Your Growing Family
By Douglas Mitchell, MD
Adopting a child is a momentous experience that requires a lot of planning and preparation. Whether the child is an infant from your own hometown or a 3-year-old from a village halfway around the globe, much preparation is needed to ensure a smooth transition for your new family member.
Learn as much as you can about your child. To get a well-rounded picture, gather information about the medical history of your child’s birth parents, including information such as illnesses or substance abuse problems. Ask plenty of questions about your child’s medical history: Does she have a chronic illness? Does she have trouble eating or sleeping? If available, request prenatal records. It’s not uncommon for adoptees or children raised in institutional settings to be behind other children in growth and development, so it’s important to ask questions about what milestones have been met.
It’s helpful to have your pediatrician involved in the adoption process. A pre-adoption evaluation, including a review of medical records, photos and videos, will help you and your physician understand your child’s unique medical history and future needs. A post-adoption medical and laboratory evaluation will screen for nutritional problems, infectious diseases and genetic conditions. The evaluation will likely include a metabolic screen as well as hepatitis B and C, HIV and parasite screenings.
For international adoptions, a travel medicine consultation, including immunization information and treatment, will also likely be necessary for parents and children.
A good place to begin gathering information about international adoptions is the State Department’s Web site, www.travel.state.gov. Under the heading “Children and Family,” prospective parents will find general information about adoption in more than 60 countries (including U.S. visa requirements).
Knowing the adoption regulations of foreign countries is important – the rules can be difficult to understand and change frequently. For instance, the State Department notes that changes to adoption laws in Ukraine often aren’t communicated well and are discovered only when prospective parents in the middle of the process notify the American Embassy of the changes. China recently imposed tight restrictions on who can adopt children – people who are single, morbidly obese, older than 50 or who fail to meet certain financial and physical requirements are not allowed to adopt children from China.
International adoption can require a lot of patience and tenacity, so arm yourself with as much information as possible. With this knowledge, you can focus on making your new addition feel loved and comfortable.
Dr. Mitchell practices with CHKD Health System’s General Booth Pediatrics.