Optimizing surgical treatment of internationally adopted children with cleft lip and/or palate: Understanding the family experience

Maren E. Shipe, Todd C. Edwards, Kelly N. Evans, Carolyn C. Schook, Dawn Leavitt, Ashley Peter, Babette S. Saltzman, Julian K. Davies, Raymond Tse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To understand the experience of families with children undergoing cleft surgery following adoption from a country outside the United States. To identify factors, including the timing of surgery, that influence family function throughout the surgical experience. Design: Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with parents of internationally adopted children postrepair of cleft lip and/or cleft palate and coded by a multidisciplinary study team. Mixed methods were used to contextualize themes derived from the parent interviews. Results: Twenty parent interviews were conducted, and four core themes were identified: (1) parental anxieties prior to surgery, (2) considerations for the timing of surgery, (3) impact of the surgical experience on the child and family, and (4) modifiable sociocontextual factors. Parents considered a strong child bond with at least one parent and the ability of the child to communicate basic needs to be important before undergoing surgery. In retrospect, parents generally felt that the surgical experience did not have a negative impact on their child or their families and that the surgical experience may have even facilitated bonding and attachment with their child. Acceleration of family bonding was expressed more often by parents of children who were adopted at older than 2 years. Conclusions: In our study, parents reported that cleft surgery soon after international adoption did not appear to impair child bonding or adjustment. Specific family and provider factors that could optimize the experience for families were identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-452
Number of pages9
JournalCleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Cleft lip and palate
  • International adoption
  • Mixed methods
  • Qualitative methodology
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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