How to Ensure a Healthy Family When You Adopt a Baby
New babies adopted overseas may have special health challenges.

According to research, adopted children and the families who make new homes for them face a special set of medical issues. Here are some tips on what to watch for.

Research on adopted children was introduced at the annual Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine, providing crucial new information about the health of those who are often our youngest travelers. Here are key findings.

Early Detection is the Best Precaution

Studies by French specialist Dr. Frederic Sorge show that between 1998-2000, of the 177 recently adopted children he examined, 88 or almost half had at least one diagnosable illness.  Statistically, 30% of these adopted children entered France from Asia and 25% from Eastern Europe at a median age of 19.4 months. The most common illnesses Dr. Sorge’s clinic found were bronchopneumonia and/or ear infections, hepatitis and scabies; handicaps were noted as well.

Most importantly, Dr. Sorge found that the possibility of neuro-psycho-developmental disorders, ranging from nightmares to autism, grows as children mature in their adopted country.  Therefore, he recommends that parents obtain a clinical assessment of their adopted child as soon after arrival as possible.

This precaution provides a benchmark for future assessments of children’s physical and mental health.

Good Medical Practice Starts Pre-Adoption

Dr. Susan Kuhn, assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Calgary, Alberta is an expert in international adoption. After several patient studies done at the Odyssey Travel and Tropical Medicine Clinic she directs, Dr. Kuhn suggests the following precautions for parents seeking to adopt a child aboard:

Arrange for a pre-adoption assessment of the adoptee in his/her home country, if possible.

Arrange for a preventive vaccination and comprehensive prenatal consultation for  the adopted infant’s parents-to-be, so that they will know what to expect when the newborn “arrives.”  If any other siblings or family members are traveling to a distant country to pick up the new child, be sure they have all been vaccinated as well.

Ask your prospective pediatrician for advice on childcare during the travel period, as well as for recommendations of pediatricians in the adoptee’s home country.

More Tips on Infant Health

Ask your pediatrician for a list of recommended medications or other childcare essentials to take with you.

Arrange a post-arrival appointment with a clinic specializing in adoptive children as soon after return as possible.

When you go to pick up the child, videotape interviews with the child’s caregivers in their language (you can have this translated back in your own country) to obtain the most information regarding the child’s care, feedings, sleep, medical history, treatments, parentage, etc. possible.  It may become an important tool later on in the child’s life.

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