Adoption Stories from Adopted the Movie - A Feature Film by Barb Lee

January 31, 2008

ICASN Newsboard

The Inter-Country Adoptee Support Network (ICASN) recently updated their website, and have added a new section: The Newsboard. It offers international news about adoption, as well as adoptee perspectives and information on support groups and meet-ups.

Also, don’t forget to check out the ICASN articles on this site: ICASN Articles at adoptedthemovie.com.


January 29, 2008

Why do some people discriminate against their own race?

Filed under: Race and Identity,Racism — Tags: , , — Catherine @ 4:19 pm

From Race In The Workplace:

We’re used to thinking of racial discrimination as something that occurs between people from different racial groups.

But is it possible for a person to engage in racial discrimination against a coworker of his own race? It’s not as common, but it can happen. I recently spoke to the restaurant industry trade publication QSR on this topic.

So, what would possibly cause a person to engage in same-race discrimination?

1. They buy into negative stereotypes about their own race

All of us have been inundated throughout our lives with racist stereotypes perpetuated by the media and other social institutions. It’s impossible not to have internalized some of these racist beliefs — even those about our own racial group.

But some folks have internalized these negative beliefs to a far greater degree than others, turning these beliefs into outright racial self-hatred. These people genuinely believe negative stereotypes about their own race, and this leads them to discriminate against those like themselves.

2. They think it’s a good career move

If you can’t beat’em, join’em, as the cliché goes. In a workplace where people of a certain racial group are already being discriminated against, joining in the discrimination could be seen by some as a way to climb the corporate ladder:

Van Kerckhove says some instigators might also see race-on-race harassment as a way to politically advance themselves in the company, but that racial discrimination—even if it’s inadvertent—has to be present initially.

“That could happen in a workplace where there already is racial discrimination”


January 22, 2008

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Alienate People of Color at Your Meeting

Filed under: Adoptee Articles,Adoptees,Articles,For Parents,Race and Identity,Racism — Tags: , , — Catherine @ 7:05 pm

From Race In The Workplace:

The next time you plan a meeting — whether it’s an internal meeting or a full-blown conference — take a minute to think about how people of color will perceive your efforts.

It may not seem as if diversity plays much of a role in meeting-planning, but you’d be surprised.

Check out Association Meetings magazine’s cover story this month, titled “Bias? What bias?”, in which the editor was kind enough to include some of my thoughts on the subject.

So, what are some things you should not do if you want to make people of color feel included at your meeting?

1. Create a discussion panel that is a veritable diversity ghetto
Another common way associations attempt to diversify their meetings is to include what Carmen Van Kerckhove, co-founder and president of New Demographic, an anti-racism training company in New York, calls “the panel of marginalized people.” This is a panel that features, for example, a black person, a Hispanic person, a young person, and a person with a physical disability put on display to discuss their issues as members of a specific group. Instead of creating “the ‘diversity ghetto,’ planners could include those issues in the main topics of the conference.”

You have no idea how many conference organizers have asked me to be on their diversity ghetto panel. And this doesn’t just happen at conferences where the organizers are mostly white — Asian-American conferences are often guilty of this too. Many a time I have found myself, The Half-White Asian, on a panel along with The Bisexual Asian and The Disabled Asian. Of course no one used those labels explicitly, but it’s what the audience was thinking as they looked at us.

2. Force the person of color to talk about race and nothing else
And include minorities among your mainstream topic speakers, she adds. “It’s more powerful if you have a panel of top executives that includes a person of color discussing a business issue, than it is to just plop that person of color up there to talk about their race.” The Association Forum of Chicagoland, Chicago, is very attuned to this, says vice president and COO Pamm Schroeder. But, she adds, it takes more work to find new, diverse voices than it does to just fall back on speakers you already know and have good evaluations for.

