Adoption medicine -- healing the wounds of troubled children
Web posted at: 1:59 p.m. EDT (1759 GMT)
From Reporter Louse Schiavone
FALLS CHURCH, Virginia (CNN) -- Nine-year-old Nick, a spirited and well-loved third grader, has come a long way since his early days in a Moscow orphanage.
Surrendered by an unmarried graduate student who couldn't afford to raise her son, his life changed forever at age four when he became part of an American family.
"We had a Polaroid picture and fell in love with the picture and with him," said Linda Crumpecker, Nick's adoptive mother.
Nick has a lot in common with many of the 10,000 children adopted each year from other countries.
Financially -strapped former Eastern bloc nations are brimming with orphaned children in serious need of attention and resources that just aren't there.
"This is very much a phenomenon of the fall of the Iron Curtain," said Dr. Phillip Pearl, Nick's doctor at the Children's Hospital in Washington.
"These institutions are both contaminated in the sense of health problems and sterile in the sense of emotional attachment."
The problems has given rise to something called "adoptive medicine."
"There are high risk factors that affect a developing brain," said Dr. Ronald Federici at the Children's Hospital in Washington. "Nutrition being one of the most important,[also] deprivation, social deprivation, isolation and other types of hazards that can affect brain chemistry and development of proper brain cells and brain function."
For children like Nick, a new home in America can be life-saving. But both parents and children face big adjustments.
Crumpecker said she remembers playing with Nick at the orphanage before she took him home. She especially remembers his clear need for attention.
"They loved falling backwards in the snow and having us pick them up," she said. "They would stiffen their bodies so we'd have to hold them."
But once Nick was home in America, his new parents started to spot problems.
"He learned over many years of practice habits such as over-activity, impulsiveness, poor learning abilities, and some risk factors that affected his learning," said Dr. Ferderici.
Therapy, special education, stability, patience and of course, love, can undo much of the damage.
"He has certain learning disabilities, but the most important thing about Nick is that he's really bright and he really works had to overcome these things," said Jay Kranchalk, Nick's homeroom teacher.
Experts say would-be adoptive parents should research agencies and know as much about the prospective child as possible, including medical records.
When a child arrives in the United States, he or she should be examined thoroughly for health or developmental problems.
Fortunately, experts say, most adoptive stories have a happy ending.
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