- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2001

Adopting a child from overseas can bring paperwork, travel expenses and, ultimately, joy.

It also can bring a child with an incomplete medical history or complex medical issues into the United States. Doctors with the University of Virginia Health System recently opened a clinic to help families who are undergoing international adoption get advice, guidance and treatment.

"We are able to offer information from a medical, developmental and educational standpoint," says Dr. Linda Waggoner-Fountain, a pediatrician and co-founder of the clinic, which is located at the Kluge Children´s Rehabilitation Center, part of the university´s Children´s Medical Center in Charlottesville.

"A lot of people were going to several different places to get this information," Dr. Waggoner-Fountain says. "We are trying to integrate all that."

The clinic, which opened Jan. 9, is the first of its kind in Virginia.

Foreign adoptions have doubled in the past decade, Dr. Waggoner-Fountain says, and she and her colleagues often were consulted to decipher medical records or symptoms that could indicate an unusual health problem.

Doctors have seen about 16 patients and have been consulted by another half-dozen families who are preparing to go overseas to adopt. Some families receive a videotape of their child before going abroad. Staff at the Virginia clinic can help point out potential medical or developmental problems by watching the tape.

Upon the family´s return to the United States, the clinic´s doctors look for and treat problems more often found in developing countries.

"Anywhere there is a breakdown in traditional medicine, we see some illnesses that are unique to those areas and some that are not," Dr. Waggoner-Fountain says. "It is also challenging when you don´t know the mother´s prenatal history."

Infectious disease such as hepatitis B and C is common in some children, she says. Rickets, rare in the United States, often is found in children who had inadequate nutrition and sunlight.

Children coming from orphanages sometimes have developmental issues, behavioral issues or motor problems, so the clinic has a staff occupational therapist to work on those issues, Dr. Waggoner-Fountain says.

Dr. Mark Mendelsohn, associate professor of clinical pediatrics and co-director of the clinic, says most children overcome those health problems if treated promptly.

Jennifer White, a nurse in the U.Va. Health System, recently adopted a girl from China. After receiving a photo and a medical report that was short on developmental information and difficult to interpret, she consulted doctors at the university. They were able to help her interpret the available information and reassure her about the baby´s healthy development.

"You ask as many questions as you can, but ultimately it is a leap of faith," Ms. White says.

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