I recently found out some potential adoptive parents are hesitant to pursue adopting children who have hepatitis B. As someone who has chronic hepatitis B (HBV), I wanted to send a clear message to those parents: do not let the presence of hepatitis B, even chronic hepatitis B, prevent you from adopting an otherwise healthy, loving, and ready child.
Here’s my story. For over 20 years, I never knew I carried the surface antigen for hepatitis B (HBsAg), nor that I had, and still have, chronic hepatitis B (HBV). But to be honest, once I found out, not much changed in my life. I continued to eat, sleep, drink, and exercise as I always did. Since I discovered my condition, I have rarely thought about it, and it has never affected my overall health.
In my research on hepatitis B, I found that 1 in 12 Asian Americans is affected by hepatitis B. In China and Taiwan, it is an endemic problem with over one-third of the world's 240 million infected living in that region. And many that have it have no idea that they're infected, leading to the high mortality rates of those with hepatitis B.
But for those of us who are aware of our situation, and who get regular medical care, hepatitis B is a very manageable condition. I do, of course, monitor my health. I have a hepatologist, whom I visit annually for an exam, ultrasound, and bloodwork. (When I reach 50 years old, I will have an ultrasound every 6 months.) So far, my virus load has been so low that there has been no impact to my liver. With consistent continuous monitoring, I will be able to detect any liver damage or disease early enough to successfully treat it.
And I'm careful about transmission to others. I cannot donate blood. I always practice safe sex. And my husband was vaccinated. When I had my daughter a few years ago, we made sure she was vaccinated shortly after birth so she wouldn't even have these concerns.
So I know that hepatitis B is very manageable. Indeed, I’m not the only one in my family managing the condition. My sister is similarly affected. We believe the antigen was passed from our mother at birth. She has had the same experience I have had.
When I spoke with Gladney about a potential adoption and realized that hepatitis B was preventing some children from being adopted, I was truly shocked. Yes, there is a potential impact to the liver. However, with regular screening, that impact to the liver can be minimal and managed. In fact, the management of hepatitis B is probably less cumbersome than high blood pressure or diabetes, since there are no dietary concerns and daily monitoring is not necessary.
So please, do not let the presence of hepatitis B, even chronic hepatitis B, prevent you from adopting an otherwise healthy, loving, and ready child.
This was written by an adoptive mother. There are many children in Asia who's identified special need is hepatitis B, including 10 year old Dexter. Dexter was met by Gladney's Superkids team in May 2016 - he is one amazing kiddo! To read more about Dexter, you can visit Gladney's Superkids blog here: http://superkidscharity.blogspot.com/2016/08/dexter-taiwan.html
Click on the image below to view waiting children with Hep B
Founded over 130 years ago, The Gladney Center for Adoption is a premier, Hague accredited, adoption agency with international and domestic adoption programs. With adoption programs in Asia Gladney is able to help parents adopt children of all ages. In each region that we work, we are excited to offer International Waiting Child Programs to help children who may be older or have a medical need find a loving family and a permanent home. Gladney is able to work with families residing in all 50 U.S. states and provides individualized casework services to each family throughout the adoption process.