Organizations have a tendency to think of diversity as a thing that is wholly separate from the day-to-day matters of business. So instead of thinking “Joe has some great ideas about where our industry is headed, let’s make sure he speaks,” the meeting planner thinks: “Joe is black, let’s show some diversity by having him speak about what it’s like to be a black man in this industry.”

3. Don’t reach out to people of color because you assume that your industry “just isn’t that diverse”
…Another common misperception made by dominant-culture planners, says Van Kerckhove, happens when people look around at a meeting and, seeing that there are few people of color, assume that it’s because there are few people of color in the profession or interest group the meeting serves. In fact, it may be that “many of the people organizing the conferences haven’t stepped out of their comfort zone to do a more thorough search to find people who are different from the mainstream” of attendees, she says.

Just because there was little diversity at every other meeting you’ve been to doesn’t mean that there’s no diversity in the industry. It could be that people of color are turned off by the meetings and opt to stay home. It’s up you to create an environment that’s inclusive to all people.

Read the original article here: http://www.raceintheworkplace.com/2008/01/17/3-sure-fire-ways-to-alienate-people-of-color-at-your-meeting/


January 15, 2008

Gloria Steinem: Pitting race against gender

From Reappropriate:

Since 2004, when rumours abounded over an Obama candidacy, pundits have cast this year’s Democratic election as a battle of identity politics: will Americans choose a Black man or a White woman to be their nominee for president? And by extension, will this finally settle the debate over which is the more subjugated identity: race or gender?

Yesterday morning, Gloria Steinem, influential second-wave feminist, weighed in at the New York Times with an opinion piece titled “Women Are Never Front-Runners”. I guess we can tell where she stands in this debate.

(Incidentally, if women are never front-runners, than how did Clinton get as far as she did on the “inevitable pseudo-incumbent” campaign she’s been running that made her the front-runner for most of last year? I find the headline of this piece to be a wee bit of hyperbole.)

We’ve heard many argue that it’s time for an African American president, and many more argue it’s time for a female president. But, nowhere in the race vs. gender frenzy that has swept the nation has anyone challenged the very validity of the question. How can one compare racism to sexism – and if one tries, where do those of us who are disadvantaged both by our race and by our gender fit in?

In truth, the juxtaposition is disingenuous, divisive, overly simplistic, and ultimately harmful, because it redirects our attention away from efforts to break the White male patriarchy that excludes all the Others, but towards in-fighting where we all compete to see both who’s more oppressed, and who will make it out of that “Oppression Box” first.

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Sex and the Teenage Girl – Op/Ed Piece on “Juno”

Filed under: Adoption,Articles — Tags: , , , — Catherine @ 5:11 pm

From the New York Times:

THE movie “Juno�? is a fairy tale about a pregnant teenager who decides to have her baby, place it for adoption and then get on with her life. For the most part, the tone of the movie is comedic and jolly, but there is a moment when Juno tells her father about her condition, and he shakes his head in disappointment and says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.�?

Female viewers flinch when he says it, because his words lay bare the bitterly unfair truth of sexuality: female desire can bring with it a form of punishment no man can begin to imagine, and so it is one appetite women and girls must always regard with caution. Because Juno let her guard down and had a single sexual experience with a sweet, well-intentioned boy, she alone is left with this ordeal of sorrow and public shame.

In the movie, the moment passes. Juno finds a yuppie couple eager for a baby, and when the woman tries to entice her with the promise of an open adoption, the girl shakes her head adamantly: “Can’t we just kick it old school? I could just put the baby in a basket and send it your way. You know, like Moses in the reeds.�?

It’s a hilarious moment, and the sentiment turns out to be genuine. The final scene of the movie shows Juno and her boyfriend returned to their carefree adolescence, the baby — safely in the hands of his rapturous and responsible new mother — all but forgotten. Because I’m old enough now that teenage movie characters evoke a primarily maternal response in me (my question during the film wasn’t “What would I do in that situation?�? but “What would I do if my daughter were in that situation?�?), the last scene brought tears to my eyes. To see a young daughter, faced with the terrible fact of a pregnancy, unscathed by it and completely her old self again was magical.

