Cynthia Howard with two girlsAs you begin the adoption process we know the challenges before you and the decisions you must make. As pediatricians and adoption specialists our role is to assist you in understanding your child’s medical history, risk factors and the resources you will need to effectively parent your child.

Based on our review of the medical records of more than 29,000 children and working with families for over 25 years in our clinic, we can be confident in saying that predicting the needs of children from high risk environments is the most difficult area of adoption medicine. However, we have learned through our research that when a child is matched with a family, who understands and can meet that child’s mental and physical health needs, a remarkable recovery is possible.

The major problem that we are only beginning to understand is how early risk factors such as institutional care, loss of a parent/parents, neglect and stressful early transitions impact a child’s health and development in the long term.

Available research data in combination with our personal experiences with adoption, and by conversations with adoptive families for whom we have provided medical and mental health care have shaped our opinion. In addition, the demographics of birth countries have changed over the years as countries open to adoption and others close. Now we see more children who have experienced numerous transitions, have complicated medical and social histories and as a result come to the United States with a variety of special needs.

The central question is “What can we say about the child being considered by you and your family for adoption?” Parents want to know if their child will be normal on arrival home. Internationally adopted children often have special needs due to early deprivation of emotional and nutritional nurture; emotional trauma; and unmet medical needs. As a group these are children at high risk for mental and physical health issues.

Children in high-risk environments tend not to grow or develop well.

Often special needs are not met in the institutional setting or within neglectful families. Some of these children will suffer physical and/or sexual abuse with resulting compromise of physical and mental health. Necessary health care to address these issues is often not available or accessible in their country of birth.

An adoptive family is a remarkable environment for a child to grow and develop to their full potential and find healing from emotional and physical trauma. Every week we meet adopted children, who are thriving in their new families.

We know how critical it is for adopting parents to best understand the challenges that lie ahead and to have the available resources to meet those challenges. In addition, ongoing support and help from pediatric specialists in adoption medicine including mental health play important roles in a successful transition and bright future.

Our task during the pre-adoption process is to guide you in the assessment of the child whose referral information you have received. Our mission is to outline for you the health needs of that particular child and assist you in assessing necessary resources you will need to parent that child. We are available to answer questions throughout your adoption process. After your child arrives home, our clinic will fully assess your child from a medical, developmental and psychological perspective with our multi-disciplinary team.

It is our hope that every child finds a family in which to grow strong and healthy and our pleasure to assist in the process of a child and a family finding one another.