Chinese orphans adopted and brought to the United States have fewer health and developmental problems than Eastern European adoptees, primarily because the Chinese adoption process is more streamlined, a pediatrics researcher said Friday.
Dr. Dana Johnson, a pediatrics professor at the University of Minnesota, presented the findings of three related studies to the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Washington."Our studies indicate that Chinese infants are as healthy as any adoptees internationally. But as they grow older in Chinese orphanages, they develop the same needs as other institutionalized children," Johnson said.
He told Reuters Chinese women tended to take fairly good care of themselves during pregnancy and typically drank less alcohol than women in Eastern European countries. Eastern European children also may have special needs because of long orphanage stays. "But in spite of these issues, most families are very happy they adopted," he said.
The 154 Chinese babies in the studies, whose ages ranged from nine to 11 months at adoption, had few problems - a few cases of hepatitis B, and a few of intestinal parasites.
Some had developmental problems but they improved rapidly after arriving in the United States, although Johnson had not yet done longer-term follow ups. They were also smaller than normal, falling behind one month of linear growth for every three months in an orphanage.
Two studies of Eastern European adoptees, who were placed at age two, found more medical and developmental problems, reflecting both the length of time in institutions and maternal health problems, he said.
Most of those children were from Russia or the countries that once made up the Soviet Union. They were not from Romanian orphanages, which were caught up in scandals of abuse and neglect a few years ago.
Their medical problems ranged from cavities and parasites to chronic ear infections and fetal alcohol syndrome. They also had more behavioral problems and more delays in development of motor, speech and social skills.