And that’s why “Juno�? is a fairy tale. As any woman who has ever chosen (or been forced) to kick it old school can tell you, surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost. Nor is an abortion psychologically or physically simple. It is an invasive and frightening procedure, and for some adolescent girls it constitutes part of their first gynecological exam. I know grown women who’ve wept bitterly after abortions, no matter how sound their decisions were. How much harder are these procedures for girls, whose moral and emotional universe is just taking shape?

Even the much-discussed pregnancy of 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears reveals the rudely unfair toll that a few minutes of pleasure can exact on a girl. The very fact that the gossip magazines are still debating the identity of the father proves again that the burden of sex is the woman’s to bear. He has a chance to maintain his privacy, but if she becomes pregnant by mistake, soon all the world will know.

Pregnancy robs a teenager of her girlhood. This stark fact is one reason girls used to be so carefully guarded and protected — in a system that at once limited their horizons and safeguarded them from devastating consequences. The feminist historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has written that “however prudish and ‘uptight’ the Victorians were, our ancestors had a deep commitment to girls.�?

We, too, have a deep commitment to girls, and ours centers not on protecting their chastity, but on supporting their ability to compete with boys, to be free — perhaps for the first time in history — from the restraints that kept women from achieving on the same level. Now we have to ask ourselves this question: Does the full enfranchisement of girls depend on their being sexually liberated? And if it does, can we somehow change or diminish among the very young the trauma of pregnancy, the occasional result of even safe sex?

Biology is destiny, and the brutally unfair outcome that adolescent sexuality can produce will never change. Twenty years ago, I taught high school in a town near New Orleans. There was a girls’ bathroom next to my classroom, which was more convenient for me than the faculty one on the other side of campus. In the last stall, carved deeply into the metal box reserved for used sanitary napkins, was the single word “Please.�?

Whoever had written it had taken a long time; the word was etched so deeply into the metal that she must have worked on it over several days, hiding in there on hall passes or study breaks, desperate. I never knew who wrote it, or when, but I always knew exactly what that anonymous girl meant. When I looked out over the girls moving through the hallways between classes, I wondered if she was among them, and I hoped that her prayer had been answered.

Caitlin Flanagan, the author of “To Hell With All That,�? is working on a book about the emotional lives of pubescent girls.

Read the originl article here: Sex & The Teenage Girl


New Demographic Anti-Racist Action Group Starting Jan. 28th!

New Demographic, the “antithesis of the typical diversity training company” founded by Carmen Van Kerckhove of Racialicious and Anti-Racist Parent, will be starting a new Anti-Racist Action Group on Jan. 28. The group is “a 9-week-long course that takes an in-depth look at race, racism, privilege, and stereotypes” which is done through 9 weekly 90-minute group phone discussions facilitated by Van Kerckhove and bi-weekly reading and writing assignments.

From the announcement:

What’s unique about the course?

In-depth
You will engage in an in-depth study of race and racism. Taking a single workshop — even if it’s a day-long workshop — only allows you to scratch the surface. The Anti-Racism Action Group, on the other hand, gives you time to thoroughly explore and process new ideas.

Action-oriented
You will actively engage with the material and think about how it applies in your life. It’s easy to space out while listening to an audio seminar or a diversity speaker. The Anti-Racism Action Group’s action-oriented format, on the other hand, ensures that you don’t fall into the trap of passive learning.

Personal
You will get to know your fellow group members, learn from each other and develop personal bonds. In a typical diversity training setting, the speaker drones on and on to an anonymous mass of people. The Anti-Racism Action Group’s discussions, on the other hand, are driven by your stories, experiences, and analyses.

Each Anti-Racist Action Group is made up of only 12 participants, so sign up now! If you are unable to join this action group, New Demographic has several a year- the next one starting February 27th, 2008- so sign up for their mailing list and stay updated!


