From the beginning, Sean Simpson* knew that the adoption of his two children aged three and five would not be easy. Both children had experienced dreadful neglect and physical and sexual abuse from their birth parents.
Renee Friedman attended the 2003 NACAC workshop presented by Ronald Frederici and Lisa Locke on “The Neuro-developmental and Attachment Related Disorders.” Here’s what she learned.
Despite its lofty title this workshop proved informative. Dr Frederici, an adoptive parent and ex-worker at an international orphanage, made the assertion that if a child has been institutionalized for two years or more, it is probable that he or she will display neuro-cognitive deficits. In other words, the child’s brain will have developed differently than if trauma had not occurred.
Every toddler without a family is ready for a placement, but not every prospective adoptive family is ready for a toddler. The good news is that the vast majority of parents who have the ability to be effective adoptive parents can develop the skills to parent an adopted toddler, but there are unique concerns and issues that need to be considered.
We know that the stress of growing within a mother who is considering whether she will be able to raise the child she is carrying affects the developing brain of the fetus. Primed to connect on an unmistakably profound level at birth, the newborn or older baby or child, regardless of the excellence of the care provided afterward, experiences biological as well as psychological loss when separated from his original mother—although quality care does mitigate the damage. Subsequent moves to foster care and then into an adoptive home leave their mark on the child’s psyche.
When Deborah Bailey and her husband Edward, first met their then three-and-a-half-year old daughter, Ola, in a Russian orphanage, her first words to them were, “You’re late.”
They immediately realized that this little preschooler was a force to be reckoned with. Deborah says that at the same time as Ola was being so forthright, she had a single tear in her eye. This was an early indication of Ola’s desperate need for belonging and her intense fear of it.
When we adopted our children, it was important to me that they not miss out on breastfeeding. There are proven scientific benefits for children who receive breast milk. Despite improvements in formulas and anecdotal experience, human milk is still the best food for human babies.
However, many adoptive parents of newborns either don’t know nursing is possible, or that there are many ways it can be done.
More and more adopted children are arriving home between the ages of one and three, and many of these toddlers have been wrenched from a familiar setting, are grieving the loss of a known caregiver, have experienced neglect or other forms of abuse, and/or have experienced multiple disruptions in their short lives. Toddlers who have resided in orphanages have typically experienced both environmental impoverishment and extremely inadequate care.
Aleisha and Garry Jenkins adopted their first child, Sadie, as a newborn from the US. Two years later, they approached the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), hoping to adopt two older children. They were surprised when the MCFD proposed a sibling group of two: Elliot, a little boy of 18 months, and his sister, Maya, three years old. Though they didn’t expect such young children, the couple pursued the adoption.
Attachment theory and children in care
These are the findings of Dr. Elinor Ames' research on the Development of Romanian Children Adopted to Canada. In 1990, Dr. Ames, an adoptive parent and professor of developmental psychology at BC's Simon Fraser University, began her research on the effects of institutionalization on children adopted to BC from Romanian orphanages. That same year, 1013 children were adopted from Romania to Canada, the single largest influx of intercountry adoptions in Canadian history.