Inter-Country Adoption New Zealand

Waiting Child Adoption

When people think of adoption, they often think only of young healthy children or babies. In every country where ICANZ goes, there are untold numbers of children waiting, often languishing for lack of personal loving attention, waiting for a family; they are called "Waiting Children", "Special Focus Children" or sometimes "Special Needs Children". The term " "special needs" can be scary or intimidating, leading people to believe all waiting children are not healthy. Some certainly do have significant medical or developmental needs, and some have needs of other types.

Typically these children fall into these categories:

Older children

Older children are typically over 8 or 9 years, depending on the country. They may long for a permanent family and have no special medical issues, yet because they are older, they have had difficult life experiences and fewer families wish to adopt them. When an older child joins a new family, there are both joys and challenges for the child, parent and other family members. It is indeed wonderful to see a child settle into a new family and to make enduring links with other family members, friends and neighbours. Children may also bring some of the stressful traumatic experiences of their earlier lives into their new families. Parents must be prepared to help them deal with this, to learn new ways of behaving and a new language.

Large Sibling Groups

Family groups of 3, 4, 5 or more children, often with the oldest child aged 9 or older, may be classified as waiting children; because few adopting parents wish to adopt 3 or more children at once and because it is challenging to parent a larger group all at once. Families need to have the resources to parent a larger number of children.

Children with medical needs, of all ages

Children with medical needs have the same need as any other child for a secure and permanent family relationship. These medical needs are more than minor needs that are quickly and easily rectified with minor surgery. The family needs to research the medical facts on the condition and source the best medical treatment in the area in which they live. Waiting children include children with developmental needs, of all ages. All children living in orphanages are likely to have some developmental delays across all areas; physical growth delays, cognitive delays, speech delays, social developmental delays. Research indicates that we can expect a delay of one month for every three months in an orphanage.  A child with such delays may catch up to his age peers, or may progress at a normal rate from their delayed start, but never regain the lost years, resulting for example, in completing school a year older than other children. Other children may have some condition preventing normal development. Children who are categorised as "waiting children" due to developmental delays typically have more significant developmental delays than those caused by life in an institution.Parents need to have realistic expectations and celebrate whatever progress their child achieves.

Sample profiles of waiting children

Children’s privacy is very important. No adoption agency should place identifiable photos of adopted children or children waiting for adoption on a public website. The brief profiles on this page have been modified to protect their privacy while giving you a glimpse into the lives of children with special needs who are waiting for a family. They are not children currently waiting for adoption, though there are many children similar to these who are waiting in orphanages. In order to receive information on actual children you must be approved as an adoptive parent  and have a completed adoptive applicant home study report.

If you have not yet done so, we would encourage you to begin the process to obtain a home study report with approval to consider a "waiting" child.

10 years
Physical Development She is underweight but otherwise has normal development. Her age is unknown and has been estimated.
Medical problem No known medical problems.
Emotional & Psychological Development The child was abandoned at a railway station. She has memories of the past. Adoptive parents must be ready to show patience, empathy and deal with her sadness about the past traumas. When found she was not able to speak the local language so has changed languages and is therefore well behind at school.

NOTE - this is a typical situation for many children waiting for adoption in India.

1 year old
Physical Development The child is developing normally, though is small for age
Medical problem Born with severe cleft palate and cleft lip and will require surgery, on-going speech therapy and dental treatment. Mental growth is normal.
Emotional & Psychological Development Very well, very active and emotional development is normal. Friendly, outgoing infant.

NOTE - in many countries cleft palate and lip does not place a child on the "special needs" list unless it is extremely severe. Children with cleft palate may be matched to those applying via a regular adoption programme who have indicated they are willing to adopt a child with this need.

10,7 and 4 years
Physical Development The children are developing normally, and are considered healthy.
Medical problem The children have no known medical problems
Emotional & Psychological Development The children are developing normally but have suffered the trauma of a dysfunctional life in their family of origin prior to entering the orphanage.

NOTE - this is a typical situation for many children waiting for adoption in Lithuania.

2 years
Physical Development The child is developing normally, except for things that require two normal arms.
Medical problem Born with one limb absent.
Emotional & Psychological Development A friendly, ougoing child, well adjusted to her missing limb.

NOTE - there are many children in Indian orphanages who have a missing, shortened or deformed limb.

1 year
Physical Development The child is developing normally physically but moderate deafness prevents normal speech development. Makes some sounds.
Medical problem Born with moderate deafness.
Emotional & Psychological Development A friendly, outgoing child.

NOTE - We have seen many children with deafness waiting for adoption in India and the Philippines.

6 years
Relinquished/ Abandoned Abandoned
Physical Development He has achieved all of his milestones. He is able to walk alone and moves all over the building. Very active and intelligent.
Medical problem Has Alopecia over scalp.
Emotional & Psychological Development He attends school and is friendly with other pupils. He is active and normal. His physical and mental development is normal. He likes playing with toys and psychological development is normal. He is very interested in cycling.

5 years
Physical Development She has not achieved all her milestones.
Medical problem The child is suffering with umbilical Hernia, and she is a low birth weight baby. Her mental growth is normal.
Emotional & Psychological Development She is not aware of her problem. Her emotional development is normal. She is an average girl. She is able to understand and she loves to play with toys.

If you want to open your heart and your home to a special focus child that is “waiting”, talk to us.

Boys with leg deformity after treatment


Child with shortened arm


How Many Planes to Get Me?

How many planesRead this inspiring New Zealand story of adopting children inter country.



Adopting Older Children - NZ families

Read this this New Zealand Herald article, or this blog, showing some New Zealanders adopting older siblings.

The Boy from Baby House 10: From the Nightmare of a Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America.



Building the Bonds of Attachment

Building the bonds of attachmentAwakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children by Daniel A. Hughes.

This book uses a case study in an easy-to-read way to explain why some children have attachment issues and how parents can improve attachment. Hughes, a very well known psychologist and author, portrays the child's inner world, allowing the reader to gain a greater understanding of the child's view of life.

The Connected Child


A tremendous resource for parents and professionals alike