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

May 14, 2008

Inter-Country Adoption Reform & The Princess Problem

Filed under: Adoptees,Articles,For Parents — Tags: , , , , , — Catherine @ 11:40 am

From Lynelle Beveridge/ICASN:

Hello to you all in the broader Inter-Country Adoption Community!
Have you read the “Orphan Angels�? website that represents Deborah Lee’s Campaign for Adoption Reform in Australia?

As an adoptee, I think the language used in the website needs to be challenged and questioned. As an example, the name of the website – am I the orphan and my adoptive parents the angels? Or, the “save a child�? concept – what about the adoptive family who mutually benefit from adopting and the birth/natural and extended family who have lost their child legally forever? Also, the launch of Adoption Awareness week on Mother’s Day – as one adoptee pointed out, the insensitivity of this when it is the one day adoptees keenly feel the loss of their natural/birth mother.

What concerns me is the Orphan Angel campaign appears to neglect the larger picture of Inter-country adoption and its complexities, for example, the adoptees, the birth/natural families, post adoption support services that are needed for all involved! The campaign seems to promote change that benefits only the prospective adoptive parents and it appears to uphold the USA model of adoption as the end goal! The USA has only just signed up to the Hague last month and have problems with unethical adoptions due to a commercialised model of adoption!

I totally believe there is a place for ethical and well thought adoptions – done in a way that doesn’t promote child trafficking or activities that take advantage of people in unfortunate situations – done in a way that is sensitive to all parties involved. I disagree with the imbalanced perspective that only the orphaned child benefits or able to achieve their full potential through being adopted as promoted by Orphan Angels!

I totally agree that across the nation, there should be a process that is fair, equitable, and accessible to all prospective families who wish to adopt a child. It should also include comprehensive education to prospective families and the community, along with support and services after the child arrives and into the child’s life time. I also believe we do need Adoption Awareness educational events that challenge societal adoption attitudes, misconceptions, and judgements to ease the identity issues adoptees face as they grow up.
As a well informed Inter-Country Adoption community, let’s not stand by and allow this type of campaign to have the Government’s full support without advocating for changes to be done in a way that represents a more balanced perspective of inter-country adoption? Please help us tell the Government what you think of Deborah Lee’s “Orphan Angel�? campaign and what you believe Adoption Reform should include to ensure all voices in the Australian adoption community are heard.

For your views to be included in a collation that will be sent to the Attorney General and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, go to http://intercountryadopteesupportnetwork.blog.com/ and add your comments. You can remain anonymous or include your name. Alternatively, you can email me directly at icasn@bigpond.net.au .

Kind Regards,
Lynelle Beveridge
Founder/Director
Inter-Country Adoptee Support Network (ICASN)
www.icasn.org/

From Anti-Racist Parent:

I take a special interest in the media images my children consume, as do most parents I know, regardless of race. I don’t rely on entertainment executives or book authors to affirm or protect my children. That’s my job. But I do seek out age-appropriate books, movies, and other media that reflect the diversity of the world in which we live, with characters who look like us and the people we know and love.

But what about fairytales and the other “classics,” those all-white, generations-old stories and characters that are presumed staples of American cultural literacy, likely to turn up as “Jeopardy” questions? We love “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins”, but quick: Name an American children’s classic featuring a black cast. The good, but depressing “Sounder”?

Should classic stories and movies be avoided then because they tend to feature all-white casts?

Read the rest of the article, which also includes a review of several wonderful children’s books, here- The Princess Problem: There’s More Than One Way Of Being Pretty.


May 6, 2008

Domestic Adoption in Korea Exceeds Overseas for the First Time

Filed under: Adoptee Articles,Articles,Korean Adoption — Tags: , — Catherine @ 10:37 am

From The Korea Times:

The number of orphans adopted last year declined from a year ago, falling for the sixth consecutive year. But a greater number of orphans found a new family here than overseas for the first time.

Also, about 77 percent of elementary, middle and high school students studied at cram schools and other privately run learning institutes, spending a monthly average of 220,000 won. It took 11 months for high school and university graduates to land a job.

According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) Sunday, the number of Korean orphans adopted both at home and abroad stood at 2,652 in 2007, down from 3,231 a year earlier. It has decreased for the sixth straight year since 2001.

But more orphans were adopted by local families than by foreign ones last year for the first time. Local households adopted 1,388 orphans, accounting for 52.3 percent of the total, while 1,264 orphans, or 47.7 percent, found a new home in foreign countries.

Read the full article here: Domestic Adoption Exceeds Overseas for 1st Time


May 1, 2008

New Article Posted: “Nurturing Healthy Racial Identity Development…” by Jane Brown, MSW.

Filed under: Articles,For Parents,Site News — Tags: , , , , — Catherine @ 1:46 pm

We’ve added a new article to our site: “Nurturing Healthy Racial Identity Development Vs. Internalized Racism In Transracially-Adopted Youngsters”. The author of the article is Jane Brown, MSW, creator of Adoption Playshops, and a longtime adoption social worker and educator. She and her husband are parents to eight children, five of whom joined their family through adoption.

