Adopted children are not unlike other children when it comes to growth and development; however, they often experience many challenges that biological children do not. These challenges can cause many different kinds of issues throughout their lives. Typically, birth parents do not have extensive developmental evaluations done unless a problem occurs. This is because birth parents have the luxury of having personal and familial medical information whereas adoptive parents do not always have this luxury. Because of the lack of information, it is important for adoptive children to undergo a developmental evaluation early in life.
A developmental evaluation is an assessment of a child’s overall development. It measures their performance and how it relates to other children of the same age. Testing includes the measuring of physical capabilities, language, intelligence, and social and emotional skills. Typically a team of professionals will administer tests to ensure accurate outcomes. These evaluations will also come with recommendations to help the child continue to make positive strides toward normal development.
Adopted children often come into their new homes with unknown information related to their pre-adoptive life. The following four reasons explain why a developmental evaluation is necessary to help understand a child’s current level of functioning and future development.
Losing a parent is traumatic; however, for many adoptive children, it doesn’t stop there. Poor living conditions, abuse, and neglect are just some of the traumatic experiences a child can face in their birth homes. Trauma can come in many different forms and can manifest in children in many different ways. It is extremely important to know as much about the child’s history as possible at adoption. Presenting this information at the developmental evaluation can provide the assessment team with valuable knowledge for future development.
2. Drug and Alcohol Exposure
Children exposed to drugs or alcohol prenatally have a higher probability of experiencing developmental delays. Gaining an initial baseline at adoption is invaluable to indicate normal growth and development patterns. Drugs and alcohol can cause issues such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other physical, mental, and emotional issues.
Our genes play a huge role in who we are and what we will become. Genetics are not only about how your adopted child looks, but also how he or she grows and develops. If you are lucky enough to know the birth parents, gather as much information as possible about their medical and mental health histories. This information plays a crucial role in your child’s life. In cases where birth family information is not known, the developmental evaluation will create a baseline of information to compare to later on if your child begins to have difficulty.
4. Troubled pregnancy
Having a child whose birth mother experienced difficulties during her pregnancy could fit under the umbrella of trauma. However, the issue is so important that it requires its own heading. Many do not realize how in utero trauma can be detrimental to a child’s healthy development. Women who place their babies for adoption are typically under a lot of stress during their pregnancies. These stressors can include teen pregnancy, homelessness, lack of proper nourishment, domestic violence, and more. Stress alone can cause a baby’s body to be flooded with cortisol. Cortisol, simply defined, is the stress chemical that creates the fight, flight, or freeze reaction in a stressful situation. Additionally, cortisol regulates a person’s blood pressure, energy levels, sleep/wake cycles, and how your body controls weight. Studies are showing that high levels of cortisol produce reduced fetal growth. A fetus exposed to an extreme amount of cortisol can develop mood disorders such as anxiety or depression later in life.
Now imagine a birth mother who is not receiving proper nutrition or prenatal care, is homeless or has other medical conditions. All of these factors play a role in fetal development which can leave a lasting effect on the child you are adopting.
Often, children who have been adopted struggle with adjustment issues, sometimes other issues can arise. In these cases, developmental evaluations can also be helpful if child behavioral issues that might occur. If you have concerns that your child may not be on track with other children their age, contact your pediatrician and express your concerns.