Special Need Highlight: Adopting a Child with Congenital Syphilis

August 28, 2014 congenital syphilis, Family Stories, Infectious 1 Comments

When we were in the beginning of our adoption journey, we wanted a child young as possible, and as healthy as possible. We wanted to see far ahead and be completely prepared for anything. The fear of the unknown was gripping, especially with a first adoption, and let’s be honest, I loved being in control and knowing exactly what the future may hold for anything! Lord please forgive my need to control, ha!

We worked through our home study and began our wait for our match. Our agency would contact us if any children met our openness. During this time I also joined Rainbow Kids and had it set to email us once a child was listed that matched our list as well. (And can we just chat for a minute on how completely awkward that checklist of special needs is to complete? We go between moments of peace and pettiness every time we complete one. I swear I feel like a premed student when I am trying to research that entire checklist!)

One day I had a friend email me a picture of a boy that was posted and I was losing it! I’m completely in love…feverishly emailing my agency asking them why his information wasn’t sent to us. All lights were set to go thinking we somehow missed an email until we heard back:

Congenital Syphilis

Nobody had sent him our way because this was not on our list. We just couldn’t get him out of our minds and reached out to our pediatrician, other doctors and yes, Dr. Google, for help learning more about this. We came to the conclusion that we simply didn’t include this because we had not educated ourselves appropriately on this need. Of course we said yes and our son has brought more love into our lives than we could ever imagine!


Here is a bit of information about congenital syphilis in hopes that you too will open your hearts to checking this box and saying yes to these amazing children!

What is Congenital Syphilis?

Congenital Syphilis is simply syphilis that is present in utero or at birth in babies born to a mother already with this condition. Left untreated, syphilis can adversely affect pregnancy, causing prematurity, stillbirths or miscarriage and could also adversely affect infants resulting in deformities, delays in development or other issues associated with premature birth. There is not a lot of information here in the United States as this is very easily treated and it is rarely seen anymore, but it still exists with frequency in other areas of the world. Treatment is a very simple 10 day course of penicillin with no further follow up except blood test to ensure all titers are good. All babies who are taken into care are tested for this and treated with penicillin. If treatment occurs, there are no further issues noted. If syphilis goes untreated, these children can develop latent syphilis and other bodily systems can be affected such as teeth, bones, eyes, ears and brain. All children have this test as standard in their lab work, so there is no question when reviewing a file whether this has been tested or addressed.

What is the follow up? What lifelong concerns come with this diagnosis?

When you get home with your child, you will do the same blood work you would normally do. If syphilis has been treated successfully, there are no continuing follow ups, no transmission risks, no special precautions. Once treated, there are no lasting effects beyond any pregnancy/birth complications that might have occurred. Our son has to be on asthma preventative measures as his lungs were affected
from his prematurity complications, however, this is the only ongoing issue we’ve encountered. His life expectancy is the same as anyone else.

So what’s the big deal? Why haven’t I heard much about this need before?

While we were able to get properly educated syphilis, like many other blood or infectious conditions, can carry with it an unnecessary stigma. Many folks out of lack of information or common knowledge do not include this need. In other parts of the world, this need carries an even greater stigma, and unfortunately can result in pinning a negative label that adversely affects this child long after treatment is given and no affects remain. Also due to its sensitive nature around these issues, children listed for adoption may have “sensitive special need” or “blood disorder” as their special need instead of the actual need.

Wow, I never knew any of that. What is something I can do?

If you are already in process, find your special needs list and make sure to tell your agency to include syphilis in your accepted needs! As said before, you will not see syphilis noted clearly on any agency list due to privacy issues, so they can let you know if they have any children matching this need. We’ve also included 4 amazing children below that are on China’s shared list with this need. You do not need to be with any particular agency to request their files and any agency can work with you to bring them home! The last little guy is designated to an agency.

Five Beautiful Waiting Children with this Special Need:

Susanna was born August of 2005 and is described as very playful and curious about everything. She loves being outside and learning things hands on. Her file is outdated and needs a family to request an update to learn more about how she is currently doing! Susanna’s file is currently on the shared list.

Photo 1

Brett was born August of 2006. His file is very outdated and needs more current information. His file lists a developmental delay, however, he seemed to be meeting goals during the last report, which was unfortunately over a year ago. Brett is overdue for an update on how fantastic he’s doing! Please ask about this handsome boy. Brett is on the shared list.

Photo 2

Tenley ages out in November and desperately needs a family to move forward for her. Tenley’s special need has no effect on her daily life. On a recent update, she lists liking to watch tv, play school, ride her bike and wear beautiful clothes…just like any other 13 year old out there! She gets along well with other children and has watched too many of them be adopted into forever families while she continues to wait. Due to her age, she must be with a family by November 2014. Don’t miss out on this sweet girl, she is on the shared list.


Ewan was born December of 2001. He has some updated information that can be translated for an interested family. His last report described him as extroverted, lively and quite the artist! I’ve seen pictures of his work, it’s incredible! Interested families can request his file along with the new translated information on this energetic boy! Ewan’s file is currently on the shared list.

Updated Photo

Shane is two years old and listed with Madison Adoption Associates via an orphanage partnership. He was listed as LID first. Shane is diagnosed with post-op right indirect inguinal hernia and syphilis. Shane can eat with a spoon, speaks well, and has good understanding. He likes watching cartoons, outdoor activities, and going down the slide. He is active and smiles easily. Shane is attached to his caregivers. His file says that candy or a hug can calm him down if he is having a temper tantrum. For more information or to review Shane’s file, please fill out a free PAP Waiting Child Review Form, which can be found here.


For more information on this special need or about any of these waiting children, please contact The Advocacy Team.

One response to “Special Need Highlight: Adopting a Child with Congenital Syphilis”

  1. Lauren says:

    Hi, I was just wondering if you can give me information as I am considering adopting a child from China with Congenital Syphilis. Is it common in the initial exam report for them to say brain disease along with the syphilis. Everything is looks pretty normal with nothing showing on brain from later brain scan? Thanks for any info.

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