Newsletter #31 for Internationally Adopting Parents
September 17, 2006
PAL Center Inc.

In this issue

 

There is no substitute
for preparation to adoption of
an older child from abroad.
There will be difficulties - guaranteed.
Think how you can approach
expected issues well in advance.

New online comprehensive
course
JSBG2 - Adopting older children internationally:
making a decision and coping with post-adoption difficulties

IS OPENED

Instructors:
Jody Sciortino, LCSW
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.

Price $39.99
20 contact hours

A free evaluation is available for adoption agencies
until September 30.
Call BGCenter Online School administrator
at 845-357-2512
for username/password
to evaluate this course.

BGCenter accepts files and videos
for an early stage screening
of your perspective child.
Due to their size, such files often can't be
transmitted via e-mail or
delivered quickly via regular mail
(ex.: while you are abroad).

Call the center for instructions
on uploading your files for a psychological screening.

You receive this newsletter as a former client or correspondent of the Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment & Remediation, or a former student of the BGCenter Online School, or a user of the International Adoption Articles Directory.

Copyright@2006


Latest Articles
from the

International Adoption Articles Directory

From Our Database

Mistakes People Make
in the Special Education Process

Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.

Reader's response
Dear Dr. Gindis:
Just to give you feed back regarding an article recently on your site about the value of consulting with a professional when an older adopted child exhibits post-adoption behavior, which is sassy and angry when it comes to taking directions from the
parents. We have adopted our daughter exactly 4 1/2 years ago. Suddenly, at this point in her relationship with us she started acting just plain angry, especially, toward me, her mother. While we consulted with a family therapist on this issue, the help and suggestions on how to handle and deal with this problem were not any near as insightful and adoption specific as when we talked to a therapist Susan W. Baron. She practices in Westport and specializes in adopted children. Wow, that specialist really helped us out when we felt desperate. So, we do agree and support the idea of seeking out an adoption specialist who really knows how unique the life path of an older adopted child is (which continues throughout their lifetime). Best regards and thanks for all the tips.
Janet Shaw & Manny Perez