January 11, 2008

Parted-at-birth twins ‘married’

From the BBC:

A pair of twins who were adopted by separate families as babies got married without knowing they were brother and sister, a peer told the House of Lords.

A court annulled the British couple’s union after they discovered their true relationship, Lord Alton said.

The peer – who was told of the case by a High Court judge involved – said the twins felt an “inevitable attraction”.

He said the case showed how important it was for children to be able to find out about their biological parents.

Details of the identities of the twins involved have been kept secret, but Lord Alton said the pair did not realise they were related until after their marriage.

‘Truth will out’

The former Liberal Democrat MP raised the couple’s case during a House of Lords debate on the Human Fertility and Embryology Bill in December.

“They were never told that they were twins,” he told the Lords.

“They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction, and the judge had to deal with the consequences of the marriage that they entered into and all the issues of their separation.”

He told the BBC News website that their story raises the wider issue of the importance of strengthening the rights of children to know the identities of their biological parents.

“If you start trying to conceal someone’s identity, sooner or later the truth will out,” he said.

“And if you don’t know you are biologically related to someone, you may become attracted to them and tragedies like this may occur.”

Pam Hodgkins, chief executive officer of the charity Adults Affected by Adoption (NORCAP) said there had been previous cases of separated siblings being attracted to each other.

“We have a resistance, a very strong incest taboo where we are aware that someone is a biological relative,” she said.

“But when we are unaware of that relationship, we are naturally drawn to people who are quite similar to ourselves.

‘Incredibly rare’

“And of course there is unlikely to be anyone more similar to any individual than their sibling.”

Mo O’Reilly, director of child placement for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said the situation was traumatic for the people involved, but incredibly rare.

“Thirty or 40 years ago it would have been more likely that twins be separated and, brought up without knowledge of each other,” she said.

Today, however, adopted children grow up with a greater knowledge of their birth families – and organisations try to place brothers and sisters together.

If that were not possible, the siblings would still have some form of contact with each other.

“This sad case illustrates why, over the last 20-30 years, the shift to openness in adoption was so important,” Ms O’Reilly added.

Read the original article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7182817.stm


January 7, 2008

Stories About Home, by Leonie Simmons

Leonie Simmons was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago she returned to the place of her birth. This thoughtful and carefully written paper describes her journey and her efforts to deconstruct taken-for-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home. It will be of relevance to anyone interested in ways of making home and making family as well as to those connected to the issue of intercountry adoption.

This is a story about my life. It is a story about identity, culture, belonging and families. To me, for the most part it is a story about Home. Making one, finding more, leaving many and taking them with you when you go.

I was born in Vietnam, during a time of war, and then adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago, I returned to the place of my birth. It has taken until now to be able to find the words, write them down and and speak of the experience. In the intervening years, I decided to hide away the events of my visit to my birth place. I wanted them kept safe from analytical tinkering, uninvited interference, wacky conclusions or undisciplined thoughts. Let the past be done with, I declared. I concluded that there were more important things to attend to, to think and speak about. And I was right.

But during this time, when I was keeping the stories of Vietnam at a distance, I was also experiencing a disconnection in relating with other people. I would have the occasional meetings and I was competent, I thought, at listening, but I could not answer questions. Simple, easy, demographic questions regarding my life began to take avery long time to answer and when I did manage to reply, I stuttered and mumbled incoherently. Questions like: What is your name? Where do you come from? Where do you live? Where is your home? Where were you born? Embedded within these enquiries is a request to disclose what nationality you are, what country is your country, what language do you speak. Other questions would inevitably follow: Who are you parents? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What is your profession? Are you single, married, divorced? These seemingly simple questions are routinely asked in conversation or on forms with little boxes to indicate which simple category you belong within. Those little spaces imply that the answers to those questions are to be easy and brief. But that is not possible for all of us. Anticipating the inevitable sense of awkwardness that would accompany these sorts of questions led me me to avoid talking to people as much as possible.

ed what my Vietnamese family had intended or thought about when choosing this name for me. Feeling that I had been granted a name representative of a particular meaning, image or metaphor, evoked a soft appreciation for the people responsible and a new sense of substance began to surround my anonymous biological parentage. It was around the time I learnt the meaning of my Vietnamese name, that I began a journey on which I would meet the ‘I’ that I may have been, an ‘I’ whom I definitely wasnot, and more importantly the ‘I’ that I could possibly become.

