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October 20, 2006 10:30 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I would eventually like to adopt a child - not immediately but some year soon. I am wondering if my medical history would effect my chances/application?

In the past I have had the following - eating disorder related depression (Paxil) (aged 16-18 or so), an abortion (when I was 19), and depression yet again at age 20 - more paxil for a year. For the second bout of depression I didn't feel it was related to the termination, more university related stress ubt my doctor may have thought otherwise. I know that medical checks and history are required (at this stage I haven't delved too much into the requirements of the adoption process) - because I don't want to get too eager about this if it simply not going to happen because of my medical past. I'm 25 now....
And my partner? He doesn't even get colds - so he's fine, I can't remember the last time he saw a doctor! We will be married etc etc when we do attempt to adopt but this is a will my health past screw this up question.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Before you can adopt, you must go through a state-mandated "homestudy". During this a social worker will come to your home and extensively interview you, trying to ascertain your fitness to adopt.

You will have to jump through hoops to get this woman (they're almost exclusively female) to like you. If you have lots in common - race, religion, social status, age, etc., it may be easy. If you don't, it won't.

Some social workers are nice. Many are the sort of petty tyrants that bureaucracies seem to breed.

Anything you say during that homestudy can be used against you. Depression and eating disorders will be red flags to almost any social worker. An abortion should not be, but might, especially if the social worker is anti-abortion.

The social worker will be curious as to why you are adopting rather than procreating yourself.

So, in summary: you will either have an easy time with a sympathetic nice social worker or a terrible time with a nasty one who grills you or you might even have a terrible time with a nasty one who then turns down your adoption application.

I'm sorry I can't be more specific. Homestudy experiences are dependent entirely on the social worker. Your mental health WILL come up as a consideration but it should not be a disqualifier, assuming you really are reasonably well-prepared for parenting at the current time.
posted by jellicle at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

A lot is going to depend on where your adoptoin takes place and what channels you'll go through to find your adopted child.

Oregon, for example, allows single parents and same sex couples to adopt children through the state system without any hassle. Florida is much more restrictive. Finding a child anonymously through the child welfare department will be different from an open adoption, where you may get to meet his/her mother during her pregnancy. State laws aren't all you have to worry about if you're looking to adopt from Russia, China or a Latin American country.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2006

If your adoption is international, you will find that some countries have specific laws regarding depression. Some countries seem to be far more predjudiced about depression than some others. In our case, we had to be careful to show the anti-depressant meds were for OCD rather than depression.

However, the bottom line is that most countries and agencies will accept the social worker's recommendation about you.

What I've seen suggests that one reason social workers ask about why you are adopting rather than procreating is that some people start the process and then get pregnant, which is what they wanted all along. It saves a lot of work and hassle to just avoid the issue if the adoptive parents are going into it thinking the adopted child is some sort of second choice.
posted by Invoke at 11:22 AM on October 20, 2006

I work on the fringes of this area. It's complicated and differs from country to country, and obviously as an anonymous questioner we don't know where you are. My guess would be that a history of depression won't lead to an automatic no, but that you will need to show you had some understanding of the causes of your depression, strategies for managing it if if recurs, and that your partner is equally aware. In this country most social workers are fairly liberal and an abortion would be very unlikely to be an issue, but I can't speak about other countries.

I realise you don't want to look into it too much in case you get too eager, but I don't think you are going to get a definitive answer on the internet, and some research might make you more able to assess whether it's likely to be the right decision for you, and therefore stop you becoming too eager if it's not going to happen. There are lots of books, including those for people just starting to think about the process - here's a UK one.
posted by paduasoy at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2006

China is becoming increasingly strict with regards to people with depression in their medical history. The CCAA does not view depression as a treatable condition and won't hesitate to refuse children to folks with histories like yours. They are also starting to come down hard on people with high BMIs and various physical disabilities. Also, the wait for Chinese adoption has grown dramatically in the past year. When we signed up, it was supposed to take 5-7 months. We are at month 16 and still waiting. People who have signed up more recently are looking at a minimum of two years.
posted by daveleck at 1:41 PM on October 20, 2006

the homestudy is not something you should be worrying about at this early point, nor is it something you should ever worry about too much. everyone stresses over it, and it is an important part of the process, but i have to raise a strong objection to the previous comment that "Anything you say during that homestudy can be used against you." you are not on trial!

