In the ten years that they've been married, Ed and Pam Godlewsky have faced their share of obstacles. After trying for several years, they learned through their doctor that the probability of having a child naturally was quite low, while the cost of fertility treatments would be quite high. So they decided to look into adoption. After extensive research, they elected to pursue adopting a child from China and were placed on a waiting list for several years. Following two unsuccessful attempts to adopt a Chinese child, the Godlewskys learned about Mason, a Chinese boy who required corrective surgery following his birth. While determining if Mason was the right fit for their family, the Godlewskys reached out to Cleveland Clinic's MyConsult Pre-Adoption Consultation program to seek some expert advice.
Ed says that while he and Pam were open to adopting a child with medical needs, they wanted to be sure that the relationship would be mutually beneficial and that he and Pam could provide a good quality of life for Mason. "Because Mason is so far away and we were unable to meet him in-person prior to making our decision, we've had to rely on photos, videos and written reports to evaluate his condition," says Ed. "We wanted to be absolutely sure we were making the best, informed decision that we could, given the circumstances. So when our social worker recommended the MyConsult Online Pre-Adoption Consultation program, it seemed like a really great option to facilitate the process."
Cleveland Clinic's MyConsult® Online Pre-Adoption Consultations are conducted by Elaine Schulte, MD, MPH a board-certified Pediatrician and the Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic Children's Adoption Program. Dr. Schulte has over 20 years of experience in adoption consultations and was one of the original physicians to offer this service anywhere in the country. A pre-adoption consultation is the best way to prepare parents for the unique challenges and joys of domestic or international adoption. Through MyConsult, parents can contact Dr. Schulte from the comfort and privacy of their home and streamline the evaluation of the child's health records, photos and video files to ensure they are as prepared as possible to welcome an adopted child into their lives.
"The biggest reason I started to do this work is that I wanted parents to be as fully informed as they could be going into adoption. I also learned through my own experience after adopting two children from China how helpful that insight could be," she says. "Often, medical advice is only a small part of what parents need. With international adoptions, parents also need anticipatory guidance about what to expect when adopting a child from a different country. These couples are travelling to another part of the world where most have never been before; they often don't speak the language, and don't have any extended support. It can be both a physically and emotionally exhausting experience and I want to help these parents with the support and guidance they need during a very distinctive and exciting time."
There are several options for a MyConsult Online Pre-Adoption Consultation, including a full consultation which entails an immediate consult, a comprehensive plan to address medical developmental, feeding, sleeping and other potential issues, and phone and email support during the adoption process, even during trips abroad. Parents can also select a one-time medical record review, which is what the Godlewskys decided to do.
So Ed gathered all of Mason's medical information and used the secure file upload feature on the MyConsult website to submit the documents to Cleveland Clinic. Within a few days, he and Pam heard back from Dr. Schulte, who contacted them via conference call. "The adoption agency encourages you to make a decision quickly because they want to match a prospective parent with a child as soon as possible. However, because Dr. Schulte was so responsive, we didn't feel pressured to make a hasty decision we weren't comfortable with," says Ed. "Dr. Schulte took the time to answer all of our questions, ask some of her own, and provide recommendations based on her evaluation. We won't be able to fully understand Mason's condition until we bring him home, but she was very direct and candid with her advice, based on what we know so far. That's absolutely what you need in this situation."
Dr. Schulte says being responsive and straightforward is essential to each of the pre-adoption consultations she provides. "I have always felt very sensitive to the needs of adoptive parents. Part of it may be from my own personal experience, but I think it's also due to my professional experience," she says. "I know that any potential adoptive parent is constantly sitting by their phone and email waiting for any information they can gain. They're so excited and so nervous so I try to respond as quickly as I can. I also want to be as candid as possible because I know that as a parent, you want to know everything you can in order to do what's best for the child. I feel it's my responsibility to give these parents as accurate a picture as possible about what they might expect now and in future so they can make informed decisions that are right for their unique circumstances."
After speaking with Dr. Schulte, Ed and Pam decided to move forward with adopting Mason. They're currently finalizing all of the paperwork and expect to receive their travel dates later this month. Ed says he truly appreciates their experience with Cleveland Clinic's MyConsult Online Pre-Adoption Consultation program. "We wanted to gather as much information as we could to ensure we're making a truly educated decision, but at the end of the day we just have to take a leap of faith," says Ed. " Dr. Schulte's consultation gave us peace of mind that we've done all we can to make the right choice for ourselves and for Mason. After all of our struggles, we're truly excited to bring him home and start our family."
Update: Ed and Pam traveled to China this May. Mason is now home with the couple and doing well.
If you would like more information on the Cleveland Clinic MyConsult Pre-Adoption Consultation service, please call 216.445.9742or 800.223.2273 ext 43223; or email Schulte@ccf.org. You can also visit www.eclevelandclinic.org/adoption