Can You Adopt If Taking Antidepressants?

Dawn Davenport

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Can antidepressants or a history of depression prevent you from adopting?

As usual, I let our newsletter subscribers know in advance about the topic of this week’s Creating a Family show—How Mental and Physical Health Issues in Prospective Adoptive Parents are Treated in Adoption. I shouldn’t have been surprised when the questions came pouring in. While each expressed a personal angst, most were singing the same tune: Can I adopt if I’m on antidepressants now or was in the past? Clearly this was this week’s $64 Million Dollar Question.

Most people come to adoption from the grueling experience of infertility. No two ways around it, the all-consuming quest for a baby can drive you crazy. Not literally crazy, but at the very least, infertility is depressing, and many people turn to antidepressants to help them cope.

It is beyond ironic that the medication that may have saved your life or sanity can now potentially keep you from living your life’s dream of being a parent.  Talk about a cruel twist of fate. All is not lost however. The hazards of antidepressants to pre-adoptive parents have been overblown—at least for domestic adoption.

Domestic Adoption and Antidepressants

The domestic adoption guest experts on yesterday’s show were clear that antidepressant use by itself does not bar you from adopting a baby or child from the US. Adoption agencies and adoption lawyers are looking for parents that are stable and able to parent. You need not disclose your antidepressant use in your Adoptive Parent Profile (check out our resources on what to include and how to prepare), but adoption agencies and adoption attorneys will share this information with expectant women considering adoption. Neither domestic adoption expert thought that it was a big issue for most prospective birth mothers when choosing a family. Facing struggles and seeking help are often seen as signs of strength.

International Adoption and Antidepressants

The answer is murkier with international adoption since each country and each agency has its own rules. Suffice it to say that antidepressants may be an issue. Some countries flat out prohibit prospective adoptive parents who are on antidepressants, while others require extra scrutiny. The same can be said for adoption agencies.

What’s a Prospective Adoptive Parent to Do?

First of all, be honest. Your child’s birthmother deserves that. Your child’s birth country does too, even if you think they have antiquated ideas about mental health. Also, getting caught in a lie can derail your adoption. Not a good idea. Honesty is the best policy in most things in life, including (especially) adoption.

Second, discuss your depression or other mental health issue up front with any adoption agency or adoption attorney you are considering. They can advise you on whether this will likely be a problem. They can guide you to a country where it will not likely be a problem. Equally important, their attitude will speak volumes about whether they are the right agency or attorney for you.

Third, don’t take yourself off of any medications without working closely with your doctor.  If you decide to try to reduce your medication or eliminate it with the support of your doctor, read the highlights or listen/download our Creating a Family show about Coping with Depression While Pregnant. The risk to the fetus from antidepressants part is not relevant, but the suggestions from Dr. Ali Domar for how to cut back are golden.

Fourth, listen to this week’s Creating a Family show on Mental and Physical Health Issues in Pre-Adoptive Parents. I think it will be an eye-opener.

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Have you had experience with trying to adopt while on antidepressants or with a mental or physical health issue? Please share your insights. 

P.S. Get notice in advance of upcoming Creating a Family show topics so you can submit questions for our experts by signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of this blog. Aww go ahead, you can always unsubscribe if you don’t like it.

What We Talked About on the Creating a Family show:

  • Will taking antidepressants prevent you from adopting a baby in the US?
  • Should prospective adoptive parents include their use of antidepressants in their Adoptive Parent Profile or Dear Birthmother Letter?
  • Do most expectant women avoid considering couples or singles who want to adopt, but are taking antidepressants medications or have a diagnosis of depression?
  • Will taking antidepressants prevent you from adopting internationally?
  • What countries prohibit parents with a diagnosis of depression from adopting?
  • Is embryo adoption/embryo donation an option for someone who is on antidepressant medications?
  • How are other mental health issues or mental illnesses in pre-adoptive parents treated by adoption agencies or adoption lawyers?
  • How are physical disabilities treated by adoption agencies or adoption attorney in US domestic adoption?
  • How are physical disabilities treated by other countries for international adoption.
  • Do foreign countries or adoption agencies make exceptions for prospective adoptive parents considering adopting a child with a special need?
  • Do adoption agencies have separate rules that set standards for mental or physical health in adoptive parents?
  • Can a paraplegic in a wheelchair adopt?
  • Can a blind or deaf person adopt?
  • Should you disclose your mental health issues to your adoption agency or adoption lawyer?
  • What mental health issues prevent someone from adopting a baby in the US or from abroad?
  • Who should not consider adopting?
Image credit: ohad (Doesn’t this picture capture beautifully the concept of sadness? Way to go, ohad!)

23/05/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 7 Comments



7 Responses to Can You Adopt If Taking Antidepressants?

  1. Jennifer says:

    This site is so informative! In just watching a few videos and reading a few posts I feel like I’ve learned a lot about some of the issues I’m having with my body. Thanks for this!

    Jenn, from ICLW

  2. AnaH says:

    Hi from ICLW. What a great, informative blog you have. So much useful info.

  3. Johanna says:

    This has been a major stumbling block for our adoption process. I was on very low dose Zoloft. We have been ruled out of all countries ,one notice just before we were ready to travel to Ukraine, EXCEPT Latvia. Latvia has an amazing adoption program and bases their judgement largely on the decision of the US of which we were approved. Dawn I would encourage you to add some of these smaller country options to your amazing web site portfolio- Moldova, Latvia, etc. There are such exciting options that are not generally known. We are looking for older siblings though so perhaps this is not preferable for many.

  4. Curious- where is the support that most people come to adoption via inferitlity? ( No doubt a huge number do.) With the vast majority of adoptions from foster care and a huge chunk are kin ( my state over 40% are kin adoptions) – I would think Kin adoption rivals folks with infertility issues. Perhaps countries or programs or agencies that require a family be infertile has that as a high motivator.

  5. Michelle, I haven’t done extensive research on this. Given the sorry state of our data keeping on domestic infant adoption I am not sure the data even exists. From talking with many adoption agencies and adoption attorneys, they report that the vast majority of their adoptive families come to them after having experienced infertility. I suspect this may be decreasing slightly because of the influence of the orphan care ministry movement which encourages fertile couples to adopt, but I would imagine the percentage of infertile would still be quite high for private domestic infant adoption and international adoption.

    You are correct, that the percentages would differ in foster care adoption. A quick search found that in 2005 25% of children adopted from foster care in the US were adopted by a relative. Keep in mind that many more relatives step up to care for kids before they enter foster care, and they are not reflected in this number. I didn’t want to spend the time to find more current data, although I believe it exists and I believe the percentage is going up (it was 21% in 2000) due to more expansive efforts of child welfare agencies to find extended family members. Thanks for the thought provoking comment.

  6. P.S. I would agree the number of people struggling with inferitility may make up a higher percentage of adopters in domestic newborns and international. But I have to say over the years I have had a lot of blended families adopting all the routes. ( some with secondary infertility and some just wanted to keep on going with building their family via adoption. ) And then there are the singles who are not infertile but uncoupled. In any case, I know it is hard to find the stats and i see it assumed all the time. But I wonder if that is an era thing ( or is it just regional)? or other?

  7. I also see lots of people with kids by birth adopting and see it more now.

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