homestudy workers are there to make sure you have room for a crib and no body parts in your freezer, they're not an army of cranky spinstresses bent on keeping you from starting a family.

your medical history may come up, but it's not like no one with a history of depression has ever adopted before. if you can address any reasonable concerns that might be raised and demonstrate that you & your partner have a stable relationship & home, i'd say you're off to a good start.

go to a few informational meetings with adoption agencies in your area, educate yourself about state laws and procedures, figure out what adoption route you want to take. start here, it's got a ton of good info and personal stories for people considering or just beginning the adoption process (and it's free): The Adoption Guide
posted by sonofslim at 2:16 PM on October 20, 2006

My husband and I just had our homestudy approved. Our case worker was wonderful, which I'm sure made a big difference; as a mental health professional, she believes that more people should get therapy and doesn't think that in itself should count against you in the adoption process. We both have health problems (infertility and PCOS for me, other stuff for him) for which we see specialists. We had to get extra documentation from them to confirm that both of us have normal life expectancy. Basically, if you have a medical condition, they want to know that it's being managed. (BTW, this is in Virginia, and we are adopting domestically through an agency.)
posted by candyland at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2006

The amount and type of information different agencies require for their homestudies can vary--we walked away from one agency because their homestudy included overly-invasive questions like a list of prescriptions, and bank statements for three months, things like that. The agency we ended up working with just asked our doctors to sign a letter saying we didn't have any medical conditions that would make us unable to raise a child; no details were requested at all (and they were much less invasive about financial info as well).

I had post-partum depression after the birth of our first son, which didn't recur after the second one. A letter from my therapist saying that I had sought treatment and treatment was effective was sufficient for us to be accepted.

The longer in your past the depression is, as well, the better. You say you're 25 and plan to adopt in a few years, maybe--by that time, depression when you were 20 will be ancient history.

Much depends on the type of adoption you're doing, in what state (you don't have to adopt in the state you're in--we're doing an adoption in another state because we prefer their rules about revocations--how long birth mothers have to re-claim a baby that has been placed for adoption), from what country, and so on.

If you want to adopt a healthy white newborn in the U.S., you'll run up against a high level of restriction, such as having to document infertility. There are few of those babies compared to the demand for them, and the agencies can be darned selective. Other types of adoption are often less restrictive, though as has been said above, foreign countries may have their own restrictions.

Having just been through a home study, I don't see any need to disclose an abortion. They didn't ask us for a complete medical history--they asked if we had any conditions that meant we couldn't raise a child. Had I had an abortion in the past, I would have felt entirely comfortable not mentioning it.

You can often choose your social worker, by the way. Indirectly by choosing your agency, but also sometimes individually. We ultimately did--our home study was done by my best friend of over 20 years, who is a licensed social worker. Many lesbians we know share information about what agencies and workers are supportive of lesbians adopting, for instance, or which agencies are willing to work with lesbian couples but present one of them as a "single woman" for international adoptions. If you started hanging out in adoption forums or joined e-mail lists, you could probably find out from people who have similar mental health histories to yours which agencies were easy to work with, and which weren't.

You may find it reassuring to google "sample adoption home study." I did when I was early in the research process!
posted by not that girl at 5:06 PM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can think of three women right off the bat who have far more substantial psychiatric histories than you who have adopted internationally -- one from China, one from Guatamala, one from Russia.

The conditions and treatments you mention are very common. I think you will want to take care in approaching your home study, and do research on which agencies to use and how to "package" yourself (through networks of adoptive parents, which are widely available). But I would not assume that your conditions/histories will be an absolute bar.

FWIW, I was licensed as a foster parent and disclosed ongoing treatment for depression. They made me give them a release to speak to my therapist, but it was no big deal. (Other than it seemed sort of silly given the rest of my profile, including 11 years at the same employer and other signs of boring stability.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:23 PM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

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