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Adoption Medicine Clinic team helps children and families achieve success

When and why should a family visit the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic? Expert Judith Eckerle, MD, answers frequently asked questions for children and families.

For years, the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic has helped children meet growth and development milestones. Now, the clinic has some growth of its own to announce.

This summer, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) awarded a $1.7 million grant to the Adoption Medicine Clinic. This funding will allow the clinic to hire new care providers and double its capacity—all so that we can see up to 500 more children each year.

The Adoption Medicine Clinic care team provides a range of services, from Comprehensive Child Well-Being Assessments to nutrition support to sensory processing screenings.

When and why should you consider bringing your child for care at the Adoption Medicine Clinic? We asked Adoption Medicine Physician Judith Eckerle, MD, to explain.

Why should I bring my child to the Adoption Medicine Clinic?

Often, children who have been adopted or who have received foster care have experienced early adversity or trauma. This can include disrupted relationships to primary caregivers, inconsistent care, neglect, abuse, exposure to toxic substances such as drugs or alcohol, poor nutrition or other issues.  

These experiences may cause growth or development delays. For these children, early interventions help them cope, heal and thrive.

The Adoption Medicine Clinic at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital offers comprehensive care for children who are adopted or in foster care. Learn more about our services.

When should a child who has been adopted or received foster care be seen at the clinic?

As soon as possible. We hear from many families that children who have been adopted or who have received foster care seem to reach a crisis point during late childhood and adolescence. While we are happy to see older children in our clinic, our team encourages adoptive families to visit the clinic early so that we can establish routine care and create a baseline for each child. Our experts can help parents address issues before they become a serious challenge that interferes with day-to-day life. A Comprehensive Child Well-Being Assessment can help us evaluate these physical and behavioral challenges, and serves as a crucial component of our care plan.

What is a Comprehensive Child Well-Being Assessment and how is it different from other doctor appointments?

Our comprehensive assessment includes:

The medical and developmental assessment will take two to three hours. On the basis of this assessment, our team may provide a diagnosis and refer a child and his or her family to additional specialists as needed.

As part of this assessment, children may also receive a mental health screening from a team led by Pediatric Psychologist Maria Kroupina, PhD. This includes a review of a child’s trauma history and early stress experience. This screening may take up to an hour.

A Comprehensive Child Well-Being Assessment isn’t just for the child—it’s for the entire family and care team. When parents and caregivers understand the needs of the child they are empowered to make changes that support healthy development.

Who should come to the child’s appointment?

If feasible and appropriate, we encourage everyone who will be a primary caregiver for the child—including biological, foster or adoptive parents; legal guardians; or social workers—to participate in the appointment. Parents and caregivers who understand a child’s needs are often better prepared to meet those needs, which increases the likelihood that child will successfully meet his or her goals.

How often should a child be seen at the AMC?

The Adoption Medicine Clinic does not provide primary care, such as treatment for a strep throat, flu or other common condition. However, we can partner with a family’s primary care doctor to supplement care and suggest additional interventions or services as appropriate. We typically recommend that children be seen every one to two years at the Adoption Medicine Clinic. At the end of each visit, our care team will also suggest when the family should consider scheduling another follow-up appointment.

What else do you want families to know?

The Adoption Medicine Clinic is not an adoption agency and our care team does not facilitate adoptions or the placement of children in foster care. Instead, we are experts in providing specialized medical, emotional and developmental care for children who have been adopted or who have received foster care. We evaluate the whole child and help loving families build plans that address physical or developmental needs and promote the success of each child.