20 YEARS OF SERVICE
I remember the sunny, cold morning in January
1992. The folder on my desk, with the documentation for
my next appointment, contained a request for a typical psycho-educational
assessment in the Russian language for a child named Alexander.
I entered the waiting room and, as usual,
greeted the parents in Russian. They both smiled and said
they did not speak Russian. I apologized and turned to the
boy, greeting him in English. The parents again smiled and
said the boy did not speak English.
I was confused. "Is he your son?"
- I asked.
"Yes, he is our son, we adopted him from Russia nine
"Adopted? From Russia? What does this mean?" I
"It looks like you never heard about international
adoption", the parents laughed.
It was true - I knew nothing about international
adoption at that time and could not even imagine that such
a thing was possible in the country I was too well aware
of. I could not have realized at that moment that this morning
would be a turning point in my life: I was stepping onto
the path that would change me as a person and a professional;
that my interests, aspirations, preferences, attitudes would
be dramatically transformed; that from then on I would have
an uplifting feeling of "doing something real",
that the expression "helping profession" would
make personal sense to me. I certainly did not realize that
I would have to navigate uncharted waters.
I thought I was well prepared to examine Alexander:
I was a licensed psychologist, educated in both Russia and
US, with many years of practical work and research in the
field of developmental and educational psychology. I had
native fluency in the Russian language and first hand familiarity
with the Russian culture, including the specific sub-culture
of Russian orphanages. I was knowledgeable about the American
educational system and mental health resources available
for newcomers. However, it took years of hard work and learning
to become professionally competent in this emerging, dynamic,
and rapidly progressing field of international adoption.
In addition, to my surprise, I found myself emotionally
involved in the whole new world of turbulent and extreme
feelings, high hopes and bitter disappointments - human
drama, playing out in front of me with every new patient.
I got acquainted with many interesting people, colleagues
from different fields and adoptive parents.
I am proud that over the last twenty years
my small personal practice has developed into what is now
known as the
BGCenter, with offices on the east and west coasts
and a first-rate professional reputation. We cooperate with
a network of outstanding specialists in the field of medicine,
neuropsychology, educational law, psychotherapy, language
pathology, and other related professions. We continue to
accept patients from all states and abroad. At the BGCenter
we have developed a unique methodology of initial screenings
and offer them in three languages: Russian, Chinese, and
Spanish. Over the years a new methodology of a combined
developmental, neuropsychological, and educational assessment
specifically tailored to the sometime extreme circumstances
and remedial needs of international adoptees was created
The new notions and ideas that I developed
and popularized in varies publications during these 20 years,
such as: internationally adopted children lose their functional
native language extremely fast; an initial psychological
screening in the native language on arrival is a must for
successful schooling for the majority of IA children; school
placement should be based not only on chronological age,
but on the actual school readiness of IA child; from the
start there is an urgent need for an extensive remediation
of older IA children in order to prevent cumulative cognitive
deficit in children with delays, - these and many other
novelty concepts are now well accepted by the adopting community
and some educational institutions.
The turning point in our development happened
in 2000 when my wife Tatyana, after 18 years of a computer
programming career, joined the BGCenter as the director
and technical manager, created our three Internet sites
and established the
BGCenter Online School for adoptive parents. The school
now offers 13 Hague-compliant online courses written by
several well-known professionals in the field of international
adoption; it serves as a training ground for many parents
completing their pre-adoption preparation.
Soon after the International
Adoption Article Directory (a free collection of publications
on international adoption and children's health and rearing
issues) was created, and the school and the directory became
a new organization - PAL Center, Inc (Post-Adoption Learning
Center). The clinical (BGCenter) and educational/ informational
(PAL Center) services were separated to better serve the
adoption community. These two cooperating organizations
continue to provide clinical services, disseminate information
and promote new concepts about mental health of international
adoptees via publications, workshops and three websites,
the regular BGCenter Newsletter, and a free hot line number
for parents searching for specific services and advice on
what can be done in their unique situations.
Our motto from the very beginning was "Adoption
is not an event, it is a process". We believe that
adoptive families and adopted children need support and
guidance post-adoption when everyday routine of living together
as a family is settled in. We focus on in-depth psychological
assessment and the development of the intense and individualized
remedial programming for adopted children at school and
in the family.
Today the BGCenter provides a
wide range of psychological and mental health services
to adoptive families (http://www.bgcenter.com/interAdoption.htm):
- Pre-adoption evaluation of medical and
educational documentation (if needed, in native languages:
Russian, Spanish, Chinese).
- Initial screening of newly-arrived school-age
children (ages 4 to 18) for proper school placement.
- Comprehensive combined developmental, neuropsychological
and psycho-educational assessment.
- Telephone consultations and IEP participation.
- "Second opinion" service: review
of existing school-related documentation and recent evaluations
in order to develop a "road map" for appropriate
- Bilingual (Russian/English) speech and
courses for pre-adoption preparation and post-adoption
- Thematic Newsletter
- A constantly updated
Directory with a free access library of articles on
adoption issues, available for reading and dissemination
and Answers service via Internet and telephone calls.
The BGCenter-East office was visited
by delegations of officials from Russia, Kazakhstan, and
As was said by Vladimir L. Kabanov, a head of the Orphan
Protection Department in Russian Ministry of Education (who
visited the BGCenter-East office in 2010), "the BGCenter
presents a model of the post-adoption service agency we
would like to see in all countries adopting from Russia."
Twenty years have passed since I saw
my first international adoptee as a patient. I wish to thank
our numerous supporters, professionals, and adoptive parents
for their assistance, collaboration, and encouragement as
we are entering our third decade of post-adoption services
with the same optimism and uplifting feeling of doing what
we can to make other people's lives a bit better.
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.
Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment
and Remediation (BGCenter)