Dr. Jane Aronson is well versed in the health issues surrounding adoption. Through her New York City-based International Pediatric Health Services, she has spent the last 15 years of her life working with families who adopt internationally.
There were two factors that served as catalysts for Dr Aronson’s avocation. First, her pediatric training included a specialty in infectious diseases. As she puts it, "I always had a real hunger for international health issues."
Couple that with the fact that Dr Aronson began practicing in the 80s and 90s during the first great wave of international adoption, and it is easy to see how she has become so prominent in the field of international adoption health issues.
When questioned as to what issues parents should be aware of in the health of their foreign born child, Dr. Aronson said that growth and development should be the primary focus. She pointed out that while physical health issues are important, many of the likely conditions, such as malnutrition or scabies, end up being short-lived. With proper treatment, these conditions usually clear up within six months, she explained.
However, it’s the developmental issues that have long-term effects on the lives of these children.
She explained that, "Children who are adopted from foreign institutions have one month developmental delay for every three months they are in the institution. Younger children have less effects because they have been in the institution less time." A part of this developmental delay also includes poor growth. However, the biggest problem these children face is lack of expressive language. This is not a case of not being able to speak English, but rather being unable to express themselves in their native language. This leads to poor self-esteem and behavioral problems.
The second developmental problem an adoptive family needs to recognize is attachment issues. Children living in institutions never learn the social connections and intimacies of family life that are second nature to a biological child. They have to learn how to make eye contact and become engaged within the family unit.
The third issue is the lack of self-regulatory mechanisms. These children have never had anyone listen to their needs. They have also never learned how to manage their needs and wants. What they have learned is to take care of themselves. Part of the process of orienting a child who has grown up in an institution to family life is to make them understand that it’s all right to ask for help.
If you are contemplating a foreign adoption, Dr. Aronson recommends that you set up a pre-adoption consultation with an international adoption expert so that you know what to expect and what to be prepared for. You can often have this initial consultation by phone or email.
Once you have adopted your child, the international adoption expert can serve as an advocate for you and your child and make the early interventions and referrals necessary for the child’s development.
For more information about where to contact an international adoption expert, log on to http://www.comeunity.com/adoption/health/clinics.html
Foxnews.com Health contributor Maria Esposito contributed to this report.