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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 days ago."
"Adopted? From Russia? What does this mean?" I was puzzled.
"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 and tested.

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 remediation.
  • Bilingual (Russian/English) speech and language assessments
  • Online courses for pre-adoption preparation and post-adoption support
  • Thematic Newsletter (http://www.bgcenter.com/Newsletter/Newsletter.shtml).
  • A constantly updated Directory with a free access library of articles on adoption issues, available for reading and dissemination (http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/ArticlesUser/).
  • Questions and Answers service via Internet and telephone calls.

The BGCenter-East office was visited by delegations of officials from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.
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.
Chief Psychologist,
Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment
and Remediation (BGCenter)

 
 

 

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