Adoption gives children an opportunity for a new beginning in a supportive and loving environment.

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When Daniel was born, his adoptive parents, Gary and Ellen Middleton, were overjoyed. "Things went well during the birth mother's pregnancy and her delivery was normal," says Gary. (Names have been changed to protect families' privacy.)

But just a day after Daniel was delivered, his pediatrician recommended a consultation with a urologist. One of Daniel's ears had an ear tag, a small piece of skin that looks like a wart. "We learned that the ears and kidneys develop at the same time in the uterus," Ellen says. "So, an abnormal growth on the ear can mean there's a problem with the kidneys."

The ultrasound test proved the accuracy of the pediatrician's prediction: Daniel's left kidney was enlarged and not functioning normally. "The doctor told us Daniel's condition was not serious, but should be watched. And he told us not to hesitate to complete the adoption because of health issues," Ellen says. Ellen took Daniel to see specialists at Children's Hospital in Chicago, where they recommended surgery immediately. Afterwards, doctors reported a 100% improvement in Daniel's kidney function. Today, Daniel is a healthy toddler. "No more tests are needed," says Gary. "He's doing fine."

All parents worry about possible health problems when they have a child, regardless of whether the child is adopted or not. "We chose to avoid some avenues of adoption because of problems we'd heard of," Gary explains. "But we recognized that even people who have great prenatal care could have a baby with health issues too."

A Healthy Adoption

For the most part, people interested in adopting a child can expect to adopt a child with minor or manageable health considerations. A healthy adoption is one where the child is placed where he or she will thrive, no matter what the medical considerations may be. Most children have some kind of health issue requiring attention. For adopted kids, those health considerations may be somewhat unique, and sometimes, unexpected. The best approach for a healthy adoption is to be informed and prepared.

Adoptions are done either domestically — meaning the child is born in your own country — or internationally. In either case, it sometimes is easier to predict or know whether the child will have specific kinds of health problems, depending on information available about the child and/or the birth family.

Important Questions to Ask When Adopting

Regardless of whether you adopt internationally or domestically, you should have an opportunity to get information about your child's birth family. Here are questions to ask:

  • Is there any history of specific medical conditions?
  • Are there any known hereditary diseases, including mental illness?
  • Did the birth mother smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs (including prescription medications) during the pregnancy?
  • Was the birth mother exposed to any illnesses or at risk for specific diseases?
  • What is the known medical condition of any full or half biological siblings?