Social Worker: Telling the Truth

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How important is it for prospective adoptive parents to tell the truth about past problems - and current medical/emotional problems - that are being treated and under control?

To Tell the Truth

My mother always told me to tell the truth because, “Honesty is the best policy”. She was a very wise woman, whose lesson holds true when it comes to adoption. One of the questions I get most often is about medical and emotional problems or criminal history and the importance of being honest about past and present problems. People often think; should we tell or keep it a secret? What if I do and then we can not adopt? My mother also said, “What comes around, goes around and the truth always comes out”. The adoption process has many safeguards and meeting with the Social Worker is the first step.

During the home study process, it is the job of the Social Worker to gather information and answer questions. This is done in order to determine whether or not someone is prepared to be a parent both financially and emotionally. Having a medical disability does not automatically disqualify you from adopting a child, nor does having a criminal record. Whether you adopt domestically or internationally, adoptions are subject to regulations and practices of the laws of the country where we live and the country from which we hope to adopt. Every state and country has requirements that prospective adoptive parents must meet. For example, regarding age, income, number of existing children in the home, marital stability and, in the case of single applicants, gender. Basically, no two inter-country adoptions are alike; however, honesty in adoption is a common denominator and a necessity.

An existing medical issue or emotional problem does not stop you from adopting a child, as long as; the condition is not harmful to others and is being treated. If you're in the middle of medical or psychological treatment or have a condition that threatens your life expectancy, you may be prevented from adopting. It is okay; however, to have a medical or mental health concern, as long as, you are under a physician's care and supervision or if it has been cured with no adverse residual problems. For example, you may suffer from mild anxiety and take an anti-anxiety medication, which allows you to successfully parent your current children and hold a job. Being honest with the Social Worker then allows her to observe you in your home environment and review letters of reference and your medical records, enabling her to make an informed decision on your parenting ability. Everyone just wants to ensure that you have the capacity to give and receive affection and that your home is a safe environment for a child to grow up in. Keep in mind that a written report from your physician that attests to the physical and mental health of each member of the household is required anyway, so you might as well just be honest.

Additionally, a criminal and child abuse and maltreatment background records check will be asked of you. Fingerprints will be taken on the State and Federal level, to verify that there is no history of criminal activity. This is done in order to determine whether an applicant, has been the subject of an indicated report of abuse or maltreatment of a child and to insure that a child is placed into a secure and loving family. Misdemeanors stemming from ‘youthful indiscretions’ usually aren't held against prospective adopters; although, a Social Worker will want to know if your past behavior is just that, and that you have been through treatment or that there is no recent history. Federal and State laws do NOT permit you to adopt if you have been convicted for major felonies against children such as child abuse, neglect, spousal abuse, or a crime involving violence including rape, assault, and homicide. There really is no way to cover up a past criminal history or reason to lie to the Social Worker about it.

Be forthcoming, if you are not honest with the Social Worker it may look like you were trying to hide something and that you are a dishonest person, one not worthy of adopting. It is better to tell the truth from the start. Be open and honest, remember, the Social Worker is there to help you create your forever family.

by Leslie Zindulka, LCSW-R

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The information and advice provided is intended to be general information, NOT as advice on how to deal with a particular child's situation and or problem. If your child has a specific problem you need to ask your pediatrician about it - only after a careful history and physical exam can a medical diagnosis and/or treatment plan be made. This Web site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship.

This material has been provided by, an innovative adoption medicine private practice and educational service, dedicated to helping parents and adoption agencies with the complex pre-adoption medical issues of internationally adopted children. All medical interactions are performed via, e-mail, express mail, telephone, and fax. There is no need to make a live appointment or travel outside of your hometown. For more information, visit or call 631-499-4114.

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