Learn how health issues can impact your adoption.
Adoption is an exciting process for families, but many parents fear they’ll start the process, only to be turned down later. If you are concerned about a health issue and wonder if you can adopt, know that you don’t have to be perfect to pass a home study or bring a child into your home.
Often, parents are allowed to adopt, even if they’ve faced a major health crisis in the past. However, not all health conditions may get approval from your doctor. If you are currently fighting a terminal disease or facing a difficult diagnosis, or if there is a strong likelihood that your condition may affect your life expectancy, your doctor may not approve you to proceed with your adoption at this time. However, if you are in remission from a disease, have a mental health issue that is manageable, or can live with a good quality of life, you’ll often find an adoption program that’s a good fit to pursue. In these situations, it’s good to know that having a health concern does not always restrict you from adopting, but it’s important to learn about the adoption process in order to understand how your health can impact the process.
Three Types of Adoption
The first thing to understand about adoption are the three types of adoption: domestic adoption, international adoption, and foster adoption. What type of adoption you choose will affect whether your health concerns will impact the process. Domestic adoption, also known as private infant adoption, is when parents adopt a baby from the United States. Most often, the child is a newborn and the adoption goes through an adoption agency or attorney.
Foster adoption, which is primarily children ages toddler to teens, occurs when a parent’s rights have been relinquished and a foster child becomes available for adoption. Oftentimes, the foster family gets the first opportunity to adopt a child should that child become available for adoption. Foster adoption requires that you become licensed for foster care first.
International adoption involves adopting a child overseas. Depending on the country you choose, your adoption will have to meet both that country’s guidelines as well as your state’s guidelines.
Requirements for Adoption
In order to determine which adoption is right for you, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what each type of adoption entails. All adoptions begin with a home study, which is a detailed written report that covers your background, employment, personal information, financial information, health history, references, and background checks.
Every state has different requirements for who can adopt. These requirements might include certain age restrictions or whether you are married or single. There are also requirements that must be met for your home, which may include proving you have a safe environment and adequate space for another child. Your caseworker will help you understand all the requirements that must be completed before your home study can be finished.
One of those requirements is having your doctor fill out a health history form. This involves getting his approval for adopting and agreeing that you have adequate health to parent a child. Sometimes agencies will require a separate letter from your doctor detailing your health and whether you are fit to parent. If you have health issues, are disabled, or have any mental health issues, you may want to talk with your caseworker and doctor about how these health issues could impact parenting a child. No matter how nerve-racking this discussion might be, it’s helpful to get an outside perspective on your health situation. Also, just because you have a health concern does not mean you cannot adopt a child, it just might restrict which program you can join.
Every caseworker’s goal is to consider the best interest of the children they serve. Your doctor’s approval is crucial for proceeding on the adoption journey.
This is why they will only consider parents who are in adequate health. They want to ensure that you can meet your child’s needs.
Domestic adoption, or private infant adoption, is usually done through an agency or attorney. The process begins with a licensed caseworker coming to your home for a home study. If you’re going through an adoption attorney, you will need to find a separate caseworker to do your home study. However, if you are going through an adoption agency, they will likely provide you with a caseworker who will do your home study for you. The caseworker will meet with you to gather information on your background, work, history, health, criminal background record, family, and home.
Part of the process is meeting all of your state’s requirements, including the criminal background check and fingerprinting. Some states may have additional requirements as far as age or marital status. Home studies also require a home visit by your caseworker, who will make sure that your house has enough space for another child. Some agencies will also create their own rules and regulations regarding adoptive families in their program.
If you are dealing with a health issue, it may be important to check with your agency before you begin to make sure they don’t have any restrictions on who can adopt and what health issues they restrict. Once you complete your home study and all the necessary state and agency requirements, then you will be put on a waiting list.
Domestic adoption requires a match with a birth parent or birth mother. Even if the birth mother is certain of her decision, she cannot sign any adoption paperwork until the baby has been born, depending on your state’s requirements. Check with your caseworker to find out more about parental rights and how long your state requires before rights can be relinquished.
Keep in mind, if you are adopting a child over state lines you will want to make sure that you follow the interstate compact for the placement of children, or ICPC, which regulates children from crossing state lines. Your agency and attorney should understand these laws and help guide you in this process.
If you are in need of connecting with a birth parent, our website has parent profiles to help you. Through these profiles, you can meet with potential birth parents and share your family pictures and story.
