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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’


Adoption is a topic that is never far from my mind.  I don’t know that a day goes by when I don’t think about it. And think and think and think. Throughout my life, the nature vs nurture topic has been near the front of my mind.

I was adopted. Those of you who grew up with me have always known this, as I have. One look at my family and one look at me will leave no doubt. In the midst of giants (really- my dad is 6’9″ 1/2 and my youngest brother is this height as well; my other brothers are all at least 6’4″ and taller and even my younger sisters are over 6’0″; my older adopted sister is not as tall, but taller than I, and has dark hair like my mother.) my 5’2″ stature has always stood out. Remember those worksheets in elementary school “Which one of these is not like the others?”?  Ya, that was me.  😆

I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t know I was adopted. I’m not a fan, as you know, of keeping secrets, and I cannot fathom the whys of keeping this fact a secret. Gory or distressing details don’t need to be divulged, but facts like this, I strongly believe should not be hidden from kids. Kids deserve the truth, and trust me- they can handle it. I think kids are a lot more capable of a lot of things that adults don’t give them credit for. Relationships shouldn’t be based on lies, or false perceptions.

We know how we feel. We *know* we’re different, even if we’re the only children. Because we are different, we know that our thought processes and inclinations are going to be different from the parents raising us. There is something to be said for genetics and the way our brains are wired.

They will find out. And if they find out as adults, trust me when I tell you that there WILL be problems. You don’t live your life based on a lie and when you find out, feel like things are grand and automatically have warm fuzzy feelings for the people who raised you but didn’t think enough of you to be honest with you. {ok, /rant} How a person deals with that information when finding out as an adult is going to depend, of course, but there will be issues, even if they are short-lived.

What’s got me thinking today is unadoption. If there’s a better word for this, I haven’t found it. This is the act of returning a child that had been adopted.

Sometimes this happens with children born and living in their country of origin; more often this involves international adoptions. Today I stumbled across yet another article about a family trying to get a new law passed for those in their situation: those who need to “give back” an adopted child.

I am by no means an expert in this, but I do have some insight. My older sister (the adopted one) is a social worker. Before she started working for the state, she spent several years as an adoption reconnect case manager. Basically, she worked with kids in the foster system who were working to reconnect with their biological families.

On a family trip last year, my sister-in-law brought up a situation a friend of hers was going through, regarding a child that had been adopted from overseas (I want to say Russia, but am not certain on this point). The gist of this was that one of the children was a danger to the family. Lives had been threatened- siblings and the parents lives; violence to others had taken place resulting in hospitalization, and I want to say fire was involved. In any case, the point was that this family was living in actual fear of death because of this child.

To further complicate things, because this was an international adoption, there were all kinds of laws that applied. And, because the father of this family worked with children in an official capacity and was an administrator, even if they did things legally with the international laws, state laws would go into effect and he would lose his job (supporting his wife and something like 10 children) and there was a threat of jail time for both parents if they were to relinquish parental rights.

This is not an extreme example. If you keep your ears and eyes out, you will come to see that this- the need to address violent (more often than not international) adoption situations – is a lot more common than we might think.

We’re not talking about rebellious teenagers that parents are fed up with. We’re talking about *violent* children who are regularly, routinely terrorizing their adoptive families (and not just the parents, but other siblings, even biological ones) and placing them in actual, ongoing life and death situations.

In my life, a dear friend of mine’s family grew up with an adopted brother.  They knew going in that he was a FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) baby, and that, while unconfirmed (this was around 30 years ago), they suspected he had also been born addicted. He had a plethora of problems when they adopted him.

Through the course of his childhood/adolescence, there were times when he went back into state custody as respite for the family and treatment for him. Years later, as an adult, the family ended up relinquishing and annulling the adoption. The last I heard, he was in state custody in a treatment facility, where he will most likely live out his years.

A close (local) friend of mine currently fosters kids that are too troubled for state agencies to place. They’ve currently got 3 little boys, in addition to their own children. Despite the stuff they have to deal with, there is no way to extract themselves at this juncture from this situation without being charged themselves with child abandonment.

Recently, a foster-mother in a nearby community was murdered by her two teenage foster daughters. My close friend and her family also recently fostered two teenage girls which turned out badly. It has since been resolved and they are, obviously, still alive.

You might think that the people who get into these situations are just plain nuts. Talk to them, though, and you will learn that they truly feel called. They feel called to love; to make a difference in the dire circumstances that these children are in, through no fault of their own. They genuinely feel that love can overcome, and in the case of international adoptions, that they can “save” a child from the deplorable conditions and bleak life they would otherwise be doomed to live.

Much of the time, they are right. Much of the time, things work out just fine for all parties. Much of the time, it’s simply a life-saving act. Literally life saving.

