International, nontraditional adoptions pose challenges to families

American families that adopt children from other countries, as well as same-sex couples who adopt, typically do so in order to create or enhance a family, as well as to provide a better life for the youngsters. Even with the best intentions, however, they face plenty of challenges and potential pratfalls, according to a Penn State researcher.

Lita Linzer Schwartz, distinguished professor emerita of educational psychology at Penn State's Abington Campus near Philadelphia, says those evaluating whether an international adoption is right for them first need to consider the question all potential adoptive parents must ask 'will we be able to accept and love the child as our own?' Once the couple answers this question affirmatively, so begins the long and winding road that often is international adoption.

"First you have to understand who the intermediary is in the adoption process and make sure whoever you are going through to adopt is reputable," said Schwartz, co-editor of a new book titled, "Welcome Home! An International and Nontraditional Adoption Reader." "Then you want to have a pretty good idea of which countries are letting kids out to be adopted. A recent problem happened in parts of China, where many couples trying to adopt children had trouble getting children out of the country due to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic. You also have to realize that some countries have residency requirements for those adopting native children."

Another step for parents is obtain medical records of the child dating back to birth, if possible, so they can identify potential problems the child might have, and provide vital information for a new doctor or pediatrician once the child arrives in the United States. Schwartz notes that, while adopting a child with serious medical issues may pose too great a challenge for some, children with minor health problems can often see vast improvement once they get good quality health care that is ava

Contact: Vicki Fong
Penn State

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