Can a Cancer Survivor Adopt?

January 8, 2011 at 5:02 pm 4 comments

When Mike & I headed down this road to adoption, there were many scary unknowns. Cost, health of the child, timing – all of this was scary – but nothing was scarier to me than the impact of my health history on our opportunity to become parents.

After a quick Google search, I was somewhat discouraged. Post after post talked about how cancer survivors cannot adopt children. Countless amounts of negativity ensued online, some of my hopes got down, but thanks to my apparent low-level of trust and asking-a-lot-of-questions personality (can you tell I took a personality assessment yesterday?) we found some loopholes… err, I mean silver lining. (oh, by the way, I’m also apparently an optimist.)

Domestic vs. International Adoption and Cancer Survivors

As much as I would love to be the be-all, end-all resource for information on cancer survivor’s eligibility to adopt, unfortunately this post can only pertain to what I’ve personally gone through or researched. I hope to do an update on this after we actually go through the process and understand more.

But – my story involves understanding that cancer DID have an impact on the type of adoption that we pursued. We begun our journey several years ago looking into international adoption. We had our sights set on a little Ethiopian baby and had begun to weigh the pros and cons of several adoption agencies. At this point, I was cancer-free and had been so for 8 years. I didn’t think I have a problem going this route.

I was soon diagnosed with a second colon cancer – though much, much more minor than the first (only stage 1). However, to those not too familiar with the cancer circuit and how all of that works – cancer is cancer and scary and yikes! As I recovered and looked into adoption again, I realized that our chances to internationally adopt within the upcoming few years were shot, and that even if we waited for a few years, our path to adopt internationally could be negatively affected by my cancer.

Most agencies require that those diagnosed with cancer be 3-5 years cancer-free (depending on the agency.) I will say this is understandable in most cases, as we all want to make sure that the children’s adoptive parents will be as stable as possible. But we also learned that some countries, like China, do not allow anyone who’s had cancer to adopt, and others aren’t too keen on it either. Some countries will allow you to pursue the process after you’re 5 years cancer free, but could get hung up on medical tests and Hague Convention stuff.

As I began to really get down (it’s not like getting diagnosed again was some cake walk for me, either…) I did find some hope. Because we were hoping to adopt sooner than 5 years, we realized that we might have to go a different route.

Cancer Survivors Adopting Domestically

The day that I hung up with Mike from American Adoptions is one that I will never forget. As much as my chemo brain lacks remembering these days – that moment after speaking with Mike is not one of them.

I had spent the afternoon searching agency after agency, browsing through the FAQs section on websites, looking for policies on cancer survivors adopting. After finding closed-door after closed-door on the international front, I remembered that our friend Colleen had a family member who’d used American Adoptions, and raved about working with them. I had filed away Colleen’s email with their information, and quickly searched to find the web address.

When I didn’t see anything on their website about cancer, I called their home office and had the best conversation with one of their family specialists, Mike. He explained that their agency didn’t have a “cancer policy,” and that they would gladly work with me. (Side note – he was a cancer survivor himself, so he TOTALLY knew how I was feeling.) After we hung up the phone, I knew that God had just helped make what could be a very difficult and hard decision so simple. Instead of taking so much time to find an international agency and country, we were guided to look into domestic adoption instead, and work with American Adoptions.

The Home Study Process and my cancer

We didn’t rush into signing up, and I actually let about a year post-surgery go by until we applied with our adoption agency. I wanted to give myself some time to physically and emotionally heal. When we applied with our adoption agency, I was a little over one year cancer-free again.

Part of our home study process involved medical records, and getting a letter from our physicians to say that we both had normal life expectancies. Because I stay up-to-date on my lab work, CT scans, PET scans and more – my physician was more than comfortable to show that I absolutely had a normal life expectancy.

To be double-sure that cancer would cause no problems, my social worker recommended that I also get a detailed letter from my oncologist, explaining my follow-up plan and remission. My doctor wrote a glowing note about my treatment, plan for follow ups, as well as the signs that my cancer was cured. This all was for my file, and will help prove even more that I am healthy, healed, and able to parent regardless of my cancer history.

Can a Cancer Survivor Adopt?

So to answer the question – YES! As I’ve found out, even when it seems like doors are closing left and right, there’s often another path that comes open. We’ve been encouraged to find a domestic agency who didn’t even blink to hear that I was a cancer survivor. We’re excited to be going through this adoption process, and the opportunities ahead of us.

I will also say that I have not hardly touched on the options for cancer survivors to adopt internationally, nor the foster care adoption route. I honestly have not had a lot of experience with this yet. But I leave you with a few links that I have found to be encouraging if you’re in this boat, too, and looking for your possible open door…

This site explains questions to ask yourself as a survivor who wants to adopt, and international adoption options.

Fertile Hope is dedicated to helping cancer survivors begin families

A Yahoo! Discussion group about Adoption after Cancer



Entry filed under: Burgess Adoption, Everything Colon. Tags: , , , , .

Happy 2011 From Us To You Ask Dr. T: Do Men Fart More than Women?

4 Comments Add your own

  • […] on one thing: life after colon cancer. I’ve covered various topics like eating organic and adopting a baby; however, I’ve steered clear of discussing one topic. Politics. My views are across the […]

  • 2. jcbraatz1021  |  June 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I am so thankful I came across your story. It gave me hope for any chance that my hubby and I would have to adopt or not. Thank you!

  • 3. Julie Stensrud  |  June 5, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Can I ask, is this agency American Adoptions based out of Overland Park, Kansas? We are a cancer survivor family too. More to say but prefer to do it directly. Thank you!!

    • 4. Danielle B  |  September 10, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Hey Julie so sorry just seeing this comment. If you’re still looking, yes we worked with that agency. We ended up doing our adoption directly but they helped facilitate with legal and social worker help.


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