WHY VIETNAM?
In 2002, I traveled to Vietnam to visit my country of birth and to see Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, where my life began. I had always presumed that when the time was right, I would one day return. There were times in my life when I did not think much about going back to Vietnam. I had phases when I assumed a revisit would be an exciting adventure to pursue. And then, sometimes exploring the unknown felt a little daunting. For the most part though, there were simply other concerns, projects and life happenings to be focusing on. It was only a matter of when the ‘right time’ would arise, Vietnam wasn’t going anywhere.

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January 1, 2008

Giving birth becomes the latest job outsourced to India

Filed under: Adoption,Adoption in Other Countries,Articles,For Parents — Tags: , — Catherine @ 11:29 pm

From cnn.com:

ANAND, India (AP) — Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills.

A team of maids, cooks and doctors looks after the women, whose pregnancies would be unusual anywhere else but are common here. The young mothers of Anand, a place famous for its milk, are pregnant with the children of infertile couples from around the world.

The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women, cares for the women during pregnancy and delivery, and counsels them afterward. Anand’s surrogate mothers, pioneers in the growing field of outsourced pregnancies, have given birth to roughly 40 babies.

More than 50 women in this city are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years. But the program raises a host of uncomfortable questions that touch on morals and modern science, exploitation and globalization, and that most natural of desires: to have a family.

Dr. Nayna Patel, the woman behind Anand’s baby boom, defends her work as meaningful for everyone involved.

“There is this one woman who desperately needs a baby and cannot have her own child without the help of a surrogate. And at the other end there is this woman who badly wants to help her [own] family,” Patel said. “If this female wants to help the other one … why not allow that? … It’s not for any bad cause. They’re helping one another to have a new life in this world.”

Experts say commercial surrogacy — or what has been called “wombs for rent” — is growing in India. While no reliable numbers track such pregnancies nationwide, doctors work with surrogates in virtually every major city. The women are impregnated in-vitro with the egg and sperm of couples unable to conceive on their own.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002, as it is in many other countries, including the United States. But India is the leader in making it a viable industry rather than a rare fertility treatment. Experts say it could take off for the same reasons outsourcing in other industries has been successful: a wide labor pool working for relatively low rates.

Critics say the couples are exploiting poor women in India — a country with an alarmingly high maternal death rate — by hiring them at a cut-rate cost to undergo the hardship, pain and risks of labor.

“It raises the factor of baby farms in developing countries,” said Dr. John Lantos of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Mo. “It comes down to questions of voluntariness and risk.”

Patel’s surrogates are aware of the risks because they’ve watched others go through them. Many of the mothers know one another, or are even related. Three sisters have all borne strangers’ children, and their sister-in-law is pregnant with a second surrogate baby. Nearly half the babies have been born to foreign couples while the rest have gone to Indians.

Ritu Sodhi, a furniture importer from Los Angeles who was born in India, spent $200,000 trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization, and was considering spending another $80,000 to hire a surrogate mother in the United States.

“We were so desperate,” she said. “It was emotionally and financially exhausting.”

Then, on the Internet, Sodhi found Patel’s clinic.

After spending about $20,000 — more than many couples because it took the surrogate mother several cycles to conceive — Sodhi and her husband are now back home with their 4-month-old baby, Neel. They plan to return to Anand for a second child.

