Overcoming obstacles with overseas adoptions

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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WILMINGTON, Del. - When the Moyer family decided they wanted to adopt a child from China, they were told a healthy child would take seven years.

"So then the other option was special needs," explained Durrell Moyer told Ivanhoe.

"And one of them was minor heart that we said we would be open to," said Heidi Moyer.

But one month after getting home the Moyers learned their new daughter's heart problem was much more serious.

"There was a doctor here that told us that day that he didn't think that she was still operable," Heidi said.

Their daughter Bryn nearly died during her two surgeries. Dr. Deborah Davis was on the team that helped save her.

"There was a lot of simpatico there, I would say," explained Davis, who is the Medical Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

Davis herself adopted a child with what she thought was a minor facial deformity 30 years ago. Nine surgeries later her daughter Katie, now a nurse, is okay.

"[But] I think that we would all admit if we are honest with ourselves, that ‘woah, we didn't really bargain for all this,'" she said.

That's why Dr. Kate Cronan, a pediatrician, also at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, cautions families to always ask for medical records, but know it may not be correct.

"If at all possible, I would tell families, ask for a video," Cronan said.

You can have your pediatrician or an adoption consultant review the record and video, then conference call the overseas doctor with questions.

"So I don't think parents should go into this thinking, like ‘I'm just lucky to get a child and I shouldn't ask any questions,' because it's not true," said Cronan.

Once back in the country, Cronan recommends taking your child to a pediatrician for a thorough examination. She may know better than most, she also adopted her daughter with a medical need from overseas.

For a checklist of what to bring to your first doctor's visit in the U.S., log onto healthychildren.org.

In 2010, 11,059 children were adopted from other countries by American families. As overseas adoptions are becoming more common, families are learning how many steps are involved. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The Hague Adoption Convention was an international agreement reached on May 29, 1993, but the United States didn't sign it until the following year and didn't come into full effect until 2008.  The agreement set certain standards for adoptions taking place between countries party to the convention.  Currently, 79 countries are part of the agreement and any adoption between any of these countries is governed by the convention's standards. A few of the convention's requirements are: countries must create a central agency to be the point of contact for adoptions, countries have to aim to prevent abduction and child trafficking, and provides an official Hague adoption certificate to any adoption taking place.
  • In the United States, as part of the Hague Convention's standards, the U.S. Department of State through the Bureau of Consular Affairs office created an Intercountry Adoption webpage with information about adopting overseas. The website (adoption.state.gov) provides those interested in overseas adoptions information about cost, deciding where to adopt from, as well as the appropriate adoption forms including those of the Hague Convention.
  • Other government offices offer information about adopting overseas.  These include the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Source: adoption.state.gov/adoption_process.php)

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