The Risk that Your Referred Child is Older than Expected.

International adoption is filled with risks. Some of these risks are well known – procedures may change, a country may close, a birth parent may come forward. Other risks are not well known but are important to consider. One risk that falls into this category is the potential for your referred child to be older than originally thought. This risk is very real in the Democratic Republic of Congo program. There are three practical reasons for this.

  • First, children in Congo do not receive birth certificates at the time of their birth, so their exact date of birth is almost always unknown. Additionally, children are abandoned in a variety of circumstances that may make learning of the child’s past difficult. The age of a child is often unknown and may not be knowable.

  • Second, there is a severe lack of resources in the country. Congo was listed at the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Report for 2011 at 187 out of 187. This report ranks 187 countries according to income, education and health based on information from the IMF, UNESCO, and the WHO. What Parent(s) may consider basic medical and social information may not be basic in Congo. So when a medical professional or social services worker is assessing a given child’s age, they may not have access to even basic medical equipment and may not have had the extensive medical training that would be required in the US.

  • Third, children may have experienced malnutrition or illness and may be underdeveloped at the time of match, causing social services or medical professionals to estimate that the child is younger than they actually are. After the match, MLJ Adoptions referred children are placed in interim care settings where they begin to receive the nutrition and supplements that they need for normal development. The children begin to grow quickly and they begin to appear older than was originally thought.

The risk that the child is older increases the older the child is, because there will be more potential disparity about the child’s age. The staff of MLJ Adoptions are not medical professionals and we encourage all of our families to take any information that they receive about a referred child, including age, photos and any medical reports to a medical professional experienced in international adoption. Even in the US, however, medical professionals can have different opinions on the age of a child.

MLJ Adoptions has taken steps to mitigate the risk of a child being older than expected. Beginning this year, for all referred children over 12 months, we will automatically obtain two opinions on age to limit this risk to the best extent that we can. However, the risk that a child is older than originally thought will remain a risk that parents must accept.

Photo Credit: bass_nroll

For more information about MLJ’s international adoption programs, please click here.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.