Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Adoption: Health Aspects
The process of international adoption has three
main parts: finding a child, getting custody of the child, and bringing the
child to the United States. Your child must have a medical exam in the country
he or she is from (the host country), in order to get a resident visa (an
official form that says your child can legally live in the United States). The
medical exam your child gets in the host country may or may not be complete. You
shouldn't automatically trust that this exam reflects your child's health.
However, your child will not be able to get a visa until all requirements have
Will my child be ill on arrival in
Most adopted children arrive in good health,
depending on the country they come from and the surroundings they've been living
in. Half of all adopted children have common illnesses (such as ear infections)
that need treatment in the first month after they get to the United States.
Will my child need to have a
physical exam right away?
If the child has no obvious illness, it's often
good for you to wait 2 to 4 weeks before his or her first visit with your family
doctor. This will give you and your child time to get to know each other a
little better. It will give you time to watch the child and look for any
problems he or she may be having. At the first doctor's visit, your child will
have both a physical exam and a set of screening tests that will help the doctor
see any hidden problems. Of course, it may take more than one visit to find and
treat some problems.
Does my child pose any risk of
infection to others?
Children adopted from other countries do have a
higher rate of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, parasites and hepatitis
B. It's a good idea to make sure your family's vaccinations, such as hepatitis
B, are up to date before your child arrives. (Some vaccinations take 6 months to
complete.) Many of the common infections (such as parasites) are easily treated
or aren't easily given to other people. Even though there is a higher rate of
infections in children adopted from other countries, your family shouldn't be at
risk during the first few weeks.
How much can we find out about our
child's health history?
Any medical information you get from the host
country is helpful, but sometimes the information isn't available or isn't
complete. One way to find out about a child's health is to ask the foster care
or orphanage workers if they see your child as being any different from other
children who are the same age in the same situation. A history of alcohol or
drug abuse in the child's mother can be another clue to potential problems, such
as fetal alcohol syndrome.
Will there be any surprises at the
first visit to the doctor's office?
It's possible. However, serious medical
problems, such as seizures or mental retardation, are rare. Often children will
need immunizations ("shots"), hearing or vision aids, dental work and better
nutrition. Watch your child's development over the first 3 months. You may find
that with better nutrition, direct attention and love, your new child will grow
quite a bit.