Sunday, February 28, 2016
Can a person with a history of chronic or severe medical illness adopt? The answer is “YES.”
Individuals and couples who are medically stable can adopt. If you have a history of a severe, life-threatening or chronic illness, you will be asked to provide a doctor’s letter indicating your medical status and that they see no reason why you would be not be able to meet the responsibilities of parenting. A doctor’s letter typically includes the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Some require the doctor to state that they expect you to live to the child’s majority (age 16).
But getting a doctor’s support in pursuing an adoption is only part of the process. In addition, you will need to explore how any medical or physical limitations would affect your ability to meet a child’s daily needs or interfere in their emotional, physical or social development.
During the application phase of the adoption process, you will have to share your medical history and status with attorneys or adoption agencies. You will also need to examine this in more detail with the adoption social worker conducting your homestudy.
Each adoptive parent must show he or she is medically stable and has the physical and emotional stamina to meet a child’s needs. You need to have taken time to accept and adjust to any medical diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
You need to have explored your support system as it relates to helping you with childrearing should you have a recurrence or your symptoms or illness worsens. How you have accepted your illness and resolved its implications on your life and lifestyle demonstrate to the social worker your resilience and coping skills.
Raising a child is physically taxing. You are in constant motion, probably not getting enough sleep and keeping up with your child’s ever changing needs and schedules. You have to consider who would be there to assist you in accomplishing these daily tasks, temporarily or permanently, should you become unable to perform them.
Finally there is the child to consider. Adoption involves loss - your loss of a biological child and –your child’s loss of a birth family. For a child, worrying about losing another parent may be overwhelming and result in psychological and developmental delays. They may be resistant to go to school or other social events if it means they will not be with you. They may worry every time you sneeze or “look tired”.
I have heard the argument that anyone could be hit by a car and die, leaving a child without a parent. And I agree. It would be devastating and lead to many changes and rearrangements in a child’s life. The difference is that living with a chronic condition or the threat of a recurring life threatening illness is like living with a constant question mark over one’s head - if and when it will happen again.
However with all the challenges, parenting is joyful and wonderful. So plan for the best, but keep an eye on dealing with anything that life may throw your way.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program from March 1992 to March 2015. She is Head Writer for Adoption.net, member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and has a private practice in New York City. She was a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.