Families with a handicapped, chronically ill or emotionally disturbed child must cope with many stresses and strains in meeting that child's needs. For families who choose to adopt such children, there are special needs.

"Kids with very severe handicaps are being adopted," says Virginia Lapham, director of social work at Georgetown's University's Child Develoment Center, "and there has been no concerted effort on the part of mental health professionals to provide services for such families."

Lapham, along with social work trainee Patricia Parris, who herself has adopted two children with special needs, will lead a series of support and discussion sessions beginning March 10 to address the needs of these families.

Among the issues these families face are dealing with a host of health care professionals if their child is chronically ill, and applying for special education classes to set goals and objectives for the child.

Lapham says these families sometimes face cool reactions from mental health professionals. "When families come in with problems, mental health professionals often say,'Why did you do this? Didn't you know what you were getting into?' " she says.

The group will give these families a chance to "to let down their hair with each other." All sessions will meet at the Child Develpment Center, Georgetown University Medical Center. There is a $25 fee. For further information, call Dr. Lapham at 625-7765.