Background: The number of child adoptions from abroad is increasing, but the adverse living conditions of these children prior to the adoption raise questions on their medical and neurodevelopmental status, particularly since there are no guidelines for pre- or post-adoption medical evaluation.
Objectives: To describe the condition of a cohort of young children who were candidates for adoption in East European orphanages and foster homes, and to determine those attributes associated with a family's decision to adopt or refuse a particular child.
Methods: Eighty-two young children, median age 11 months, were evaluated by Israeli pediatricians in Eastern Europe between 3 weeks and 6 months prior to their adoption. The evaluation consisted of comprehensive medical and neurodevelopmental testing on site using a battery of standardized assessment tools, and observation of free play and social interactive behaviors recorded on videotape. Laboratory tests included complete blood count, chemistries, serology screening, and metabolic and genetic testing.
Results: The children were growth-retarded. Medical problems were classified as resolved (pneumonia and diarrhea) in 32.8%; or ongoing, such as hepatitis B and (3, failure to thrive, organomegaly, and visual and hearing disorders, in 14.8%. Neuromotor status was grossly abnormal in 13.4%. Twenty-two percent of the children were rejected for adoption by families in Israel. Factors associated with the adoption decision were performance skills on developmental testing (P = 0.0001), present medical status (P = 0.002), and weight )P = 0.016(.
Conclusions: Pre-placement comprehensive screening of children eligible for foreign adoption, which includes developmental screening, helps to identify a wide variety of strengths and impairments in a child's background before the adoption procedure is finalized. A family's decision to adopt or not was associated with the child's performance on Bayley Scales, weight, and current medical status, but not with language delays, serious past medical history or suspect family background.