Below you will find a message I received recently from an adoptive parent who shares her opinion on a very important task of schooling of internationally adopted children, parents' attitudes towards their school achievements and other related issues. I would like to thank this parent for sincere and thoughtful ideas, though I agree in some instances with her and disagree in the others. My comments are dispersed in the text of the original message.
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.
Dear Dr. Gindis:
I was wondering if you could write an article about the acclimation of older internationally adopted children to family life and school. I have a personal opinion on this topic due to my experience as an adoptive mother. I have two children from Russia who were adopted at 5 ½ and 14. My third oldest daughter, who studies languages and holds an ESL teaching certificate, has helped many families adjust to family life and school experiences. We have come to the following conclusions:
  • The most important concern parents should have with their newly adopted children is bonding and building strong relationships with the family. This should take priority over concerns about the child's academic progress in school.
    BG. I agree with that: creating a family is the main reason and the goal of any adoption. Without mutual bond with your child the adoption is meaningless if not devastating experience. All the rest is very important too, but it's secondary.
  • I have seen families fret over their children's academics and show great concerns because their children are either disinterested in school or have difficulty completing homework, and are behind. The parent's expectations are way too high, causing undue stress and pressures on these kids.
    BG. Most adoptive parents, who are high achievers themselves, try to secure the best possible educational opportunities for their children, and rightfully so. But the best for their adopted kid is not always the same as for their biological child, or their relative's child, who were born here and have years of exposure to culturally and educationally rich environment. For example, placing a child who does not have this advantage, in fact is significantly lagging behind developmentally (even being healthy and with adequate general abilities), in a selective and competitive parochial or other private school with high educational standards may be not such a good idea in the first year. This subjects the adopted child to additional stress, making very difficult adjustment to a new life practically unbearably difficult. Some child may still be able to cope with this huge emotional and physical load, but the best school around can also become a proverbial "straw," which broke the camel's back. The same may be said about parent's attempts to maintain the native language of their child, in most cases against the child's wishes, sending him/her to a Sunday school or hiring a tutor. It's great to know several languages, but is it too much at this moment for your kid? Adoptive parents should not allow their fantasies and hopes take priority over reality; they should bring down the expectations, at least until they are sure they do not stress the child unreasonably.
  • Children who do not have any other physical, mental, or behavioral difficulties, once they are acclimated to family life and English and are slowly introduced to school, will fall into place academically and will catch up with their peers within one to two years, regardless of whether they were forced into a full course curriculum from the beginning, or classes were slowly introduced and they were given plenty of time to learn the language and vocabulary.
    BG. Unfortunately things are not that simple; and the old adage: "Love and good nutrition will take care of everything" have been proven wrong many times with internationally adopted children. A lot depends on the child's age of adoption as well as individual differences: the younger children have more time to grow into the school demands gradually, the older ones might have not enough time to go slow: their developmental and academic delays may accumulate and cause a full blown Cumulative Cognitive Deficit instead. Behavioral and emotional problems can follow. The other important thing is that their cognitive language, the one which is necessary to understand educational material and abstract notions, to write a composition or complete math operations, is not going to just come to children in a year or two without appropriate educational efforts. It develops through specialized educational activities, and children who did not have a strong cognitive base in their own native language will need an intense remediation in this area from the start, not some time in the future.
  • There is no way a child should be expected to arrive from Russia into a new family and country and attend regular classes in a foreign language. Math and English alone in a foreign language are difficult enough. One might say Math is a universal subject because numbers are numbers. But that is not the case when a text book asks one to use a protractor or a ruler to complete a problem and the child does not have the English vocabulary to know what a ruler or protractor is. The same goes for History, Science, or any other subject. These children should be able to go to school and take a few courses, Language Arts and Math being the two most important, and possibly Physical Education. They should spend the rest of the day in study hall in a class with an ESL tutor helping them with these two key courses. They should also spend some time reading Young Reader Books and working their way up to more difficult reading levels, as they are able to comprehend what they are reading. There should be little or no homework except the parent looking over the child's schoolwork to acknowledge their progress. There should be no pressure for these children to perform or study a full course load until they have a good grasp of the English language.
    BG. It's a mistake to assume that all orphanage children will have necessary motivation and skills to study within such unstructured format. I see families with children when their schools take similar approach: give children a relaxed schedule, no responsibilities, no home assignments--just play and learn English for now. The children do learn English, but it's a conversational English, which they pick up very quickly at home anyway. They often have behavioral issues: without control and structure they were used to in their orphanages they are seldom able to use this time productively. In many cases this time is a wasted time for them and effectively they will end up even more delayed in the academic programs.
  • Parents are wasting precious family bonding time with their adopted children by placing them in school and expecting them to study a full course load in a foreign language. They seek out special help like tutors and special counselors to help the children cope with these added pressures. All the while, these special tutoring and homework sessions are taking precious time away from their ability to focus on bonding with their children.
    BG. It's obvious that if busy parents hire 5 tutors instead of giving their own time and attention to a child, bonding is unlikely to happen. In fact it will be an invitation for attachment issues. But bonding and schooling should not necessarily cancel each other unless somebody believes that bonding is possible only during free from any other responsibilities time. Does such time exist at all? Bonding may happen when you work on something with the child, ex.: helping with research for a school project or discussing something, or reading and interpreting a story for a child. The SmartStart activities, for example, are equally helpful for cognitive development of a young child and bonding process.
  • The pressure to study hard and the struggle to perform is a major barrier in bonding and developing a family foundation. I know many families have suffered a lot of stress and hardship over nothing, when if they would just relax and let nature take its course, their children would eventually catch up without the added pressures. I know many families who are now looking back wishing that they did not put academics ahead of family. If they could take back that first year and start over again they would.
  • BG. The majority of families go through a difficult time during the adjustment period that may last even more than a year, as they struggle to be a family, to teach an initially abandoned and traumatized child to love and trust, to study and to catch up with the peers, to recover from the "nature's course" of their birth circumstances. The priorities have to be set straight: family life (attachment) has a right of way in relation to other matters. But the parents should not let their children drift any longer, they need to give them structure and support and manageable goals to reach.

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