Medical History

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medical history

Information on serious medical, mental or genetic and/or chronic diseases and conditions suffered by the birthparents and their parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents or by the child himself; also includes information on immunizations in the case of an older child. Also includes information on lifestyle choices, such as alcohol or drug use, smoking, previous imprisonments, occupations and so forth.

Adoptive parents should obtain as much medical information as reasonably possible on the child or children they adopt. Not only will this information assist their pediatrician, but it will ultimately serve to assist the adopted adult later in life. Adult adopted persons often report anxiety about a lack of medical history information, particularly women when they are pregnant. This information could satisfy their curiosity about their heredity and the genes they may be passing on to their child.

When prospective parents are applying to adopt, social workers usually supply a checklist of which ailments, disabilities and other conditions they would be willing to consider or would not accept; for example, mental illness in the birth family, incest, rape of the birthmother, heart disease, genetic diseases, congenital birth defects or alcohol exposure, and a broad spectrum of possible diseases or conditions. Prospective parents may be asked to state yes, no or maybe to each condition.

In addition, when parents will be adopting an infant, the caseworker will want to know if they are willing to accept an infant whose birthmother abused drugs or alcohol during her pregnancy because such conditions can lead to either permanent birth defects or temporary conditions that ultimately improve.

The adoptive parents should be thoroughly briefed on the condition of the child they adopt, despite their prior written acceptance of conditions: parents sometimes may be too naive about their ability to manage some conditions, or they may believe they should tell the agency what they think the agency wants to hear.

After approval of the adoptive parents and before the child is placed with them, the parents will be presented with a "referral"-medical information, genetic background and the personal history of the child. When available, the child's birth measurements, condition at birth and other factors will also be shared.

If it is an older child who is being adopted, the adoptive family should be provided with as much social, developmental and medical information as available. Any serious injuries or chronic illnesses as well as learning disabilities should be explained. In addition, any history of physical or sexual abuse should be discussed as completely as the social worker's information allows. Agencies should go back to obtain all possible additional information from relatives, foster families, birthparents, schools and others who have had contact with the child through the years.

In the case of an INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION, medical history information may be sketchy, unavailable or falsified and frequently only the current physical condition of the child can be provided. As a result, adoptive parents should seek out a pediatrician or physician knowledgeable about medical problems such as malnutrition or lack of stimulation common in orphanages.

The adopted child is not the only person on whom medical information is gathered: the adopting parents are medically evaluated as well, and an adoptive parent must usually undergo a complete physical and a discussion of his or her own medical history with the doctor. This medical history information will be provided to the social worker, who will evaluate whether there are any medical conditions that would make it difficult or impossible for the prospective adoptive parent to properly care for the child.

Recent disabling accidents, major surgery and other serious medical problems will be thoroughly analyzed before placement to ensure the child's best interests are met.

Handicapped parents have often found agencies prefer to match handicapped children to them, believing they would have a certain affinity to each other; however, if a disabled prospective parent feels he or she is capable of parenting a healthy infant or child, that person should seek an agency interested in working with them. (See also BACKGROUND INFORMATION; GENETIC DATA; MEDICAL PROBLEMS OF ADOPTED CHILDREN.)

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