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Elaine E Schulte, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Jan E Drutz, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Many couples or individuals create or expand their families through adoption. Families may seek to adopt because of infertility, fetal loss, death of a child, or desire for more children. Pediatric health care providers may provide preadoption counseling to prospective adoptive parents, evaluate children after adoption, and/or provide ongoing care to adoptees.

This topic provides a general overview of adoption within the United States and describes the potential role of the primary care provider as an advocate for adopted children and their families. The recommendations below are largely consistent with those of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Early Childhood and Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care [1,2]. Specific infectious disease and immunization considerations in children adopted from outside the United States are discussed separately. (See "International adoption: Infectious disease aspects" and "International adoption: Immunization considerations".)


General terms — General terms that are used commonly in adoption are defined below [3]:

Adoption – A legal (formal) mechanism that allows full family membership and privileges to children who were not born into the family [4].

Informal adoption occurs when the birth mother allows another person to take parental responsibility for her child without obtaining legal approval or recognition of that relationship.

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 23, 2017.
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