The story of the single mom who adopted a 7-year-old from Russia, then sent him back unaccompanied on an international flight with a letter that said—essentially—“I’m sending the defective goods back” has been reverberating through the news and the adoptive community for the past week.
I’m trying to organize my thoughts here, so I think I’ll do it bullet-point wise while I’m organizing.
- They had had the boy for six months. Um. Okay; everything I’ve read says that it takes the child being in a family as long as the child has been in an institution for any real attachment to take place. Six months is no time at all in terms of family growth and re-settlement and stability and and and…
- The adoption agency in the U.S. had been doing the follow-up visits and reported no problems at the last visit, which was about a month ago.
- Russia is angry. Well, dammit, they’ve been angry about a series of adoption-related issues over the past few years; what does it take to (a) have them realize that good and solid information about a child’s behaviors and issues is needful and necessary for a safe and stable adoption situation; (b) have them decide there are serious problems with the current Russian-international adoption approach and figure out how to change it; (c) have them just decide to shut down the international adoption program entirely?
Now, a lot of folks are faulting the adoption agency for approving this woman for adoption. The adoption agency in question is actually used quite often by families in Alaska for adoptions from China, and they have always had good “cred” in the Alaska FCC mailing list.
I’ve read their “questions and answers” sheet about the case, and, reading between the lines, it sounds like this woman never asked for help. In addition, the agency claims that they have always found another family for a child who is not a “good fit” with the family that adopts him/her.
Why didn’t this woman ask for help???
Was she unprepared?
Well, supposedly she had ten hours’ worth of training in the ins and outs of international adoption.
Okay. First off, ten hours isn’t shit. It’s what’s required by law, but it’s still not shit. Not for something like adoption. Period. Oh, we had that same ten hours of training ourselves, via videos from our out-of-state adoption agency. Even so, even though it’s a lick and a swipe at the potential issues that can crop up in adoption, it certainly mentioned the worse-case scenarios multiple times.
At which point, we went online and researched it for ourselves.
Well, actually, we had gone online and researched it for ourselves long before we got those videos. We joined email lists. We read up on attachment issues. We read up on ways to foster attachment. If we had been adopting an older child, we would have researched ideas for fostering attachment in older children. We talked and talked and talked about these possibilities.
But y’know, there are a lot of people out there who are…blinded…by their hopes and dreams. A person who is blinded like that will hear the training, but not listen. They will fall victim to magical thinking: “Oh, yes, that sort of thing happens, but it won’t happen to us!” Or, “Oh, yes, if that happens to us, we will be able to Make It All Better Through True Love!” Or something. Probably, we, too, were victims of magical thinking. But when it became obvious to us that OmegaDotter had some issues, we didn’t cover our ears and sing, “La, la, la, I’m not listening!” All that prior research made it very easy for me to go to our pediatrician and discuss our worries and specify why we had them, and our selection of a pediatrician with international adoption experience made it so that when I approached her about these issues, she was able to come up with a therapist (occupational therapy) who could help.
Right there, though, is a crucial element: We asked for help. When we realized we needed help, we reached out.
While I am fully aware that journalists are incredibly able to twist a story or leave out important details, and that speaking to the grandmother in a case like this is, essentially, relying on hearsay, the grandmother claims that the mother “talked” to psychologists, but did not take the child in for any sort of therapy.
Dudes. If you’ve adopted, and you’re facing problems with your newly adopted child, you don’t rely on a phone call or two for either diagnosis or therapy. Period. You get your child into therapy with a qualified therapist of some type who has experience with children adopted from institutions, experience with attachment disorders, sensory disorders. To boot, any psychologist who makes a diagnosis over the phone without seeing the person in question is a disgrace to the profession. (Some of my long-time readers may recall a specific controversial instance where this was done.)
If you are adopting, here’s a word of advice: Your agency is there to help you. Not just before the adoption. Not just during the adoption trip. If you’re having problems, your agency should be able to help you. It’s part of what you’re paying them for.
But because these options are available doesn’t mean all people take advantage of them. If you’re a person who has been blinded by the “I’m going to rescue a poooor helpless cheee-ild from a cold, loveless, dead-end life in a (::shudder::) orphanage!” spiel, you’re probably not going to be the kind of person who actually listens to the (ain’t shit) ten hours of training. You’re probably not going to be the kind of person who realizes that, with older children, there’s a honeymoon period, and after the honeymoon period, it takes hard work. Even if you’ve got a beautiful, innocent, sweet baby girl, being a parent takes hard work once the honeymoon period is over with.
(I’d be very, very interested to find out the percentage of adoption disruptions correlated to age at adoption and country of origin. It would be nice if this information were actually tracked. Certainly, it seems that there are a helluva lot more news stories about disruptions or accounts of abuse for children adopted from Russia; is this actually the case, or am I suffering from confirmation bias here? I find myself wondering if there’s an inherent issue at work, being that people who are adopting from Russia are [typically] adopting from there in hopes of not being a “conspicuous family”, and, not having it in-your-face, as it were, are less likely to internalize the need to confront the less pleasant aspects of older child/international adoption/adopting institutionalized children?)