Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 19

ADOPTION MEDICINE / FEATURE

Beyond medicine
Understanding the emotional part of adoption-for the
adoptee, the parents and the other children in the family-
is critical. When older children are involved, that can be
an even bigger challenge, as siblings adjust to the changes.
Friedman says the team's goal is to help families see everything through the child's eyes. She is sure to keep things real
when trying to help families understand what these little
adoptees may be going through.
"Let's imagine that someone just plucked you out of your
home, out of everything you've known, changed your language,
your foods," she says. "Everything smells different. People look
different. Everything has changed, and you have no idea why."
As for Featherstone, the team at CHOP makes her and her
family feel, in a word, safe. "I feel like there's someone out there
who knows and understands what my husband and I, and their
siblings, are going through, as well as the adopted child," she
says. "It's a unique type of parenting. And they know that."

A place to turn
Karen Belcher has been a pediatric nurse in Birmingham for
nearly 30 years. Today, she is the clinical program coordinator/pediatric nurse clinician with Children's of Alabama's
International Adoption Clinic. She began working with the
clinic in 2012, and she is also an adoptive parent. In fact, every
member of the adoption clinic team, which serves families
from more than 20 states and other countries, has worked in
orphanages, adoption agencies or are adoptive parents.
Belcher adopted a 7-month-old girl as a single parent in
2006. Her daughter, Julia, is from Guatemala and is now 12. At
the time of the adoption, Julia was healthy and had no other
issues. At least, not yet. Things began to turn when Julia entered school. "I started noticing something was different with
her," says Belcher, RN, CPN. "She was clearly bright and very
smart, yet she seemed to be struggling to learn some things
and was getting frustrated. I later came to find that she has
dyslexia. She has a specific learning difference."
Still, Belcher struggled with where to turn for help. "It
didn't occur to me that it had anything to do with adoption,"
she says. This is a common misperception. Even in a short
time, young international adoptees have already faced a lot
of adversity. Starting in utero, they often are exposed to maternal malnutrition, stress and a lack of prenatal care. With
that comes increased risk.
"We know that a fetus can hear sounds and can smell and
have some taste," Belcher says. "If that mother was in an
extraordinarily stressful condition, her own cortisol level
would be very high. So the baby, whose brain is developing, is
basically taking a bath in cortisol all the time. It's not good for
the brain to develop under those conditions."

After birth, these babies continue on a challenging path
that can result in a wide range of conditions later on in life.
"We have to look at how many times their lives were disrupted," says Belcher. "After they're born, some of them move into
a foster home or orphanage immediately. That's a disruption
from everything they have ever known-from everything
they have ever smelled, heard, seen or experienced. And that
alone can scramble their neuropathways a bit."
These children are at a much higher risk for developing things like learning
differences that can
impact their lives over
time. "They may struggle with something as
simple as learning to tell
time, learning to count
money, learning to tie
their shoes-things that
involve neuropathways
connecting in a certain way," Belcher says.
"They might struggle
socially or academically.
Sometimes they need
guidance on how to play
with other children."

Help for Julia
Tests revealed that Julia
was profoundly affected
by dyslexia. Belcher found
a school that focuses on
helping children with
Karen Belcher and her daughter Julia
learning differences, and
today, Julia is not only getting the support she needs but is also thriving academically.
Belcher looks back on it all with 20/20 vision. "If I had that to do
all over again, I would have come to the adoption clinic earlier,"
she says. "I would have better understood what to watch for
early on and tapped into the learning difference resources that
the clinic offers sooner."
One other thing that Belcher is crystal clear on: adoption
medicine is an underrepresented area of pediatric medicine.
"It absolutely is," she says.
Megan McDonnell Busenbark is a writer and founder and
principal of Encore Communications, LLC, in
New Fairfield, Connecticut.
Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL S TODAY Spring 2018

19



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018

Contents
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - Intro
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - Cover1
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - Cover2
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - Contents
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 2
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 3
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 4
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 5
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 6
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 7
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 8
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 9
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 10
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 11
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 12
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 13
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 14
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 15
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 16
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 17
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 18
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 19
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 20
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 21
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 22
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 23
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 24
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 25
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 26
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 27
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 28
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 29
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 30
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 31
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - 32
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - Cover3
Children's Hospitals Today - Spring 2018 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_spring_2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_winter_2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_fall_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2018spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2018winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2017fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2017summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2017spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2017winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2016fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2016summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2016spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2016winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2015fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2015summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2015spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2015winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2014fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2014summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2014spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cha/cht_2014winter
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com