The Most Common Disabilities in Foster/Adoptive Children

Also see: Children's Disability Levels

These may be problems specifically related to the child's issues of neglect and/or abuse, loss, abandonment, or adoption issues.

Emotional Problems

Emotional problems in children and teenagers can range from mild to severe. When a parent suspects an emotional problem, the first step is an open, honest talk with the child about feelings, if this is appropriate to the child's age. Parents may also want to consult with the child's doctor, teachers, clergy, or other adults the child knows. At least one in 20 children and adolescents may have a serious emotional disturbance that severely disrupts life at home, school, and in the community.

Signs in a young child may be:

In older children and adolescents, warning signs may include:

Your child's pediatrician can rule out possible physical causes for problems and help you locate a mental health professional. Since adopted children often have emotional problems specifically related to adoption issues, parents should seek a counselor or therapist who is knowledgeable about adoption.

Once an appropriate diagnosis is made, treatment may include psychotherapy, behavior therapy, or medication.

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Attention Deficit Disorder

Up to 3.5 million children have an Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It is a leading cause of school failure and under-achievement. ADD is a neurobiologically based disability, characterized by developmentally inappropriate attention skills, impulsivity, and, in some cases, hyperactivity. ADD is often accompanied by poor self-esteem and behavioral difficulties. Characteristics of children with ADD can include:

ADD students have a greater likelihood of repeating a grade, dropping out of school, under-achieving academically, and having social and emotional difficulties. Making and keeping friends is a difficult task for children with ADD. There is no "cure" for ADD, but parents can help their child by learning as much as possible about ADD; seeking professional evaluation and treatment; advociating for their child; seeking parent training.

Parent training will help a parent to provide clear, consistent expectations and directions; set up an effective discipline system; create a behavior modification plan; assist a child with social issues; and identify the child's strengths.


The term hyperactivity commonly refers to manifestations of disturbed behavior in children or adolescents characterized by constant overactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, and aggressiveness. Hyperactivity is often associated with attention deficit disorder (which is then referred to as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) but can also be associated with other disorders (such fetal alcohol syndrome).

Among the treatment options are behavior therapy, social skills training, medication, parent education, and modification to the child's educational program.

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