Another (non-local) friend of mine is working through Reece’s Rainbow, an international Down’s Syndrome (and other disabilities) orphan ministry to bring their newly adopted son, Henry, home from Eastern Europe. You can read about their journey here: Bringing Home Henry.

But what if things aren’t what they’ve been billed as? It’s no secret that many times, prospective parents are flat-out lied to. Other countries are not held to the same standards as the U.S. In the U.S. and in other western countries, children “in the system” get medical care and other services. Not so, in many other countries. Children born with issues are usually abandoned straight away and institutionalized. Children who are not born with physical defects but are abandoned or orphaned are often also institutionalized.

There was a point when international adoption seemed like the perfect thing to do. What could be better than helping out a needy child in a needy country that was ill-equipped to take care its littlest victims of circumstance? Sounds like a win-win, right?

Not so fast. While prospective parents were given pictures and histories of seemingly happy, healthy children in clean environments, surrounded by loving caregivers , as it turns out, in some of those instances, things were deliberately not as they were presented. In 2006, Russia put a freeze on international adoptions in response to the reported deaths of 14 internationally adopted Russian children.

The black market for children does exist, and the tentacles are far-reaching. Agencies that look and feel legit can sometimes offer up surprises. Children that at first seem to be healthy and capable of making the adjustment sometimes spiraled into uncontrollable dangerous behaviors, later to be diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

If you are inclined to this to think this disorder is hooey and a “fancy term” for “spoiled brats and their responsibility-dodging parents,” I would strongly urge you to do some research on attachment before coming to that (faulty) conclusion. 🙂 Attachment is critical for a child in the early years, and the lack of (attachment) does impede normal, healthy development.

A good place to start is with Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection, by Deborah Blum. Circa 1950s, people believed, thanks to the psychology of the day, infants were drawn to their mother solely because they were a source of food.

“In those days, psychologists and other mental health professionals argued vigorously against cuddling children and in general against the study and importance of emotions—certainly not love or affection. Most physicians sided with them, and newborns were sealed behind protective curtains to avoid the spread of germs,” Dr. William T. McKinney writes in The American Journal of American Psychiatry.

Harry Harlow’s research was ground-breaking, and developed into what we know today as, thanks to Deborah Blum, “the science of attachment.” Another good article summarizing the book was written by Suzy Hansen.

Orphanages in many countries are completely overwhelmed with unwanted children. There are often too many children and not enough workers. Encyclopedia.com has some startling statistics on orphanages world-wide. It is no wonder, when you think about the overcrowding and general conditions of some facilities, that children brought out of these environments have hidden and often long-lasting difficult issues adoptive parents may not know about or be prepared for.

Perspectives vary.  Kidnapped or Saved? How Some Orphans Feel When They’re Adopted is an abbreviated look at this issue.

Northstar Galleries- Russia Children’s Galleries has startling photos, taken in 1999.  It also has a links page, which links to this collection of orphanages around the world.

I don’t know that this issue has a one-size-fits-all solution. I see both sides this dilemma. My heart breaks for both the parents/families who adopt as well as the children who are “rescued” from these dire living conditions, only to have continued, ongoing problems.

Today, adoptive parents and families of children who come from these depraved situations continue to deal with the experiences and the environment that shaped their child’s psyche. Today, we have no answers.

Do you have personal experience or insight on this topic? Please share your stories and perspectives by leaving me a comment!

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Too many choices. In my world, I am very clearly Kobayashi Maru option 3 girl.  Give me two choices, and I’m going to find another one I like better (and that’s without cheating).  This is one of the reasons certain tests, like the Meyer-Briggs  (not to be confused with Briggs and Stratton engines :lol:) personality test drive me bonkers.  I rarely see things in black and white, although I do have strong feelings on what is right and what is wrong. There are usually too many variables/factors to take into consideration before making a decision.

But I digress.  😆  Today’s dilemma in my small little world revolves around books yet again. Nearly every day, I get freebies via Ereader News Today.  That means I am always reading something. 

Two nights ago, I started a mystery.  Yesterday, I got my Blogging For Books selection. Today there are titles that I’ve downloaded that look interesting.  One has a topic that if I was not already reading another book, I would start to read right away, even before the publisher title.

But I feel obligated to finish the one I’m already reading, which is good, before moving on to anything else.  See my issue?  😀

Maybe I’ll just watch chickens instead.  😆

Nah, I think I’ll finish the one I’ve started and move on to the hard copy next.  The weekend is right around the corner, and I can read the one new one without interruption – in theory, at least.

Having trouble deciding which book to read is one of those rare dilemmas that I don’t know I could have too much of.  Kind of like yarn- can’t have too much!  🙂

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