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The Right Fit

When it comes to finding a good pediatrician, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.By Marybeth Lambe, M.D.



Pregnant women have nine months to anticipate the new infant who will join their family. Adoptive moms and dads have the same need—to prepare themselves emotionally for their bundle of joy—but often feel a level of insecurity. How quickly will they bond with this child? How can they help their baby adapt to new sights, smells, and sounds?

Adoption can present special concerns, and it’s important for families to have a doctor who is knowledgeable about the specific medical needs of a newly adopted baby or toddler.

Getting Started
Seek recommendations from other adoptive parents and from adoption agencies, your local medical society, or daycares and preschools. Health providers are accustomed to arranging interviews with new patients, and generally do not charge for such visits. Look for a doctor who is easy to talk to,

How to Check
Out a Doctor

Find out everything you can about a pediatrician by asking the following key questions:

1 When and where did you attend medical school and take your residency training? 

2 Are you board-certified? 

3 How many of your patients are internationally adopted children?

4 Could you help us evaluate a referral of a child?

5 What are your views on sleeping, discipline, immunizations (or other subjects you feel strongly about)?  

6 What insurance plans do you accept?

7 Do you have a lab in your office?  

8 How do you handle emergency calls? 

9 Who covers for you when you’re not on-call?

10 If my child is sick, can he be seen the same day?

responsive to your concerns, and well-versed on adoption matters. Ask:
  • How many of your patients are adoptees?

  • How will you evaluate my child for developmental delays?

  • If my child’s immunization record is incomplete, do you prefer to run tests to see which were effective, or to repeat the entire series?

  •  Will you help me obtain medical and prenatal history from birthparents and my child’s hospital records, such as APGAR scores?

  •  Do you have experience working with doctors who specialize in adoption, especially in cases where a child’s medical history may be sketchy or nonexistent?
You’ll also want to take a broader look at the practice. Does the doctor have extended hours or accept weekend appointments? Are calls routed to a nurse, or can you speak with your doctor? What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? Will he come to see your child in the emergency room, if necessary? How does the doctor handle referrals to specialists?

Observe the waiting room. Are ill children segregated from those waiting for well-child visits? How long do children wait to be seen? Minutes can seem like an eternity to a sick or frightened child. Long waits may indicate that the doctor is overbooked or has more patients than he can handle.

Ask the nurse and the doctor how long the initial visit will be. If he says 10 minutes after you’ve said you’ll be bringing in a newly adopted child from across the country, or from a foreign country, ask yourself, “How comprehensive could such an exam be?”

It’s best for both parents to attend interviews—and remember, don’t be shy about asking questions. 

Marybeth Lambe is a family physician and writer based in Washington State.

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