“Even if it cost $1 million, the joy that they had delivered to me is so much more than any money that I have given them,” said Sodhi. “They’re godsends to deliver something so special.”

Patel’s center is believed to be unique in offering one-stop service. Other clinics may request that the couple bring in their own surrogate, often a family member or friend, and some place classified ads. But in Anand the couple just provides the egg and sperm and the clinic does the rest, drawing from a waiting list of tested and ready surrogates.

Young women are flocking to the clinic to sign up for the list.

Suman Dodia, a pregnant, baby-faced 26-year-old, said she will buy a house with the $4,500 she receives from the British couple whose child she’s carrying. It would have taken her 15 years to earn that on her maid’s monthly salary of $25.

Dodia’s own three children were delivered at home and she said she never visited a doctor during those pregnancies.

“It’s very different with medicine,” Dodia said, resting her hands on her hugely pregnant belly. “I’m being more careful now than I was with my own pregnancy.”

Patel said she carefully chooses which couples to help and which women to hire as surrogates. She only accepts couples with serious fertility issues, like survivors of uterine cancer. The surrogate mothers have to be between 18 and 45, have at least one child of their own, and be in good medical shape.

Like some fertility reality show, a rotating cast of surrogate mothers live together in a home rented by the clinic and overseen by a former surrogate mother. They receive their children and husbands as visitors during the day, when they’re not busy with English or computer classes.

“They feel like my family,” said Rubina Mandul, 32, the surrogate house’s den mother. “The first 10 days are hard, but then they don’t want to go home.”

Mandul, who has two sons of her own, gave birth to a child for an American couple in February. She said she misses the baby, but she stays in touch with the parents over the Internet. A photo of the American couple with the child hangs over the sofa.

“They need a baby more than me,” she said.

The surrogate mothers and the parents sign a contract that promises the couple will cover all medical expenses in addition to the woman’s payment, and the surrogate mother will hand over the baby after birth. The couples fly to Anand for the in-vitro fertilization and again for the birth. Most couples end up paying the clinic less than $10,000 for the entire procedure, including fertilization, the fee to the mother and medical expenses.

Counseling is a major part of the process and Patel tells the women to think of the pregnancy as “someone’s child comes to stay at your place for nine months.”

Kailas Gheewala, 25, said she doesn’t think of the pregnancy as her own.

“The fetus is theirs, so I’m not sad to give it back,” said Gheewala, who plans to save the $6,250 she’s earning for her two daughters’ education. “The child will go to the U.S. and lead a better life and I’ll be happy.”

Patel said none of the surrogate mothers has had especially difficult births or serious medical problems, but risks are inescapable.

“We have to be very careful,” she said. “We overdo all the health investigations. We do not take any chances.”

Health experts expect to see more Indian commercial surrogacy programs in coming years. Dr. Indira Hinduja, a prominent fertility specialist who was behind India’s first test-tube baby two decades ago, receives several surrogacy inquiries a month from couples overseas.

“People are accepting it,” said Hinduja. “Earlier they used to be ashamed but now they are becoming more broadminded.”

But if commercial surrogacy keeps growing, some fear it could change from a medical necessity for infertile women to a convenience for the rich.

“You can picture the wealthy couples of the West deciding that pregnancy is just not worth the trouble anymore and the whole industry will be farmed out,” said Lantos.

Or, Lantos said, competition among clinics could lead to compromised safety measures and “the clinic across the street offers it for 20 percent less and one in Bangladesh undercuts that and pretty soon conditions get bad.”

The industry is not regulated by the government. Health officials have issued nonbinding ethical guidelines and called for legislation to protect the surrogates and the children.

For now, the surrogate mothers in Anand seem as pleased with the arrangement as the new parents.

“I know this isn’t mine,” said Jagrudi Sharma, 34, pointing to her belly. “But I’m giving happiness to another couple. And it’s great for me.”

