The majority of adopted children fare well on six measures of health. Specifically, 85 percent of adopted children have parents who rated their health as “excellent” or “very good.” Yet 39 percent of adopted children have special health care needs—a broadly defined measure. Children with special health care needs include those who currently experience at least one out of five consequences attributable to a medical, behavioral, or other health condition that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months. Problems that were much less commonly reported than special health care needs included more than 10 school absences due to illness or injury, having moderate or severe asthma, and having been injured during the prior year.
However, some adopted children do experience health problems. Twenty-six percent of adopted children have a moderate or severe health problem; see Figure 15. Such problems include any one of 16 possible conditions, such as asthma, a learning disability, or attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Many parents who reported such problems also rated their child’s health status as “very good” or “excellent.” (This occurs frequently in the general population as well.) While this may appear contradictory, many children identified as having “moderate” or “severe” health problems may have conditions that are largely controlled with medication or other treatment. Children with controlled conditions or who do not have severe symptoms may be considered by their parents as having excellent or very good health.
Figure 15. Percentage of children according to their health status, by adoptive status
Some, but not all, of the six health indicators also differ by adoption type. Children adopted internationally are more likely (93 percent) to have parents who rated their health as “excellent” or “very good” than those adopted from foster care or privately from within the United States (81 and 84 percent, respectively). In addition, children adopted from foster care are more likely than children adopted privately from the United States or internationally to have a moderate or severe health problem (39 percent, compared with 21 and 14 percent, respectively). Special health care needs are also more common among children adopted from foster care (54 percent) than among other adopted children (32 percent of children adopted from other domestic sources and 29 percent of children adopted internationally). And, although children adopted from foster care are somewhat more likely than other adopted children ever to have been diagnosed with asthma (24 percent, compared with 17 percent of U.S. children adopted privately and 14 percent of children adopted internationally), the percentage of adopted children with current asthma symptoms that are moderate or severe was small across all three types (6 percent or less); see Figure 16.
Figure 16. Percentage of adopted children according to their health status, by adoption type