International Adoption Info

Newsletter #128 for Internationally Adopting Parents
April 14, 2010
PAL Center Inc.


Course SJM1
The reality of parenting an internationally adopted child under 3

Jean Roe Mauro, LCSW and Sara-Jane Hardman, the authors
of the book

If I love my kid enough

You receive this newsletter
as a former client or correspondent
of the Center for Cognitive-Developmental
Assessment & Remediation,
or a former student
of the BGCenter Online School,
or a user of the International Adoption Articles Directory.



Latest Articles
from the

International Adoption Articles Directory

New Articles

CONNECT OR DISCONNECT: Who is to blame for Artyom’s fate and can we correct problems?

Patty Cogen, Ed. D.
Tatyana Gindis, BGCenter, Director
Boris Gindis, Ph. D.

The first news was shocking: a 7 year old boy sent alone back to Russia: an orphanage returnee. How did his adoption connection switch tracks to become a train wreck—or as they say euphemistically in the trade, “an adoption disruption”? Who failed Artyom aka Justin? It is easy to point the finger at the parent, the agency, or the social worker who did the home study and final placement. But ultimately it is the family whose life will be turned upside down if parents are unprepared for a high risk child, a child with special needs. And in truth, every internationally adopted child is a child at risk.

Parenting an internationally adopted child is far different from parenting a child birthed into the family. The desire to have a family is a natural and laudable goal. If raising non-adopted children is like taking a day-hike, creating a family through international adoption is like climbing Mt. Everest …in sandals. Preparation and a knowledgeable support staff are vital to the mission. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes two villages of saints to raise a child from overseas.

Statements attributed to Artyom’s family indicate that they were either not prepared or in denial of what they’d been told. They clearly had no support, nor did they genuinely seek out help. Neighbors, including some who raised foster children, a psychologist and the agency were all kept at arms’ length.

Understanding child development and the unusual path it takes with high risk children is part of being a responsible parent. Statements by Artyom’s family reveal that they did not understand what was normal behavior for an international adopted child---they labeled such behavior “psychopathic”. Instead they thought “love was enough.” We went to WACAP’s website and discovered that love, and loving family are words that appears frequently in their presentation. Parenting is a word that is conspicuously missing. Adoption agencies have a responsibility not to mislead parents or feed on their romantic notions of adoption a charming child with big eyes.

Artyom was physically healthy, but he was a hurt child, carrying the emotional and social scars of his earlier life. Prospective parents must assume that every child available for international adoption has a painful past that will erupt into the present. Happy children from functioning families are not in the adoption pool. The behaviors Artyom displayed were not signs of an adoption-on-the-rocks. Hitting, spitting, screaming, throwing things, even threats to parents are typical behaviors for older internationally adopted children. Such extreme behaviors reflect the degree of frustration, terror, and confusion a child has at that moment. Artyom’s brain was responding with fight or flight behavior to (perhaps temporarily) excessive demands. A prepared parent would know that reducing stimulation and lowering expectations would be the appropriate response.

Rather than point fingers, what can you do to prepare yourself, as a parent, or to prepare your clients and thereby avoid an adoption disruption? What needs to be done in the community?

In our professional experience at the Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment and Remediation of older internationally adopted children and in Patty Cogen's experience as an adoptive parent and adoption therapist we know there is more to do:

• The agencies and media need to be honest, repeatedly speaking about the reality of raising a high risk child. International adoptions are not for every family. It’s not fair to the families to reinforce their unfounded dreams of having it the easy way, as if problems can happen only with others, but will never happen with them. Agencies must take a stand and refuse to place a child with a family who seems reluctant to embrace the reality of the task ahead.

• The agencies need to provide all medical/educational documentation from the country of origin, doing better job of obtaining it from their adoption sources. In our experience, the documentation is often incomplete, poorly translated by a non-professional interpreter who does not understand medical terminology and skips or miss-interprets information. This creates a more “rosy” picture of the child’s medical and social history than the original document spells out.

Read the full article


To unsubscribe
send e-mail to
with the subject: unsubscribe