One thing you’ll want to consider with domestic adoption is an open adoption relationship. You’ll need to decide how much communication you’ll want to have with the birth parents after the child comes into your care. Some open adoptions involve sending pictures and messages, while others involve visits with the birth parents.
Be sure to communicate openly and honestly with potential birth parents regarding how often you are comfortable meeting so that there are not any misunderstandings down the road.
If your health might impact your ability to meet, it’s important to inform the birth parents of this possibility. Many birth parents are understanding of health issues, but it’s important to be upfront with them regarding your own health problems when they choose you. It may feel risky to share this information with them, but it also helps them to understand any issues that might prevent you from having regular contact.
If you wish to pursue foster adoption, you need to first understand what the foster care system is. Foster care was designed to take children out of their current home and place them temporarily into the care of another family. This may be due to several reasons including abuse, neglect, or an unsafe home situation. The goal of foster care is reunification with the biological parents; however, sometimes reunification is not possible. If that’s the case, a child may come up for adoption.
As a foster parent, you will have the first chance to adopt a child should they become available for adoption. Foster adoption is also one of the least expensive options and reimbursements are often available as long as you meet your state’s guidelines. Check with your state foster care program if you want to know more about reimbursement programs and the cost of foster adoption.
Because foster parents are needed in many states, caseworkers will allow some health problems as long as they don’t interfere with your ability to parent a child. That being said, it’s important to realistically look at your situation and consider whether you are equipped with adequate support to parent a child who might have additional needs. Many of the children in foster care have experienced their own issues, including trauma, abuse, or neglect. Because of this, they may have additional issues that can be taxing on parents. Although the foster care system provides things like respite support, as well as classes and training to help parents know how to deal with these issues, it still can be exhausting and overwhelming. If your health issues take up much of your time and resources, then this is an issue to consider. Are you capable of parenting while dealing with health issues? Do you have the energy? Do you become easily stressed? Will the stress affect your health? It’s important to consider all these things before becoming a foster or adoptive parent.
International adoption is another option for hopeful adoptive parents. However, if you do have issues regarding your health, you’ll want to check into each country’s requirements before starting any international adoption program. Some countries may restrict you from adopting if you have a certain health diagnosis. For example, countries like South Korea have, in the past, been strict with their health requirements for adoptive parents. Although you might be restricted from one country, another country might openly accept your request to adopt.
In order to figure out which country might be right for you, talk with an adoption agency who specializes in international adoption. They should be able to provide you with the guidelines and help you select the right country.
If you pursue international adoption, there are many of the same requirements as domestic adoption and several key differences. You will begin your international adoption with the home study, just like domestic adoption. Once you complete your international home study, you will prepare your dossier with the help of your adoption agency. This includes the necessary paperwork that will be sent to the country that you’re adopting from. It’s important to begin with an adoption agency that specializes in the country that you are choosing because they must be licensed to do adoptions in the country. Once your dossier is sent to that country, you’ll wait to be matched with a child who is available for adoption. Your country will review your paperwork, choose a child, and notify your adoption agency. Eventually, you’ll be able to meet your child, whether that’s in your child’s home country or in the United States to finalize the adoption.
Your Health History
No matter which program you select, it’s important to understand your own health history and how that could impact the future. Adopted children need support, love, and care like any child, but there are several other issues to consider. Some children may have some special issues that require extra time and patience. Other children have significant trauma to work through. Adjustments will need to be made when your child comes home. Many adopted children have issues with trauma, so educate yourself on the strategies and tools you’ll need to work with your child. Having a health issue does not keep you from adopting, but it’s good to consider whether you can parent and adopt a child given your health condition.
If your health issues may become more severe over time, like chronic conditions, it’s good to consider the ramifications upon your child. Talking with an adoption agency may help you understand some of the concerns while they give you guidance and support. Also, consider joining one of the parent forms so you can connect with hopeful adoptive parents who may be going through a similar issue. Our forums are available to guide you through your adoptive parenting journey, no matter where you are in the process.
No matter what journey you decide to take, know that no parent can predict the future or know how their health will turn out. Adoption agencies do not expect parents to be perfect, because ultimately, we will all face health problems down the road. If you feel like adoption is the right fit for your family, continuing pursuing this option. Many people with health issues have adopted and are thriving as a family.
Sara R. Ward is a writer, adoption advocate, and mom to three children through adoption. Her passion is helping adoptive parents and those who struggle with infertility and grief on her blog PoetsandSaints. Sara writes about parenting, marriage, and faith and has a book coming out in 2019. Follow Sara on Facebook or Instagram @SaraRWard.