International adoptees often arrive in the U.S. with an incomplete birth certificate and medical history, thus questions arise as to the child's accurate date of birth. As a result, pediatricians are often called upon to render an age determination based on standard measures, such as dental eruption and radiographic bone age.I've known parents who had their adopted child's age changed, some based on medical evidence that the given birth date is likely inaccurate and some based on an assessment that the child was developmentally delayed and needed to be thought of as younger to allow for catch-up.
When making an age determination, a difference of a few weeks or months will not matter as much in children under the age of 1. But for an older adoptee, age determination could influence placement in school, wrote Veronnie Jones, MD, PhD, and colleagues on the AAP Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care.
Delaying any changes on the birth certificate more than a year after adoption allows for "catch-up growth" and extended observation of the child's physical and emotional development, they wrote in a clinical report in Pediatrics.
That second reason strikes me as problematic, for once the child catches up, they are still physically older than their records indicate. That would be an advantage in everything from Little League to behavior expectations in school. And that added year may be a serious disadvantage, too, as this article (where an international adoptee is charged with statutory rape, and there's a question as to his actual age, which would make a difference in whether he is in fact guilty) illustrates.
I'm not generally in favor of changing anything in the child's history before adoption, it just creates a false history, and we already do plenty of that with fake birth certificates. I see the role of adoptive parents as preserving that history, not altering it. But what if there's reason to believe that history prior to adoption has already been falsified? Does that make a difference?
There's some uncertainty as to my children's actual birthdates. Maya's birthdate was estimated in China, and the evidence that suggests Zoe's birthdate may have been fabricated. Still, it's likely that if their birthdates are off, they are only off by days, not months or years, so I think we're luckier than many. . . .