Most adoptive parents would say that they have felt the “call to adopt.”  Whether childless and infertile or blessed with an abundance of biological children, when that strong prompting enters our hearts and our minds, we just know adoption is right for us. And for many adoptive parents, choosing a child with special needs just seems natural. Perhaps it’s because of particular skills, experience, or training that the parent possesses . . . or perhaps it is just a feeling, but whatever the reason, we act.

There are many parents who have adopted wonderful children who suffer from cleft or other craniofacial challenges. Some are minor and easily repaired with proper medical treatment.  Others go beyond appearance and create lifelong struggles. Helping your child with craniofacial challenges requires knowledge, patience, and action.

The Cleft Palate Foundation offers great guidelines for parents who hope for the best outcome for their children. They suggest including a full team of experts to help the child throughout their growing years. Often craniofacial malformations can affect a child’s ability to hear, breathe, chew, swallow, or speak. Sometimes the problem can affect sight and smell.

This means that surgery will not be the only aspect of treatment for cleft and craniofacial challenges. In order to ensure optimal outcomes from surgeries, it is vital to include a team of specialists who can use their expert talents in varying capacities. These experts could include an audiologist, an orthodontist, a pediatric dentist, a pediatrician, a surgeon, a geneticist, an otolaryngologist, a nurse, a speech pathologist, and a social worker or psychiatrist. More specific information on these specialists and their role in your child’s health is available on the Cleft Palate Foundation website.

With the wide variety and varied degrees of severity of craniofacial challenges, it is important to begin early creating the team of professionals who will help you to help your child. The balance that you offer to the team as your child’s advocate is the glue that will solidify success.