Health, Emotional, and Developmental Issues Common to Children Adopted Internationally

Are you thinking about adopting internationally? Don’t miss this interview covering the common health, developmental, and emotional issues found in kids adopted internationally. Our guests are Dr. Kimara Gustafson, M.D., M.P.H., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, a Faculty Member in the Division of Clinical Behavioral Neuroscience, and a pediatrician at the Adoption Medicine Clinic at the University of Minnesota. We will also talk with Dr. Katie Stone, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at The University of Minnesota Medical School. She is part of the Psychology team at the Adoption Medicine Clinic.

In this episode, we cover:

The best place to get information on the country-specific laws and the adoption process is your agency and the US State Department website on intercountry adoption, in the country information section.

Each year the US State Department prepares an Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption that includes the length of time and cost for adoptions from specific countries. The country-specific pages at the US State Department website also has some of this information.

  • What are some of the general characteristics and needs of kids waiting for adoption abroad? 
  • Generally, what factors across the world lead children to be in state care and to need adoptive families?
  • What are the most frequent medical or psychological problems you see in children adopted internationally?
  • What are the effects of malnutrition?
  • What are some common environmental toxins currently seen in the primary placing countries to the US and how might they impact children? Additional info may be found at World Health Organization, World Health Statistics, World Food Program.
  • Impact on children of maternal substance abuse (alcohol, drugs). 
  • For the main placing countries to the US how common is:
    • Prenatal substance abuse
    • Malnutrition
    • Emotional issues
    • Genetic abnormalities
    • Developmental Delay
    • Other known health risk factors
  • What is the impact on a child of leaving familiar ties and surroundings?
  • What is the experience of most children leaving their family of origin?
  • What types of behaviors are typical and how do they differ by age? 
  • How does institutional care impact children?
  • How does institutionalization affect child development?
  • What types of care are you seeing in the various countries placing children for adoption?
  • Is the degree of impact worse the longer the child is in an orphanage or child welfare institution?
  • What children are at the greatest risk for attachment disorders?
  • What are the symptoms of a child with attachment disorders?
  • What is the general process for children to develop attachment and emotional ties to their adoptive family?
  • How long post-adoption should you wait until you begin to worry about disordered attachment?
  • What are the psychological issues children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or trauma may face?
  • What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and what children available for international adoption are at risk for PTSD?
  • What are the symptoms of PTSD?
  • What are some of the acculturation and assimilation issues children may face post international adoption?
  • How does the age and temperament of the child impact this assimilation?
  • What can families do to help their children adjust to their new country and environment?
  • Why is it better for kids to be raised in families rather than in institutions?
  • How does adoption itself impact children, adolescents, and adults? Resources for parents and professionals:
  • Generally speaking, how are the kids adopted internationally doing?
  • Post-adoption reports are an essential part of intercountry adoption. Your adoption agency should provide information on the specific reporting requirements. You can check the US State Department Intercountry Adoption website in the country information section.

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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Image Credit: Pavel Danilyuk