Adoption and Genetics: Understanding the Importance of Health Histories

African American adoptive family

As an adoptive parent, it will be important to prioritize the medical history needs of your adoptee. Unlike biological children, many adoptees may have unknown family medical histories. For international adoptees, there may be incredibly limited information available regarding biological parents and limited options in attaining medical data from them. Regardless of the type of adoption, open, close or semi open, prioritizing knowing and attaining information about your adoptee’s medical history when possible is very important. 

Here are some of the key reasons adoptees need health history information: 

Medical Information

Knowing the health history of biological parents can provide valuable information about any hereditary medical conditions or genetic predispositions that the adoptee may inherit. This information can be crucial for preventive healthcare measures, early detection, and management of potential health risks.

Diagnostic and Treatment Purposes

Access to biological family health history can aid medical professionals in diagnosing and treating any health issues that may arise. It can provide insights into patterns of diseases or conditions that run in the family, enabling more personalized and effective medical care.

Psychological and Emotional Well-being

Understanding one’s genetic background and familial health history can contribute to an adoptee’s sense of identity and belonging. It can help them make sense of any health challenges they face and provide a greater sense of control over their own health outcomes

When it is not possible to gain information regarding biological family medical history, having your adoptee do a yearly physical will be appropriate. As an adoptive parent, it will be your responsibility to advocate for your adoptee’s needs in the doctor’s office until they are able to do so for themselves. This means making sure your child’s doctor understands the needs of adopted patients, the nuances of adoption and is prepared to navigate them. 

When your adoptee is in high school or college, it will be in their best interest to do yearly checkups, recommended medical screenings, and bloodwork. Additionally, when your adoptee is able to make medical appointments independently, encourage them to find a provider they feel safe sharing necessary adoption information and even their concerns about their lack of family history with, as many doctors will not understand the unique needs of adoptees. 

While it can be very hard emotionally for adoptees to have unknown family history, encouraging them to take ownership of their health and well-being will be important while also holding space for the challenges of not knowing. As an adoptive parent, approach conversations about health history with empathy and openness as this can be a sensitive topic for adoptees. 

By: Ramya Gruneisen

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Angel Adoption, Inc. provides marketing and advertising services that assist biological parents considering adoption and prospective adoptive parents to connect with each other, and provides support and referral services throughout the process. Angel Adoption, Inc. is an independent contractor and provides services under the supervision of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, License #012998, One Oakbrook Terrace, #501, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181; 708-771-7180.