Today, we are featuring a piece written by Judith K. Eckerle, M.D. FAAP, Director of the Adoption Medicine Clinic (“AMC”) at the University of Minnesota. AMC is an outpatient clinic serving families with children adopted domestically, internationally, and from foster care. AMC provides pre-adoption consultations, medical reviews, travel counseling, and comprehensive post-adoption care. Their services can help prospective adoptive families consider their preferences and openness in their adoption journey.

You’ve been through the classes. You’ve filled out reams of paperwork. And now your adoption agency just provided you with a long list of medical conditions to consider for your future adoptive child. While you want to think you are open to any child, you’re not sure what the future might look like for a child with a heart condition, history of mental illness in the biological family, or prenatal substance exposure. And even with your exhaustive research via “Dr. Google,” you’re likely still unsure what some of the diagnoses mean, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). And if you have other children, what potential impact could this future child’s medical health have on them? Just looking at the form from your agency social worker, you may be feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to proceed.  Good news is that this is not uncommon.  And even better news – there are resources available that can help!

Adoption Medicine ClinicThe Adoption Medicine Clinic (AMC) at the University of Minnesota is here for you! Founded in 1986, the AMC’s mission is to help families heal children who were adopted, in foster care and advocate for those remaining in institutional care throughout the world. Here are 7 FAQs about how the AMC can help you in your pre-adoption journey:

1) How do I know what to check off in the pre-adoption checklist that the agency is asking us to fill out?

One of the services the AMC provides is called a Pre-Adoption Consultation for any family or individual planning to adopt. A pre-adoption consultation is an informative meeting with an AMC medical provider, who is an expert in adoption. During this consultation, the AMC medical provider can help you better understand all the medical conditions listed on your pre-adoption diagnoses/conditions checklist.

2) Do I have to live in Minnesota to do a pre-adoption consultation with the AMC?

No, pre-adoption consultations can take place over the phone, video chat, or in person*

*during non COVID times.

3) What can I expect from a pre-adoption consultation – will I be able to ask questions that are specific to my family?

During the consultation, the medical provider will walk you through every medical condition on the list, explaining what it means, how common it is, and what ongoing care needs will look like. This information is all tailored to your questions and concerns – the age of the child you are considering adopting, what medical issues you feel confident you can address given the resources in the area you live in, and how this child’s condition may impact your larger family. A pre-adoption consultation can help to paint a picture of the theoretical risks to consider, what day to day life might look like, and what to think about in terms of long term outcomes for each medical condition on your checklist.

4) What are some common topics covered in a domestic pre-adoption consultation?

  • Prenatal exposure to: alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opioids (including heroin, percocet, methadone, etc.), tobacco and epilepsy medications

  • History of Incest

  • Hepatitis B

  • Hepatitis C

  • HIV

  • Family history of mental illness: Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia

  • Family history of intellectual disability, ADHD, substance abuse or addiction

  • Prenatal stress

Common parent questions include, “how well will a child with X medical condition perform in school?”, or “how risky is exposure to alcohol in the first trimester versus later in pregnancy?” or “if I have a time consuming job, will I be able to properly care for the child?”, or “I have children already, how will a child with complex medical needs fit in?”.

 A pre-adoption consultation can help to answer those questions, set expectations, and guide what resources a family will need.

5) We are done with our checklist, our home study is completed and we just got our first match/referral from our agency/attorney! It is such an exciting time, but now this is feeling very REAL and now we don’t know if we are really the right match for the child we have been referred. Is there someone that can help us understand this child’s specific information?

Congratulations! The AMC also provides Pre-Adoption Medical Review to help with this step of your adoption journey. Once you receive a referral with detailed information on a child like prenatal records, social history of the birth family, lab results, medical checkups with lots of medical jargon, and maybe even birth history or pictures, you can submit the file of a specific child and birth family’s information to be reviewed by one of the AMC’s medical providers.

 6)     What can we expect to get back from the pre-adoption medical review?

 During a pre-adoption medical review, a medical provider will look at all the information in the file. The medical provider can then talk more in detail about medical conditions that the birth family or child has already been diagnosed with, the potential risk for other medical conditions, and make further recommendations in terms of questions for your agency or further testing/evaluations that may be of help in making your decision.

 7)     Once we get the initial written summary can we ask other questions or send updates?

 Following the initial pre-adoption medical review, the AMC will continue to follow along with you and your pre-adoptive child until they are brought home to join your family.  Included in the fee for the pre-adoption medical review, we are here to answer any additional questions and continue to review any updates or additional medical records you may receive while you are waiting to bring your child home. We are also happy to answer any questions you may have regarding next steps in establishing medical care for your newly adoptive child once they join your family. If you are in the Upper Midwest Region, or open to travel, we do also have a post-adoption clinic where we continue to follow adoptive children and their families as they navigate any medical, developmental or behavioral issues they may have, bringing our unique and expertise lens given the early life experience of adoption, potential adverse life events and traumas, and how that plays out as a child grows and journeys through their own developmental stages.

 For more information about the Adoption Medicine Clinic, pre-adoption consultation, and pre-adoption medical review appointments, visit: or call 612.624.1164.

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