Message from Dr. Boris Gindis
I would like to share with you my most recent experience.
I have had 4 cases within the last two months in which
newly adopted older children shared with me during their psychological
screening that back in Russia they had been told that "Americans
kill adopted children". They expressed their fear in different
ways: from an acute anxiety that sounded in the question to brief comments
about "stupid rumors" shared among their peers in the orphanage.
One 7 year old boy told me that the director in his orphanage brought
him to the office just before his departure and told him to be aware
that "15 children adopted from Russia were killed in America."
An adoptive parent confirmed a few days ago that her 8 year old daughter
(2 months at home) was also told that "they [American parents]
can stab you with a knife if you do not behave."
The most detrimental part in this merciless "information"
fed to young minds is that these children had already seen a lot of
abuse - they may believe it! Never before in my 14+ years of work in
the field of international adoption have I encountered such a weird
source of psychological trauma in IA children. Now I am trying to evaluate
how serious and widespread it is. No doubt, this new source of distress
in some IA children reflects the current Russian attitudes towards international
adoption in general and in the US in particular. There's not much that
any individual adoptive parent can do about public opinion in Russia
(Ukraine and Kazakhstan seemed to be not affected), but there is something
you can do to set your children at ease and help them overcome a shocking
First of all, parents who plan to adopt older children
should be aware of the rumors circulating in Russian orphanages and
be observant and sensitive to this. In the first several weeks or even
months, while a significant language barrier exists, it is difficult
to find out the presence of such fears and correctly interpret related
behaviors. Do not just brush any suspicion off as ridiculous; it might
be quite real for your "primed" child. If you have a reason
to believe that this fear exists, try to find a Russian speaking person
who can talk about it with the child; make sure your own behavior is
logical, stable, and is correctly understood by the child. And if your
child is in any kind of therapy (e.g. attachment, PTSD, etc.), let the
therapist know about this newly discovered source of frustration.
Post, Ph.D., LCSW
adopted child: trauma and its impact
adoptive families struggle for years to create the peaceful family of
which they had dreamed. Regrettably, one of the main barriers preventing
such family harmony is one of the least understood when it comes to
understanding the plight of the adopted child. That barrier is trauma.
in internationally adopted children
stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition in which victims of overwhelming
negative experiences are psychologically affected by feelings of intense
fear, helplessness, and vulnerability. Many studies have shown that
there is a connection between children's exposure to traumatic events
and their subsequent psychological problems. PTSD symptoms in children
may last for a long time, and include, but not be limited to: disturbing
memories or flashbacks ( nightmares and fear of re-experiencing traumatic
event), avoidance behavior (avoiding thoughts, feelings, conversations
about the event), hyper-arousal (hyper-vigilance, exaggerated startle
stress and its manifestation in the young institutionalized child
a significant number of young institutionalized children are exposed
to traumatic events. These include, but are certainly not limited to,
neglect, physical and sexual abuse and various degrees of abandonment.
By having an understanding of traumatic stress and how it impacts young
children, we can identify post-traumatic stress reactions and address
the unique emotional and behavioral needs of these children.