, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 599-605
Date: 22 Aug 2007

Health of Children Adopted from Ethiopia

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Abstract

Objectives Since 2000, American families have adopted 1,700 children from Ethiopia. Little is known about the health and development of these children. Patients and Methods Retrospective chart review of the arrival health status of all 50 (26F:24M) children from Ethiopia/Eritrea seen in the International Adoption Clinic. Results Prior to adoption, most children resided with relatives; 36% were >18 months old prior to entry into care. More than 50% were true orphans, often due to HIV. Arrival age ranged from 3 months to 15 years (mean ± SD 4 years ± 43.8 months). At arrival, growth z scores were near-average (weight −.59, height −.64, head circumference −.09); significantly better than adopted children Guatemala, China, or Russia seen in our clinic. However, some Ethiopian children were significantly growth delayed (WAZ ≤−2, 8%, HAZ 12%, HCZ 18%). Age at adoption did not relate to growth delays. Medical issues on arrival included intestinal parasites (53%, [14% with ≥3 types]), skin infections (45%), dental caries (25%), elevated liver transaminases (20%), latent tuberculosis (18%), and hepatitis B (2%). Age-appropriate vaccines had been administered in 15–77% of children (depending on specific vaccine). Behavior problems were uncommon. Gross/fine motor and cognitive skills were ∼86% of expected for age. Age correlated inversely with developmental scores for cognition (r = −.49, P = .003). Five children had age reassignments. Conclusions Ethiopian/Eritean adoptees differ from other groups of internationally adopted children: they reside for relatively long periods of time with relatives prior to institutionalization, often have uncertain ages, exhibit few behavioral problems at arrival, have better growth, and may have less severe developmental delays. Whether these differences at arrival predict better outcomes for the Ethiopian/Eritrean children is unknown.