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.
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.
Even if sexual abuse is not disclosed in a child’s history, foster and adoptive parents must be prepared to deal with issues of sexuality and sexual abuse.
Was My Child Abused?
If your child’s worker does not mention sexual abuse, and records say nothing, did your child escape this form of abuse? Maybe. Maybe not. Sexual abuse often goes unnoticed, and unrecorded, and often children are reluctant to talk about abuse, and few abusers confess to their crimes.
For a period in this country’s history (1868 to 1925), more than 80,000 children from British orphanages were transported via steamship to Canada. They were settled with rural farming families in Eastern Canada. The younger ones, three to five years, were often adopted and grew up loved and happy. Many of the older children, ranging in ages from four to 17, were treated as chattel. The conditions they endured were harsher than those from which they had been "rescued" in the slums of Britain’s industrialized cities.