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Until the late 1970s, society considered older children (over age 10) and children with serious physical or emotional handicaps as "unadoptable," presuming no one would desire to adopt such a child. It was believed that most people prefer to adopt a healthy infant.

Today many social workers believe that the majority of children can successfully attain family membership, and some adoption experts claim no child is unadoptable.

It is difficult to find appropriate families for teenagers or children who have psychiatric problems, are abusive and exhibit other behavioral problems. Yet there are people who will volunteer to adopt children who are retarded and even children who have AIDS. As of this writing, there is a waiting list of people who wish to adopt children with DOWN SYNDROME or spina bifida. The challenge appears to be largely in identifying the right family for a specific child.

In some cases, a child may not wish to be adopted, and many states permit a child over a certain age (usually 14) to reject adoption as an option. The child may be used to the foster home or group home and unwilling to transfer her affections to an adoptive family.

It is important to understand that children who were once considered unadoptable may often require extensive therapy, and adoptive parents and social workers must not assume that love will conquer all barriers. (See also ADOPTION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM; ADOPTION AND CHILD WELFARE ACT OF 1980; OLDER CHILD; PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS OF ADOPTED PERSONS; SPECIAL NEEDS.)

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