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Finding Joy Through Adoption

Cleveland Couple Sends Optimistic Message to Potential Adoptive Parents

“Return to sender.” 

While these instructions work for packages, they are inappropriate when appearing on a child, as underscored by the recent highly publicized case of a Tennessee woman who returned her adopted son to Russia.

The Russian “adoption-gone-wrong” is an example of the challenges of adopting. Any new child – whether through birth or adoption – poses unanswered questions. Will they be sweet and obedient or disturbed and unruly? Will he or she be healthy or suffer from a disease?

In other words, is there a way to avoid the Russian roulette of receiving a new member into your family?

Todd and Danita Wabeke of Hinckley, Ohio, would answer with an emphatic “yes.” But then they were wise enough to take advantage of helpful resources, such as the MyConsult Pre-Adoption Consultation (PAC) Program offered by Cleveland Clinic.

Unable to have a child of their own, the Wabekes sought to adopt. “We loved the idea of having a child in our lives,” says Danita, a registered nurse at Lakewood Hospital in Cleveland. With this in mind, the couple built a beautiful and expansive home, imagining that a child might join them. Unfortunately, two attempted adoptions fell apart.

Third time’s the charm
On their third adoption attempt, the Wabekes struck gold – in the form of a six-year-old Chinese girl named Callie. Photos revealed an adorable child, and reports from Callie’s orphanage indicated that she was bright, well-mannered, artistic and kind-hearted.

But there was a catch. Callie has a serious blood disorder.

Fortunately, the hospital where Danita works is part of the Cleveland Clinic Community Hospital network, and she was aware of the MyConsult PAC program, offered to employees and the general public. The service provides online consultations that ease much of the stress involved in adopting.

“We believe that pre-adoption consultations best prepare parents for the unique challenges and joys of international adoption,” says Elaine Schulte, MD, MPH, a board-certified pediatrician who heads up the program and is chair of the department of general pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

“When adopting, awareness is half the battle,” Dr. Schulte adds. “If the woman who adopted the Russian boy had taken advantage of resources, the tragedy may have been averted.”

Dr. Schulte referred the Wabekes to L. Kate Gowans, MD, a Cleveland Clinic pediatric hematology expert who says that Callie’s blood disorder should not restrict her from living a full and active life. “Callie’s growth and development should be fine,” says Dr. Gowans. “She can participate in gym class and play outside. I’m cautiously optimistic about her case.”

Callie herself is optimistic about her new life in Ohio. “I have pink golf clubs,” she says. “I’m going to stay here forever and ever.”

How to Utilize Adoption Resources

No matter where you live, you can take advantage of the MyConsult Pre-Adoption Consultation (PAC) program if you have internet access. Just visit The program’s services include:

  • pre-and post-adoption evaluations
  • ongoing primary care
  • multi-disciplinary team evaluations of physical, developmental, behavioral and educational needs
  • referrals to medical subspecialties, as needed

Consultations begin from the comfort and privacy of your home when you make an online request through Cleveland Clinic’s secure MyConsult site. After receiving all available information about a potential adoptive child, the MyConsult physician staff:

  • reviews the child’s medical records, photos and videotapes
  • interprets medical terminology
  • assesses the child’s growth
  • outlines developmental and behavioral expectations
  • provides a pre-travel consultation to assist with medical, developmental, feeding, sleeping or other issues that may arise
  • offers phone consultations and support during the adoptive parents’ travel abroad
  • provides information about adoption resources

Pre-adoption services available through Cleveland Clinic MyConsult also include general international adoption phone inquiries, overseas urgent consults and basic, one-time medical record reviews.

Once a child is brought home from a foreign country, the PAC program’s services do not end. Within 10 days of the child’s arrival, a Cleveland Clinic pediatrician examines and evaluates the child, provides all needed immunizations and conducts screenings recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Post-adoption services include:

  • thorough physical examinations and history reviews
  • reviews of any new medical information
  • evaluations of immunization status
  • assessments of infectious disease risks
  • assessments of developmental status
  • diagnostic tests or referrals to specialists, if needed

Ongoing primary care is available and includes well-child and emergency care, as well as urgent calls to medical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, children with special needs may be evaluated by the PAC’s multi-disciplinary team.

Led by a pediatrician, this team of healthcare professionals includes a speech pathologist, physical and occupational therapists, developmental pediatrician, behavioral medicine expert, neuropsychologist and educational consultant.