U.S., foreign adoptees at risk for many of the same problems
The Charlotte Observer
Prospective parents go abroad to adopt for many reasons -- to find younger children, to steer clear of birth parents who could disrupt the adoption, to avoid children damaged by abuse and neglect.
But international adoptions, which can cost $20,000 or $30,000, carry many of the same risks as domestic ones.
"This is a high-risk group no different than (children in) foster care in the United States," says Thais Tepper of the Parents Network for the Post-Institutionalized Child.
Some adoption agencies and orphanages don't reveal enough about potential problems, experts say. Parents can face issues that include mental retardation, sensory processing problems and attention deficit disorder. There's also reactive attachment disorder -- characterized by hostility, lying and an inability to bond with adults.
The chances of problems rise the longer children stay in institutionalized care, experts say. In Russia, fetal alcohol exposure may compound difficulties.
As international adoptions have become more common, so have stories of parents who return children before the adoption is finalized, or of families who give up parental rights.
Dr. Ronald Federici, a Virginia-based neuropsychologist, says he's dealt with hundreds of parents who've relinquished parental rights. About 80 percent of those had adopted from Eastern Europe and Russia.
"It's become an epidemic," he says. "Adoption agencies do not prepare the parents whatsoever. Parents panic. Parents get overwhelmed."
Dr. David Douglass, a pediatrician with Cabarrus Pediatric Clinic, runs For the Children International Adoption Medical Services. The program helps prospective parents understand medical issues facing children they're considering. Finding help for the children is often difficult, he says. "It's really expensive. And most people don't have a ton of experience (with) the behavioral health community."
Some children's advocates blame parents for going into adoptions blindly and giving up too easily. Others sympathize, citing the stress a troubled child places on a family.
The United States is supposed to implement a treaty soon to regulate intercountry adoptions. It requires parents to get training and adoption agencies to give parents more information about children they're adopting.
Tepper, with the Parents Network for the Post-Institutionalized Child, favors regulation, but she's unsure how much the treaty will do: "If we were looking at anything else that came from any other country other than human beings" it would have been regulated years ago.