International Adoption Clinics can perhaps be one of the most helpful services to both pre- and post- adoptive parents. Given the many developmental issues, special needs and medical problems an internationally adopted child can potentially exhibit, the staff found in these clinics are well educated, experienced and prepared to help assist you in understanding your child’s medical history, identify the potential risk factors and offer local resources to help you effectively parent your child.
Internationally adopted children often have unique therapeutic and physical needs due to their previous histories of institutionalization, abuse and neglect, loss of a caregiver or parent, poverty, early trauma experiences, nutritional deficits, unmet medical and/or mental health needs, developmental delays, deprivation of emotional support and nurturing, and stressful lifestyle transitions. The referral information provided to families regarding their child can sometimes be confusing due to language translation and international terminology or it can simply be brief but with numerous medical terms that are not familiar to most people. Additionally, psychological evaluations and educational information provided about the child can be worded differently from our general American understanding of behaviors and test scores. The assistance provided by staff at an International Adoption Clinic can help parents interpret all of this information in an understandable manner so they can be prepared for any potential challenges or special needs that lie ahead.
International Adoption Clinics are often located in teaching hospitals and universities in major cities across the United States and Canada. They are usually staffed by multidisciplinary teams or have access to them for consultation. There are about 35 clinics currently in operation and each facility operates independently. Thus, hours of operation, services offered and fees will vary. Many clinics will accept family health insurance plans, when possible. Most clinics have websites which offer extensive information about their services, staff and what the parents should expect. However, each facility has the ultimate goal of guiding parents and children to form strong and resilient families.
Services offered usually span both pre- and post- adoption timelines. Prior to the adoption, clinics can offer services in the form of phone consultations, medical reviews of referral information, videos and translated medical records, travel consultations and medication assistance, family preparation for the psychological and emotional stress of adoption, and/or writing waiver letters in support of asking the child’s country of origin to waive the waiting period in cases of severe medical issues. Post-adoption services usually focus on providing medical and psychological support for the family with comprehensive health services and community referrals. Families can schedule medical clinic appointments for their child which can include a physical exam, developmental screening, laboratory testing, immunization review, and initial discussion regarding the child’s adjustment to the family. Other specialists can assist with or be consulted regarding speech/language assessments, feeding and nutrition evaluations, psychological evaluation, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder screening, cleft and craniofacial abnormalities, infectious diseases, cardiology, and/or a behavioral or psychosocial assessment. Some clinics also offer follow up services to the family and services specifically to assist with adopting older children or infants. Each clinic must be contacted to determine exactly what services they offer.
International Adoption Clinics generally want to work with both you and your primary physician and may sometimes ask that you see your primary provider first before scheduling an appointment with them. However, some clinics prefer that you schedule with them first and as soon as possible after your child arrives home. It is important to make contact with your Clinic early in the adoption process to determine their preferences and scheduling procedures.
International Adoption Clinics can be an excellent source of support and information as you navigate the vast sea of international adoption. The assistance they can offer your family will help in awareness, preparation and provide focus to your adoption expectations. MLJ Adoptions requires at time of referral that each family consult their local International Adoption Clinic during their adoption journey and encourages continued contact once the child arrives home.
• American Academy of Pediatrics Adoption Directory
• Center for Disease Control
• The Handbook of International Adoption Medicine: A Guide for Physicians, Parents, and Providers (2004) by Laurie C. Miller
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