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Prospective and Adoptive Parents
Intercountry Adoption

Child Health Considerations

Certain health risks are inherent when adopting foreign children. Generally, children come into care because of abandonment, poverty, illness or death of parents, or family dysfunction (including alcoholism, drug abuse, child abuse and/or neglect). Children may have experienced poor prenatal and/or postnatal care, early neglect, and a lack of health care services, including immunizations. Specific health problems may include malnutrition, parasites, minor congenital defects, developmental delay, tuberculosis, hepatitis (A, B, or C), and HIV/AIDS. Children also can be affected by living in institutions during critical developmental periods or over long periods of time. Reputable agencies will provide prospective parents with as much information as possible on a child's background and medical history; however, they cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information. Medical evaluation (including lab testing) in developing countries does not match U.S. standards. The birth parents' medical and genetic histories are not always known, especially for abandoned children.

Most foreign countries have developed child welfare systems, but most struggle to provide a minimum standard of care for dependent children. Children who spend formative early periods or many years in large institutions with few caretakers will usually show the effects of lack of stimulation and institutionalization. In institutions, it is the strong children who survive. It should be noted that some children exhibit remarkable recovery from developmental delays after they have proper nutrition and medical care and are in a family setting. Some children show long-term delays and will require rehabilitative therapies to help correct the damaging effects of institutionalization. Loving care notwithstanding, other children who have suffered prolonged neglect and abuse in orphanages may require expert help over long periods.

You should educate yourself about the impact for children of the conditions detailed above-all are factors that can affect a child's physical, developmental, and emotional growth. Learn what resources are available to you in your community should the child you adopt need some professional help to address and hopefully make up for early delays. Talk to other families who have adopted from different countries and orphanages to see how their children are doing-after arrival and several years thereafter.

This material may be reproduced and distributed without permission; however, appropriate citation must be given to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

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