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Vaccinations & Adoption: What You Need to Know

Vaccinations are a tricky topic. But, when you’re planning to adopt, it’s not a conversation you can disregard.

Before you pursue adoption, you need to understand exactly how your vaccination views may or may not affect your journey. Remember: Adoption is about the best interest of the child at the center of the triad, and their vaccination schedules play an important role in that.

With a COVID-19 vaccine on everyone’s minds, now is the time to learn more about adoption and vaccines. Whatever path you’re considering, find some basic information below.

Please note: None of the information in this article is intended to be or should be taken as medical advice. Speak with your personal medical provider for personalized guidance.

Foster Care Adoption

Vaccination rules and policies are perhaps the strictest for prospective foster and foster-to-adoptive parents. If you’re considering this path, you’ll need to speak at length with your foster care licensing professional.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families foster family standards require an up-to-date whooping cough vaccine for all household members. Foster families who will care for infants or children with special medical needs will also need an updated annual influenza vaccine.

Your foster care licensing agency will have the most updated information for your particular situation. In the meantime, here are a few things you should know.

  • Every state has different requirements. Whether or not you and your household members must be vaccinated will depend on state laws. Your state may only recommend all foster parents and household members follow vaccination schedules, or your state may require updated vaccinations to pass the adoption home study. Speak with your licensing professional for more information.
  • Foster children will likely need to be vaccinated. Even if it’s against your personal beliefs, any foster child in your home will likely need to be administered vaccines on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended immunization schedules. Foster children remain in state custody until finalization or reunification, which means the state is ultimately responsible for their health and well-being. For this reason, your local department of social services will often require you to adhere to this immunization schedule for your foster child.
  • Your home study provider will request medical records for your children. Health history is an important aspect of your home study review. Your home study provider will usually request medical records for household members, including your children’s vaccination histories. If exemptions are allowed, you will need to submit documentation for these refusals or delays.

It can be tough to hear but, if you are strictly anti-vaccination, foster care adoption may not be right for you. Instead, consider your other adoption options.

Private Infant Adoption

Just like with foster care, every state has different requirements for private infant adoption. Every adoption professional has a different policy, as well.

When you adopt through a private agency, you are not the only one with input on your child’s medical care. Before a child is even placed in your arms, a prospective birth parent can decide whether their baby will receive vaccinations at birth. They may also have strong feelings (one way or another) about vaccinating their birth child. While birth parents won’t be able to make medical decisions for your child growing up, this type of disagreement can cause tension in your open adoption relationship.

Whatever your vaccination views, you’ll need to work with your home study provider and your placement agency. They will inform you of your state’s requirements for vaccines (for adopted children and any other members of your household).

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your home study provider will ask you about your vaccination views. Many home study providers include questions about treatments and vaccinations as part of the medical history review.
  • You should be honest with your placing agency. If you have anti-vaccination views, let your placement agency know. Anti-vaccination views will not prevent you from adopting. However, out of respect for prospective birth parents, be open and honest about your views. Prospective birth parents deserve to know how their children will be raised with adoptive parents — including whether or not recommended vaccines are administered after finalization.
  • You may have to sign a vaccine clause. Some private infant adoption agencies require hopeful adoptive parents sign a vaccine clause. This is for two reasons. First, it protects the agency in the stage between placement and finalization — when a child is still technically in custody of the agency and child safety laws must be obeyed. Second, it ensures that parents continue with the APA’s recommended vaccination schedule even after finalization.
  • You will need documentation and permission to waive or delay vaccinations. As mentioned, there is a time period in which private agencies legally have custody of an adopted child. If you wish not to vaccinate, you will likely need to gather legal documentation and discuss it with your placing agency. Do not skip this step, or you could put your adoption placement in jeopardy.

International Adoption

If you’ve adopted your child from another country, their medical records may be scarce — or even nonexistent. So, should you revaccinate your child upon their entrance to the U.S.?

There’s no “one size fits all” answer here. Your point of contact should be your pediatrician.

Your child’s country of origin may have a different vaccination schedule than the U.S. However, the CDC recommends all international adoptees receive vaccines according to the U.S. Childhood Immunization Schedule. Depending on your situation, revaccination may be necessary.

You should also vaccinate yourself and any other family members traveling to your child’s country of origin. Check with your medical provider and your adoption professional on which vaccines are recommended for your child’s native country.

Bottom line: Talk to your pediatrician for medical advice for your newly adopted child.