Adoption clinic aidsfamilies for 20 years

The clinic established a program for families with internationally adopted children.

Elizabeth Giorgi

Twenty years ago, after adopting his son Gabriel, Dana Johnson decided to create an international adoption clinic at the University.

Johnson founded the International Adoption Clinic in 1986, and it was the first clinic in the United States that specifically served families with children adopted from around the globe, according to the clinic’s Web site.

The clinic now serves more than 360 families and children every year that have the medical, psychological and behavioral development issues that many newly adopted children face.

The clinic also offers pre-adoption counseling for more than 1,200 families each year, Johnson said.

After reflecting on the past 20 years of service in the International Adoption Clinic, Johnson said he is pleased with its success.

The clinic has established many of the screening protocols used to test international children for infectious diseases, he said.

The clinic examines children on a medical and developmental scale, testing for diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis, as well as checking for proper vision and hearing, he said.

Johnson said it is extremely important that children are developmentally ready to go to school so there is testing offered in other areas, such as speech.

Supportive families are necessary for the children to develop properly, Johnson said.

“It is amazing the effects of a nurturing family on these blossoming individuals,” he said.

John McVea said he and his wife, Laura Dunham, were lucky to have the International Adoption Clinic recommended to them when their adopted daughter Anneliya was suffering from chronic malnutrition.

“The clinic helped us with coming up with ways to make her stable and get weight on,” McVea said.

Johnson recommended a plan to the family to help their daughter gain weight, he said. The clinic advised the parents to feed her soy milk instead of regular milk and said to feed her every two to three hours.

McVea said every family has many difficulties when raising a child, but it can be especially frustrating for families that adopt.

He said adoption can be difficult at times, but each challenge brings the family closer together.

The clinic also offers pre-adoption reviews to help families that are considering adoption deal with potential health issues, said Mary Chesney, a certified nurse practitioner.

Chesney, who has worked for the clinic for nine years, said she became particularly interested because of the types of services it offers and how unique it is among most pediatric clinics.

“(Adoptive families) are strong, loving and highly motivated, and they are a fun population to work with,” she said.

Chesney said the clinic aims to help families with the transition phases of adopting a child, such as how to parent and manage behavior.

It is important to try and “troubleshoot” what kind of problems parents might have, she said.

The clinic addresses nutrition, sleep patterns and behavior that can help to create a better environment for families, Chesney said.

“It is tremendously gratifying to see the change in the child and the family,” she said.

Johnson said it is crucial for families to be especially supportive and attentive to their children for them to overcome some of the challenges they might face.

“It is wonderful to watch these kids grow up,” Johnson said. “It is like watching your own children grow up.”