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Adopting a Child with Cleft

Special Needs Adoption Cleft lip or palate China

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  Written by Pat Marcus on 06 Feb 2014

When families are first learning about adoption and looking into the idea of adopting a child with a diagnosed medical special need, the world can seem a little overwhelming! So many new medical terms. A good friend and advocate for children, Patricia Marcus, has agreed to write a series of articles about the most common special needs found in children who are waiting to find a family. Today we are focusing on Cleft Lip and Palate.  Pat works with the Superkids Charity and Gladney's Waiting Child Program, which travels to China to meet and evaluate the needs of hundreds of children each summer. Cleft Lip and palate happens when the two sides of the lip and palate do not fuse together during the early prenatal( before birth) period.  You can have either cleft lip or Cleft palate individually or together.   There are about 6, 800 cases in the United States each year.

There are three degrees of both the Lip and the Palate.  Additionally a cleft can be on one side or both sides.  It can also extend through the alveolar ridge of the gum which is above or below the teeth.  

  • First degree for the Lip is just the red part of the lip
  • Second degree is above the lip but not up to the nostril and third degree is up to the nostril (including) .  
  • Cleft palate first degree is just the hard palate at the front of the mouth,  
  • second degree both the hard and soft palate and
  • third degree includes a fissure in the alveolar ridge (area above or below the teeth that contains the sockets for the teeth) of the gum.

There are some associated complications associated with Cleft Lip and Palate.  The degree of complication depends on the severity of the cleft.   These complications are difficulty with sucking.  This can result in feeding difficulties.  sometimes a special nipple and bottle are used to help with  this.  The second common complication is ear infections and possible hearing loss.  There is a tube that connects the middle ear with the back of the throat.  this Tube may not work properly which can lead to ear infection.  Repeated Ear infections can lead to some degree of hearing loss.  Children with Cleft lip, cleft palate may need some speech therapy due to delayed speech and feeding.  There may also be some issues with teeth.  Sometimes teeth do not come in or are late coming in.  Teeth can also be in an improper position needing braces/orthodontist treatment.

Cleft Lip and Palate are treated with surgery.  Often we see in China that the lip will be corrected and not the palate. Sometimes clefts are corrected in two stages.  The  lip and hard/soft palate are corrected first.  The alveolar cleft will be corrected later in childhood with a bone graft and orthodontic treatment.

Thousands of families have adopted children with this special need.   This is a condition that can be treated.  The greatest need these children have is a forever family!

View Children with this Special Need who are waiting for adoption! (registration required)




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