Health of children adopted from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Comparison with preadoptive medical records

JAMA. 1997 Sep 17;278(11):922-4.


Context: Children born in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are now a main source of international adoptions in the United States, but often little information is available about these children prior to adoption.

Objective: To analyze the preadoptive medical reports of children adopted from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and to compare these reports with their evaluations after arrival in the United States.

Design: Case series.

Subjects and setting: A total of 56 children adopted from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union were evaluated in 2 international adoption clinics. Preadoptive medical records were available for 47 of these children.

Results: There were 43 (91%) of 47 medical reports available from the children's birth countries that included multiple unfamiliar neurologic diagnoses. Evaluations in the International Adoption Clinics frequently revealed growth delays (zscore < or = -1 for weight in 44% of children, height in 68%, and head circumference in 43%). Children had 1 month of linear growth lag for every 5 months in an orphanage (r=-0.48, P<.001). Developmental delays were also common (gross motor delays in 70% of children, fine motor in 82%, language in 59%, and social-emotional in 53%). While serious medical problems were found or corroborated in 11 (20%) of the 56 children evaluated in our clinics, neurologic diagnoses cited in preadoptive medical reports were not confirmed.

Conclusions: Preadoptive medical records from these international adoptees included multiple diagnoses suggesting severe neurologic impairment. Although these diagnoses were not confirmed when the children were evaluated in the United States, substantial growth and developmental delays were identified.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adoption*
  • Child
  • Child, Institutionalized*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Europe, Eastern
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical Records*
  • USSR
  • United States