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Adoption policies limit cancer survivors’ choices

13 July 2015

Adoption policies limit cancer survivors’ choices

Cancer treatment often has the unfortunate side effect of leaving patients infertile so adoption is often one of the only choices available to many young cancer survivors looking to start, or add to, a family.

A new study, by researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Centre publishing in CANCER, has found that there are unique challenges within adoption agencies’ policies which make it extremely hard for these cancer survivors, which may even be perceived as discriminatory.

As little is known about the adoption process for cancer survivors, Dr Gwendolyn Quinn and Dr Susan Vadaparmpil asked oncology nurses who were participating in a training program to contact and conduct interviews with adoption agencies.

The nurses reported a range of adoption fees from a minimum of $3,000 to a high of $75,000. Not all adoption agencies kept records on whether prospective adoptive parents were cancer survivors, but those that did track this reported an average of 10 former cancer patients a year seeking adoption. A few agencies reported that a cancer history in an adoptive parent could be discouraging for a birth mother, but most reported the opposite—that birth mothers might feel confident in choosing a parent who has overcome hardships and has an appreciation for life.

Most agencies requested a letter from a physician regarding their health and medical history and Dr Quinn noted that this exposes a potentially discriminatory practice akin to restricting employment opportunities for people with disabilities according to the American Disabilities Act (ADA). The nurses also found that international adoptions had greater restrictions for prospective adoptive parents with a cancer history.

Dr Quinn said: “This study showed that nurse learners in a training program became more knowledgeable about the difficulties with adoption in cancer survivors, and it is hoped that they will be able to better inform their patients about parenthood options for the future, based on what they learned in this activity. Additionally, perhaps this data will bring to light the need for policy revisions in adoption processes that comply with ADA requirements.”

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