

Although recommended, changes in the profile of children or adolescents with disabilities or illnesses must be carefully evaluated. “It can’t be something for which the child comes first,” explained Jusara Marar, vice president of the National Association of Adoption Support Group (ANGAD). With a small number of suitors in the profile, this adoption trend is fast. Families are advised not to take a step forward in putting the child at risk. “We encourage it to be very thoughtful, even in therapy, so that adoption that requires deep preparation is successful.”

Social worker Erica Santos, 38, sought as much information as possible about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) after receiving a call from the forum, about a 2-year-old boy with a moderate to severe degree. From the first month of life in a shelter, in Valle du Jequitinhon, he had already received a visit from a suitor who refused to follow him because he had no eye contact.

“When you’re pregnant, you can’t predict who’s coming,” said Erica. At the beginning of the contact with Joao (fictional name), when he was in the shelter, he admits that he felt “butterfly in his belly” for not being able to take the smile out of the baby. It will pass soon. “I realized I could not charge the child. The charge must be for adults,” he said.

In January of this year, Joao got a house, and today, as he walks down the street with his family, he knows how to recognize the house where he lives. In the kitchen, she takes the milk from the fridge and points it into the microwave. Wake up and sing. He calls her “Mom”, “Dad” and even says “I love my brother” – Erica has another son, 11 years old. “Love is the same. Sacrifice is more because the need is greater. I feel like a mother of two.” For Erica, the stimulus she received at home helped Joao move forward in communication.

International studies have already shown that it is difficult to build lasting bonds in shelters, no matter how good they may be. Elisa Altafim, a mental health doctor and parenting specialist, said: “Many aspects of development depend on the child feeling safe and trusting. What often happens in institutions is that the person (the caregiver) stays there for a certain period of time.” Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation. Family coexistence is the right of children and adolescents.

Silvana do Monte Morera, president of the adoption commission at the Brazilian Institute of Family Law (IBDFAM), said it was important for suitors to know the reality of nearby shelters, in addition to lectures and courses. Today, 29,800 children or adolescents are sheltered, that is, those who are not in their original family. The average age of children and adolescents available for adoption is 9 years and the number of adolescents registered in the system is higher than the number of applicants.

“It’s very hard to love what you can’t see,” said Silvana. IBDFAM supports initiatives such as the Open Door Shelter project, which encourages applicants to visit host organizations in Rio. Another tool that is encouraged to be used is active search: when children’s profiles are presented to suitors. This has already been done by some courts with the help of the adoption support group “Storks”, but it has become the rule after an ordinance was issued by the National Council of Justice this month. Applicants will be able to access photographs and testimonies of children or adolescents who have completed all possibilities for national and international investigations. Active search should include boys and girls with disabilities.

Aurelie Vieira, 39, did not set limits when she decided to adopt a child. Experiences with the youngest person with autism spectrum disorder have already begun to see the situation of children with atypical development with a more sensitive appearance to the family. At the age of 9, Bet, a girl with many disabilities, came to raise her family.

“There are no perfect children in a foster home. She brings trouble, trauma,” said Aurelie, who lives in Sao Paulo with her husband, a bus driver. Bate’s adoption was done with time and care so that, in particular, the youngest, Samuel, could adapt to his sister. In addition to Samuel, Areli has two other biological children, now 22 and 16 years old.

In 2018, the family decided to return to the adoption queue. Almost immediately, he was warned about the presence of a 14-year-old girl with quadriplegia in a shelter. “I imagined a big boy, but he was a very small boy, he weighed 9 kg, and his body was very weak. It was surreal,” Aureli recalls. “I told her to hold on and at that point, I gave birth to Henrik.”


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