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Intercountry Adoption of Children with Visual Impairments: An Exploratory Study — JVIB Abstract

Abstract: Introduction: Although there is much research related to the adoption of children with disabilities in general, there is none that focuses specifically on the experiences of parents who have adopted children with visual impairments (that is, who are blind or have low vision) from outside of the United States (also called “intercountry” or “international” adoption). Methods: Fifteen parents of children who were adopted from outside the United States and had visual impairments were interviewed in this exploratory study. The participants all lived in the United States following the adoptions and volunteered to participate in this study in 2015. Research questions focusing on pre-adoption (why and who), challenges, and supports framed the open-ended interviews. The interviews were transcribed and themes emerged through the process of coding. Results: Parents shared their personal experiences through interviews. All 15 parents had similarities in the process of adoption. Parents adopted in order to begin or enlarge their families, but did not necessarily go into the process desiring to adopt a child with a visual impairment. Challenges were experienced in the areas of medical, educational, and social-emotional needs. Parents agreed that supports were necessary before, during, and after the adoption process. Discussion: The need for supports throughout the entire process of intercountry adoption of a child with a visual impairment was made clear through this study. Adoption agencies and agencies for visually impaired individuals are in a good position to set up support networks and mentorship programs. Implications for practitioners: This study only scratches the surface of the topic of intercountry adoption of children with visual impairments. By sharing experiences, attention can be given to issues, and systems can be put into place to better support families in raising internationally adopted children with visual impairments.

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