Adopted children are three times more likely to develop physical and mental health disabilities than kids raised by their biological parents, U.S. researchers found.The adoption stats are part of a larger annual study about child well-being. The report has a special adoption section this year, which focuses on more than health issues. In the intro it says:
Nearly 45 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 who were adopted from foster care homes developed moderate to severe health problems, compared with 14 percent of all youth in the age group, according a report released today by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The most common conditions were learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
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Attention deficit disorder affected 20 percent of foster care adoptees, and 16 percent suffered from behavior and conduct problems. Only four percent of all children, adopted and those living with biological parents, suffered from attention deficit disorder, according to the report. Seven percent of children adopted from foster homes had bone and muscle problems, while one percent of all children suffered the same conditions.
“The fact that these kids may have serious problems, to a greater extent than kids born into a family, is something that we need to pay attention to,” said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics. “By no means should that be a barrier for adoption. With the new data, we hope to get feedback from researchers and lawmakers that can help ameliorate this problem.”
Because children develop best in the context of families, adoptive families are sought for children whose birth families cannot care for them. Adoption has long been and continues to be preferred over alternatives such as long term foster care or congregate care such as group homes, emergency shelters, and orphanages. Yet children who are adopted, particularly those adopted beyond the first months of life, experience disruptions in parenting that can have longstanding implications for their development and well-being. Even children adopted as infants face challenges with identity development and issues of loss and grief regarding birth parents. In addition, more than half (52 percent) of adopted children nationally have parents who think it likely that their adopted child was prenatally exposed to alcohol or other drugs, a figure that is several times higher than national statistics for alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. Those adopted at older ages may also suffer consequences of maltreatment or deprivation and trauma in the months or years prior to the adoption. Adopted children are at elevated risk for physical disabilities, adjustment problems, externalizing behaviors, conduct disorders, and attachment disorders. Even so, most adopted children thrive, and most adoptive parents report both that they would make the same adoption decisions again and that their children also feel positive about their adoption.[footnotes omitted]The report's data are from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health and the 2008 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (which I blogged about here and here); so there's nothing particularly new reported, but the synthesis is interesting.
A couple of cautionary points about the data: first, it's based on parental reporting, even when reporting about the adopted child's "satisfaction" with the adoption; and second, as always, coincidence is not equal to causation.