2 KC hospitals launching clinics for children adopted from overseas

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Children from some countries have falsified medical information.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two local hospitals are launching clinics to help the specific needs of children who were adopted from overseas.

Internationally adopted children often bring health problems with them, including parasites, attachment difficulties, developmental delays, hepatitis and feeding issues.

Children's Mercy Hospital has launched a clinic for them, and the University of Kansas Hospital plans to follow suit in early September.

Many children arrive with "a background of malnourishment and lack of stimulation, a lack of medical care," said Dianne Atteberry, director of the Kansas City branch of the Children's Hope International adoption agency. Atteberry has firsthand familiarity with such problems. Besides three biological children, she raises three adopted children.

The Children's Mercy clinic, which now is being conducted twice a month in the hospital's infectious-disease clinic, will draw on a variety of professionals, including a general pediatrician and specialists in infectious diseases, behavior, and development. Other services will be provided by a nurse practitioner, hearing and speech specialists, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, and nutritionists.

A similar clinic at the University of Minnesota found that more than half of internationally adopted children have at least one previously unidentified medical problem, usually related to infectious disease, said Doug Swanson, a core member of the team and an infectious disease specialist.

Evaluating children upon arrival is one of the main services that will be provided at both Kansas City clinics. Both plan to offer pre-adoption assessments to people who are considering adopting a child from overseas as well. Typically, potential adoptive parents receive a limited amount of information about a child they are considering, including a medical report, photos or a DVD, and descriptions from caretakers at an orphanage or foster home.

People usually have two days to commit to adopting a child. In the interim, they're scrambling to get a medical assessment of the child.

The two doctors organizing the new clinic at the University of Kansas Hospital, Jo Ann Harris and Kirsten Evans, both have experience treating internationally adopted children.

There's a lot to know to effectively treat these children, Evans said. Peculiarities vary between children from one country to another.

For example, Russian children often come with phony diagnoses because until recently, the nation's limited health-care resources were allocated to those who could claim the most severe conditions, Evans said. In some countries, records indicate that children have been vaccinated when there's no sign of antibodies in their blood.

There's no central databank on the care of international adoptees, Evans said, but as the number of clinics grows, more experts emerge.

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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