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Thursday, January 04, 2007
Stef was telling me a story about a wonderful little boy who is at the same baby home as a friend's child. He is evidentially having a difficult time getting adopted because he had asthma. Now asthma is not exactly what I think of as a major medical issue that would cause problems for a kid finding a forever family, but there it is.

This leads me to a tough topic adoptive parents have to go through...current or potential medical issues.

This is clearly one of the most difficult topics that adoptive parents have to think about. If your agency is good, they will have you think about this issue very early on and provide you with nearly all of medical risks or issues that you may encounter and ask that you give them some insight as to the level of medical issues/or risk of issues that you are willing to accept (before you even get close to getting a referral).

Now I'm going to hop on a soapbox here so if you are offended easily you may wish to skip the next couple of paragraphs. There are a bunch of folks (who always seem to post on the adoption forums) who for whatever reason (my guess is some holier than thou bug up their butt) get upset when adoptive parents even suggest that they are unwilling to accept a referral that has certain health risks. But that is exactly what you should do.

Working with a child who has a major disability (like mental retardation) is a tough job. While I was in college I worked with developmentally disabled adults at an ARC workshop (Association of Retarded Citizens) and it was a very satisfying job, but it was also a very hard job. And although it was a lot of fun, it is not something I would want to do for the rest of my life. And so we do have boundaries we set for accepting a referral and will stick with them.

However, it is important to keep in mind that no human being is perfect and we all have many many risks for future illnesses and diseases. It's also a good idea to remember that even with risks or issues that may occur, they can often have little or nothing to do with how far in life you can go.

Note that Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great both were epileptics. Helen Keller was blind and deaf yet lectured around the world in addition to becoming the first deaf and blind person to graduate from a U.S. college (Radcliffe, magna cum laude may I add). And one of greatest U.S. Presidents in our history, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was paralyzed from the waist down due to an illness.

For those who are thinking about international adoption or just getting started, it's your decision and whatever you decide is the right one for you. But just remember that risks are just that and may never manifest themselves into anything at all. But it is still extremely important that you establish what things you are prepared to handle and what things you're not.
posted by Steveg @ 9:52 AM  
  • At 2:23 PM, Blogger The Horners said…

    Wow. You did tackle a tough one today. I'm afraid that if I begin to comment that I'll do nothing more than talk out both sides of my mouth. It breaks my heart when I hear about a kid that is having a hard time being adopted because of asthma. Can you imagine what those poor kids must be going through when it suddenly occurs to them that they've been purposely passed over because of who they are? I'm.... at a loss for words.

  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger Jenni said…

    Deciding what health conditions you will and will not accept is a hard decision for any adoptive parent. What it boils down to is, will you be the best parent to serve that child's needs? If they have a health condition that you do not feel prepared to deal with, day in and day out, then the answer is probably no. Of course, does staying in an orphanage serve the child any better? It is just so difficult.

    We alsmost declined the referral for our son because of a major health concern that could be fatal. Luckily, further testing showed him to be clear of the disease. However, if he was not clear, then we would have declined. Dealing with severe health issues, which could result in an early death for our child was not something we wanted to face. Especially after going through all the time, emotions, and yes, cost, involved in adoption.

    Its true that nothing in life is guaranteed, but in adoption, we do have some choice in who our child will be. No one can say what child is right for anyone else - it is a decision that has to be made individually, and others should respect it.

  • At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Cathy said…

    We turned down a child with a Hep C positive diagnosis before accepting our second referral (now home). Our initial referral appeared healthy and disease free, but understanding the seriousness of her condition and our family situation (other children at home) made a very hard decision alittle easier to bear. We pray that another family, better able to deal with her life circumstances, has been found to parent her. While I am saddened by her situation, I am comfortable realizing that we were not in a position to be her family at this time. Everyone going into adoption, domestic or international, accepts an unknown risk of problems down the line. Each one of us needs to identify and stand firm in recognizing what known problems we are ready and able to handle.

  • At 5:18 PM, Blogger Irshlas said…

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have spent the past 10 years working with adults with mental retardation and developmental diabilities. (state-run ICFs/MR) On a daily basis I see parents who struggle with the decision to place their child in a facility because they can no longer provide the level of care that child needs. Truly, it's a much wiser decision to figure it out before, rather than after, that you aren't able to raise a child w/ disabilities. Being honest with yourself is being fair to the child. Again, thanks for posting such a provocative piece. I hope it gives others food for thought.

  • At 7:11 PM, Blogger Debbie said…

    This was the hardest part of our application for Dave & I. We went over the very detailed forms of serious and minor issues and Dave let me know if he was concerned about anything that he didn't think we could handle. There were only a few that he said NO to. He just didn't want to say no to a child.
    I went through it on my own later and researched things to see what we could really handle. That was the hardest thing I've had to decide yet. We pray all the time that we are able to handle the child God brings into our life. I can't imagine turning down a referra espcially for just a simple thing like asthma.
    I'm very glad you tell it like it is.

  • At 9:39 PM, Blogger Cristina W. said…

    Get Steve -
    I don't think anyone should feel apologetic for hoping for a healthy child. You would NEVER give a biological parent any kind of attitude if they expressed a wish that their baby be born healthy. That said, it's best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In your example, a child with asthma is hardly a special needs child (in my opinion) but depending on the medical report there could have been a signal of FAS or FAE. Sometimes, it's a few small signs that determine the probability. Anyway, in the end the child that comes home to you is the child that is meant to be yours.

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I'm Steve and this is my wife Stefanie. This is our story, mostly seen through my eyes, of the journey to create our family by adopting a child from Russia.

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