Here’s an excerpt:

She focused on the emotional content of her daughter’s words, conveying that she was listening to understand, and wanted to help. “I’m guessing that lots has been on your mind– worries over fitting in and whether or not you are as attractive as those girls– the White girls– in your school.


March 25, 2008

From Anti-Racist Parent: “T-Shirts that trivialize the transracial adoptee experience”, and from New Demographic: “Is America ready for a *real* discussion of race?”

From Anti-Racist Parent (originally published at Heart, Mind and Seoul):

On numerous occasions in the past, I’ve been fairly unsuccessful in trying to convey how many times I’ve felt that the messages and attitudes perpetuated by our society about adoption often leads me to feel that I am reduced down to nothing more than a commodity. . .a tangible item that people with the right kind of credentials and qualifications can pick out and pick up. . .a product that in theory, shouldn’t be available for return, but in fact, sadly is. . .an object that is believed to come from some other place, manufactured by another country instead of being born to two living, breathing human beings.

And time and time again, I’m told that somehow along the way I must have lost my sense of humor or the ability to empathize or that I should really try harder see other people’s points of view. After all, they probably had good intentions behind whatever it was they said or did.

So I’m trying to find the humor and the good intentions behind these t-shirts. But I have to be honest; I keep coming up with nothin’.

Read the full article here: http://www.antiracistparent.com/2008/03/19/why-oh-why-are-these-t-shirts-still-available-2/

***

In her latest newsletter for New Demographic, founder Carmen Van Kerckhove wrote this very interesting piece on the recent events in American politics:

Is America ready for a real conversation about race? That’s the question on many people’s minds after Barack Obama’s historic speech last week.

Judging by some of the discussion I’ve seen on cable news since, I’m not so sure. There was talk about Obama “throwing his white grandmother under the bus” because he mentioned that she feared black men who passed by her on the street. There was indignation when in a subsequent radio interview, Obama made reference to a “typical white person” harboring racial stereotypes.

Seriously? Is it that controversial for Obama to suggest that white people — like all of us — have internalized racist stereotypes, and that those stereotypes impact their interactions with others? If we can’t even own up to that simple fact, how on earth are we supposed to move forward?

On Friday, I spent some time on the phone with a reporter from The Los Angeles Times (read the article here). I told him that I believe one of the biggest obstacles to dismantling racism is the way each of us is only interested in our own oppression.
We’re up in arms when someone in our own community is discriminated against, yet when the same thing happens in another community, we couldn’t care less. We’re more interested in playing oppression olympics — arguing that our group is worse off than any other — than in finding a way to uplift all of us at the same time.

And that’s exactly what I see happening here. Instead of absorbing one of Obama’s core messages — that just because you have the privilege of not thinking about racism, doesn’t mean racism no longer exists — some white folks are using this opportunity to cry “reverse racism” and paint themselves as the ultimate victims.

I really hope we can break this cycle of self-absorption and get real. If we’re serious about dismantling racism, we need to go beyond the concerns of the specific community to which we belong and recognize that when one group is discriminated against, it is an affront to us all.

Warmly,

Carmen


February 26, 2008

Seeing Pink: Gender Stereotyping in Toys

Filed under: Articles,For Parents,Race and Identity — Tags: , — Catherine @ 3:51 pm

From Anti-Racist Parent & Rice Daddies:

Seeing Pink: Gender Stereotyping in Toys

Before my daughter was born, I knew what kind of father I wanted to be for her. My babygrrl was going to be raised to be a fierce, strong woman of color. I was going to make her iron-on onesies emblazoned with portraits of Yuri Kochiyama, Angela Davis, and Frida Kahlo. Her toybox would be filled with both dolls of color, preferably made by either anti-corporate crafters or small indie companies, and things traditionally coded as “boy�? like trucks and cars and tools. Both toy guns and Barbie would be equally verboten in our home, and her closet would be a pink-free zone. I knew the constricting, restricting and damaging messages the world would soon bombard her with about race and gender, and dammit if I wasn’t going to all I could inside our home to inoculate her against them.

So yeah, it would’ve only served me right to have been gifted with a stereotypical “girly girl,�? a little karmic payback for putting all my crap on my poor baby’s head before she was even born. That hasn’t happened, luckily (more…)


February 11, 2008

2 Articles on Changes in International Adoption in the US – Adopting from Vietnam, and a Rise in Domestic Adoptions.

Here are two related articles about changes in international adoption, and the effects on domestic US adoption-

From the New York Times:

Eyes like black pearls, the softest skin and little tufts of hair made it totally easy to fall in love at first sight. And that is what Julie Carroll — and Jewel McRoberts and Tommi-Lynn Sawyer — did when they saw the three tiny girls at a Vietnamese orphanage. They adopted the babies after months of waiting and then had to leave them behind because they could not obtain entry visas to bring them back to the United States.

That was almost four months ago, and the families last week began a public campaign to press the State Department to let them bring Madelyn Grace, Eden and Anabelle to the United States. Enlisting the help of the senators from California, where two of the families live, the adoptive parents argue that they have been unfairly caught in diplomatic wrangling between the American and Vietnamese governments over concerns about corruption in the adoption process that led to the suspension of Vietnamese adoptions from 2003 to 2005.

“What has happened to us is completely unconscionable,


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

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


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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