LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The challenges of international adoption can be daunting, especially when unforeseen health issues cloud the process. The University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics has started a clinic to help parents navigate the medical aspects of adopting a child from a foreign country.
“Health risks vary from country to country,” explained pediatrician Mike Howard, clinic director. “’Many people want to know what problems they’ll face as adoptive parents so they can prepare for their child’s unique challenges.”
For example, there is a high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome among children from some countries. This condition can cause mental retardation or developmental and behavioral problems. Signs of possible fetal alcohol syndrome can often be gleaned from a child’s medical record and its effects can sometimes be minimized with early intervention. But, adoptive parents don’t always know to look for help right away.
The UofL International Adoption Clinic is held bi-weekly at the UofL Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center, 571 South Floyd Street. It is staffed by a multidisciplinary group of professionals, including an infectious diseases specialist, a developmental pediatrician, speech, language and occupational therapists and a child psychologist. Their pre- and post-adoption services include:
- Medical record review
- Developmental and physical assessment
- Infection screening
- Immunization status review
- Counseling and follow-up to help with family adjustment and social development
These services are provided in cooperation with the family physician. When the adoption process is complete, children are referred back to their private doctor, although follow up to help the child assimilate into the family is available, as needed.
“Our goal is to do whatever is needed to help parents and children make the transition to ‘forever families’ as easy as possible,” Howard said.