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​​​​​​​1.2.3 Inherent Risks


Due to the nature of intercountry adoption, i.e. travelling to and dealing with a foreign country, government, language, culture, medical systems, laws and customs, as well as New Zealand Government laws and policies, there are a multitude of things that can happen to affect applicant's plans. People who embark on intercountry adoption need to be prepared and determined to persevere.

Some of the key risk areas in intercountry adoption are:​

  • Law changes

  • Policy and procedural changes

  • Change in eligibility requirements e.g.  China banning applications from those who are obese (BMI Index equal to or greater than 40) or have certain medical conditions

  • A country may decide to place a moratorium on all intercountry adoptions because it has uncovered some abuse of the process

  • Changes can be sudden and without warning and for this reason some of the information in this document may not be relevant at time of reading

  • Waiting times may become protracted or applicants may not be selected for matching

  • Culture shock can be an issue for many people.

Certain health risks are inherent when adopting foreign children. Their home countries are often poor and underdeveloped. Some children may have experienced poor prenatal care, early neglect, and a lack of health care or health care services.

​Many diseases and health problems that have (arguably) been virtually eliminated in New Zealand are still common in other countries, including malnutrition, parasites, minor congenital defects, tuberculosis, and hepatitis-B.  It is widely recognised that children who have lived in an institution will be at risk of developmental delays.

Although Hague Convention countries are required to provide applicants with as much information as possible on a child's background and medical history, often depending on what age or the circumstances that a child arrived at the institution, the information may not be fully available. Further, the birth parents' medical histories, including any inheritable diseases, are not always known. Sometimes the child's exact age is not even known.​

The child's medical report should be carefully studied, taking into consideration that medical evaluation (including laboratory testing facilities) overseas may be different to what would be tested in New Zealand. If there are any doubts about the child's medical condition, the medical report should be referred to a paediatrician qualified and experienced with these types of cases.  The paediatrician may require that additional tests are carried out by an independent physician in the child's country of origin. 

Despite these precautions, certain conditions, such as any learning disabilities and the delayed effects of early neglect or lack of prenatal care, can only be gauged or even identified over time. This is a particular concern for those adopting an infant or very young child. For those adopting an older child, the child almost certainly would have been exposed to some level of neglect, deprivation or institutionalisation and therefore need to be considered as a distinct group of children.  The term 'special needs' sometimes includes older children within its definition.  It is the years of neglect and/or time spent in an institution and not the chronological years that are a significant factor.