Infertility counseling The staff of some agencies said that they recommended grief counseling and support for cancer survivors wanting to adopt because “infertility represents a loss and entering the adoption world will trigger feelings of grief all over again.”2

Financial implications Most of the nurses who interviewed adoption agency representatives found that normal high adoption fees could be a major barrier for a future adopter with a history of cancer, given the high medical expenses incurred during treatment of their disease.

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Other difficulties Survivors who wish to adopt must deal with the wait time associated with adoption, and the greater health restrictions and documentation requirements imposed by many countries in international adoptions. The nurses found that some international adoption agencies prevented survivors from adopting newborns. In these cases, the potential adopters could only adopt special needs or older children, while some countries would not let cancer survivors adopt at all.


The participants in the program also asked the agency representatives whether they knew how the birth mothers felt about choosing a cancer survivor to be the adopter. Most of the nurses were surprised to learn that a history of cancer was not usually a deterrent, since the goal of the agency was to place the child in a loving home, and health history was only one factor in the equation. In fact, more than half of the agencies responded that the birth mother might feel more positive towards a potential parent who has a greater value for life, now that she or he has overcome such personal adversity.2

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.  


1. ENRICH Program. Accessed August 31, 2015.

2. Quinn GP, Zebrack BJ, Sehovic I, et al. Adoption and cancer survivors: findings from a learning activity for oncology nurses [published online ahead of print July 14, 2015]. Cancer. 2015;121(17):2993-3000.