International Adoption Info

Newsletter #104 for Internationally Adopting Parents
February 19, 2009
PAL Center Inc.


Dr. Boris Gindis presents
4th International Conference on Post-Adoption Services

February 23-25th, 2009
Hotel Marlowe, Cambridge, MA

more details


Cradle of Hope Adoption Center is now recruiting host families for its Bridge of Hope for Russian Children 2009 summer hosting program.

Contact BOHRC Director
Patrice Gancie
by email
or tel. 301-587-4400

to receive a BOHRC information packet and for details on the program and upcoming information sessions in
Mid-Hudson and Long Island New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington DC area, and Chicago.

Application deadline for host families is March 15. You can read more about BOHRC at


Internet Digest

George Zelma
Understanding special education and the law
The steps necessary to obtain special education services for your child

Carrie Craft
Parenting with the five love languages
Building attachments with love languages

Daily recess improves classroom behavior
School children who receive more recess behave better and are likely to learn more, according to a large study of third-graders conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, NY.

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Latest Articles
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International Adoption Articles Directory

New Articles
    B. Gindis, Ph.D.
    Is retention a good idea for an IA child?

    To the best of my knowledge, there are no research-based published studies about international adoptees and grade retention, but in practice we know that they are retained significantly more often than population at large. From different parents' surveys one can learn that within the first 4 years after the adoption as many as 1/3 to a half of families choose to grade retain their school age adopted children.

    There is, however, a huge research on the topic of "retention" vs. "social promotion" in population at large, and the objective findings favor neither retention nor social promotion: both have advantages and disadvantages. It is generally accepted that, from the cognitive/academic prospective, retention is not effective for the majority of retained children (please note that almost all research was done on students in kindergarten and the first grade). To what extent these findings are applicable to our children is a big question!

    In school, any decision on promotion/retention is based on what is called readiness, which has two components, two intertwined but still distinct areas: cognitive/academic (the ability to learn specific academic skills and information) and social/emotional (the ability to function socially in school as an institution and to participate in shared activities with others). These two sides of school readiness do not always develop in harmony: a child may be ready cognitively or language-wise but may be immature socially, or vice versa.

    I believe that your decision about retention must always be highly individualized:
    what is good for one IA child is not good for the other. It should be considered only in the instances where there is a strong likelihood that your child will benefit academically, socially, and emotionally, as we know that only certain students benefit from retention. In fact, potential negative effects may outweigh positive outcomes, therefore retention should be considered as a "strong medicine".

    The most important: in order for retention to be as helpful as possible, it must be accompanied by supportive remedial services obtained either through special education department or within the general education for those children that read/write below the 10th percentile in the classroom (as per "No Child Left Behind" provision). Here are some arguments you may use in school to obtain the school approval for retention:

    1. My child belongs to "at-risk" category, and proposed retention serves the goal of preventing the development of a full-fledged educational handicapping condition. He
    needs extra time to create the foundation in basic cognitive processes and academic
    skills that make possible his progress in mainstream curriculum on the next grade level. Specifically you may say: my child presents a distinctive set of educational needs that put him in the "at-risk" category for an educational handicapping. Although some of his current academic deficiencies could be explained by his history of early childhood deprivation and abrupt language loss/new language learning, from a practical (functional) prospective we are facing an exceptional psycho-educational profile usually associate with a condition known as learning disability or language impairment. The specificity of my child's educational needs requires an educational environment that matches his actual readiness to benefit from the level of instruction presented in this grade. In order to prevent this "at-risk" condition turning into a full-fledged educational handicapping condition, we have to create a scaffolding system for him.

    2. My child's emotional vulnerability requires a less stressful school environment. My
    child shows "mixed maturity" in social/motivational aspect of learning. An extra year in the grade will promote his emotional maturity and self-regulation. Specifically you may say that: Clinical experience and published research (see teach us that children of this child's background, age and developmental history are more vulnerable to stress, more prone to frustration, and less capable of self-regulating their goal-directed behavior than their peers at large. In order to maintain a satisfactory level of functioning in school, my son, in addition to retention, must have a comprehensive and structured scaffolding system to address his emotional fragility. My son should not be exposed to undue stress facing a challenge that is beyond his actual readiness; structure and consistency are to be the prominent elements of his support. My son's progress in the area social/emotional functioning is as important as in the academic area.

    3. Chronological age does not necessarily coincide with the actual (developmental) age of post-institutionalized children. Many of them behave like younger children, regulate their emotions and motivation like younger children, have cognitive skills and academic knowledge like younger children - so they should be placed with their real, not "ideal" cohorts.

    4. In order to develop my son's potential, we have to achieve balance between his
    actual level of skills (cognitive and social) and the level of instruction and social demands. If this level is a year or two below his chronological age - that is where he belongs! The more positive school experiences are, the greater the chances for long term school success.

    5. We have to address our immediate school-related issues in order to avoid further complication in the short-term future. Why should we worry about their socialization issue in high school when they cannot read now, in the second grade? We will cross this "bridge" of peer socialization when we approach it.

    I would suggest employing the Light's Retention Scale (LRS) in your dealing with the school. The LRS is a questionnaire that assists parents and school professionals in making sensitive decisions about promoting or retaining a child. The Light's Scale, an easy-to-use recording form, identifies 19 specific areas of concern, including the child's age and the age(s) of siblings, the child's emotional maturity, life experiences, level of intelligence, behavior, and more. The Light's Parent Guide includes a concise statement of important factors used in decision-making. Identifying information: Light's Retention Scale, 1998. By H Wayne Light, Second Edition. Published by Academic Therapy Publications, Inc. 1998. ISBN 0878799141, 80 pages. (Ask your school to order it). You may Google more information about this scale. It is not a "test", but it is a helpful instrument which consists of nineteen evaluation categories with a total of 81 possible choices. This scale can typically be administered and scored within a ten to fifteen minute period. Administration will help you to use your judgment in a retention decision; it is designed specifically to be used as a counseling tool during parent conferences or as a means of determining what educational and psychological research would tell us about the retention candidate.

    And last, but not the least: if your child has an IEP already, please use his IEP to create as extensive remedial situation for him, as possible. Thus, while he is repeating the grade, his reading and math are to be in a remedial mode: for reading you may use Wilson reading system (or any similar Orton-Gullingham based program). For math it could be Scott math program or any similar, remedial in nature program, not just a repetition of the same curriculum.
    Tatyana Elleseff MA CCC-SLP
    Creating a learning rich environment to facilitate language development in adopted preschoolers
    This article provides some suggestions on how to facilitate development of language skills (Russian or English) in internationally adopted preschoolers. It offers implementation strategies for parents as well as lists useful websites of interest.


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