Read the full article here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/12/30/india.wombs.for.rent.ap/index.html


Foster care better for I.Q. than orphanage, study finds

From the International Herald Tribune:

The results of U.S. research in Romania, being published on Friday in the journal Science, found that toddlers placed in foster families developed significantly higher I.Q.’s by age 4, on average, than peers who spent those years in an orphanage.

Psychologists have long believed that growing up in an institution like an orphanage stunts children’s mental development but have never had direct evidence to back it up.

Now they do, from an experiment in Romania that compared the effects of foster care with those of institutional child-rearing.

The study, being published on Friday in the journal Science, found that toddlers placed in foster families developed significantly higher I.Q.’s by age 4, on average, than peers who spent those years in an orphanage.

The difference was large – eight I.Q. points – and the study found that the earlier children joined a foster family, the better they did. Children who moved from institutional care to families after age 2 made few gains on average, though the experience varied from child to child. Both groups, however, had significantly lower I.Q.’s than a comparison group of children raised by their biological families.

Some developmental psychologists had sharply criticized the study and its sponsor, the MacArthur Foundation, for researching a question whose answer seemed obvious. But previous attempts to compare institutional and foster care suffered from serious flaws, mainly because no one knew whether children who landed in orphanages were different in unknown ways from those in foster care.

Experts said the new study should put to rest any doubts about the harmful effects of institutionalization – and might help speed up adoptions from countries that still allow them.

“Most of us take it as almost intuitive that being in a family is better for humans than being in an orphanage,” said Seth Pollak, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, who was not involved in the research. “But other governments don’t like to be told how to handle policy issues based on intuition.

“What makes this study important is that it gives objective data to say that if you’re going to allow international adoptions, then it’s a good idea to speed things up and get kids into families quickly.”

In recent years many countries, including Romania, have banned or sharply restricted adoptions of local children. In other countries, adoption procedures can drag on for many months.

The authors of the new paper, led by Dr. Charles Zeanah of Tulane University and Charles Nelson of Harvard and Children’s Hospital in Boston, approached Romanian officials in the late 1990s about conducting the study. The country had been working to improve conditions at its orphanages, which became infamous in the early 1990s as Dickensian warehouses for abandoned children.

After gaining clearance from the government, the researchers began to track 136 children who had been abandoned at birth. They administered developmental tests to the children and then randomly assigned them to continue at one of Bucharest’s six large orphanages, or join an adoptive family. The foster families were carefully screened and provided “very high-quality care,” Nelson said.

On I.Q. tests taken at 54 months, the foster children scored an average of 81, compared with 73 among the children who continued in an institution. The children who moved into foster care at the youngest ages tended to show the most improvement, the researchers found.

The comparison group of youngsters who grew up in their biological families had an average I.Q. of 109 at the same age, found the researchers, who announced their preliminary findings as soon as they were known.

“Institutions and environments vary enormously across the world and within countries,” Nelson said, “but I think these findings generalize to many situations, from kids in institutions to those in abusive households and even bad foster care arrangements.” The study’s message, he said, is that children should be moved into more caring environments, ideally before age 2.

In setting up the study, the researchers directly addressed the ethical issue of assigning children to institutional care, which was suspected to be harmful.

“If a government is to consider alternatives to institutional care for abandoned children, it must know how the alternative compares to the standard care it provides,” they wrote. “In Romania, this meant comparing the standard of care to a new and alternative form of care.”

Any number of factors common to institutions could work to delay or blunt intellectual development, experts say: the regimentation, the indifference to individual differences in children’s habits and needs and, most of all, the limited access to caregivers, who in some institutions can be responsible for more than 20 children at a time.

“The evidence seems to say,” said Pollak, “that for humans, we need a lot of responsive care giving, an adult who recognizes your distinct cry, knows when you’re hungry or in pain and gives you the opportunity to crawl around and handle different things, safely, when you’re ready.”

Read full article here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/12/20/europe/orphans.php#end_main


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