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Five reasons to consider an Adoption Medicine Clinic assessment for your foster child

Comprehensive assessments can help address the medical, developmental, cognitive and mental health needs of children who have experienced early adversity.
Adoption Medicine Physician Judith Eckerle, MD, leads the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic. The clinic team specializes in providing comprehensive assessments that address the medical, developmental, cognitive and mental health needs of internationally or domestically adopted children. (Photo Courtesy Jonathan Chapman/JCP)

International or domestic adoption? It’s one of the first decisions parents must consider along their road to adoption.

No matter their place of origin, adopted children often face similar challenges. Like their international counterparts, children adopted domestically or from the United States foster care system may have been exposed to traumatic experiences or adversity, may have received inconsistent medical care or may need early behavioral intervention.

Founded in 1986, the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic has cared for children adopted internationally, domestically or from the U.S. foster care system . Over the decades, the clinic became a global leader in research, education, advocacy, and adoption medicine.

Our care team specializes in providing comprehensive assessments that address the medical, developmental, cognitive and mental health needs of children who have experienced early adversity from lack of permanency, trauma, abuse and neglect.

We asked Adoption Medicine Physician Judy Eckerle, MD, to share five reasons why the parents of foster children or children adopted from within the United States should consider having an assessment. Here’s what she had to say:

Children who experience foster care and adoption may have multiple risk factors that can cause delays in physical and cognitive development and mental health.

These risk factors may include prenatal substance exposure(s) and stress, nutritional deficiencies, lead poisoning, exposure to neglect or trauma, lack of opportunity and other potential challenges. These experiences may affect speech, learning, strength, and coordination—or a child’s everyday life skills, such as getting dressed, tying shoes, or writing. A child’s ability to self-regulate their behavior, mood, and energy throughout their day may also be adversely affected. Studies show that many children in the foster care system have unaddressed medical issues. With proper assessment and treatment, we can decrease the risk of future medical and emotional health needs and other social risks.

Children in foster care and those adopted may not have had consistent medical care to address their often complicated histories

The Adoption Medicine Clinic’s team of pediatric specialists—including a pediatrician and developmental therapists—will provide a comprehensive assessment of the child’s family, medical and developmental history (when available). Our team will also conduct a medical exam including lab work, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) screening and an assessment of developmental skills. This will help identify the child’s needs providing current diagnosis and referrals whenever possible.

Learn more about our Adoption Medicine Clinic services.

The Adoption Medicine Clinic will provide your family with a road map of next steps.

We provide education for parents, a children’s primary care doctor, caregivers and staff about the child’s needs. We also provide home and school programming recommendations, including suggestions to incorporate into home routines or special learning plans. We can help referrals to other appropriate specialists and resources as needed: 
  • Psychology and mental health
  • Physical rehabilitation, speech or occupational therapy
  • Hearing, vision, dental care
  • Neuropsychology
  • Genetics

When parents and caregivers understand the needs of their child, they are better prepared to meet those needs and help their child thrive. 

Research clearly shows that it is beneficial for parents to understand a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Once a child’s medical and emotional needs are known, they can be addressed to the best of our abilities. Helping families, schools and providers understand a child is the greatest way we can help them reach their potential.

The earlier we can intervene, the greater chance we have to minimize future challenges. 

Academic or behavioral struggles may become more apparent as children grow older or advance to the next grade level. Waiting to seek help until puberty or later can complicate underlying issues.

For example, an undiagnosed medical condition left untreated can further exacerbate potential problems and compound physical or cognitive delays. In other instances, children may receive a diagnosis or treatment that does not seem to help—or may even hinder the child.

These scenarios are not uncommon for children who experience early adversity, trauma and abuse. While seeking help at the earliest point is ideal, we can assess a child or a young adult at any point in his or her development. After an assessment, families are encouraged to return to our clinic for regular check-ins and follow up care. Parents can also seek our advice if they have new or ongoing concerns that have not been resolved. The Adoption Medicine Clinic offers a team of experts to identify and meet a child’s needs.

Read Minnesota Monthly’s feature on Adoption Medicine Physician Judy Eckerle, MD, and the Adoption Medicine Clinic.

Call to schedule an appointment at 612-365-6777.