A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Ack! Ack! Ack!

Dear God, this has to be a joke!  Right?  Right?

DEAR DR. BROTHERS: I am the parent of an adopted child from Eastern Europe. We have had her only about four months, but it is obvious that she is not fitting into our family. Our two older children think she is "retarded," and indeed she sits sullenly in the corner most of the time, or rages at everyone with tantrums when she doesn't get her way. I am wondering if I made a terrible mistake, and my husband feels the same way. We wanted to help an unfortunate child and enjoy another little one in our family, but this is too hard. What would the implications be for our two natural children if we arranged with the agency to place her with another family? -- S.D.

DEAR S.D.: It does sound as though your family might be better suited to a child from a nearby state or community -- perhaps an infant -- than to a foreign child with many language and cultural adjustment problems ahead of her. Most people who adopt from overseas are asked to attend classes explaining what kinds of problems typically come with that type of situation, and what you might expect in the first few days, weeks and even months of suddenly becoming a parent to a child from another country, another culture, one who may have suffered some deprivation or even abuse as a baby.

Perhaps your kids could help their newly adopted sister to learn the alphabet and form English words, and she could help them out with a little foreign-language lesson. In any case, you will all need a great deal of patience to give the child a fair chance.

If you absolutely find nothing good happening and want to "return" her, you will at least have tried your best to help her adjust to your family. And while you're at it, teach your kids some manners. I hope you return the child only as a last resort, because she shouldn't be made to feel like an animal at a Humane Society shelter, hoping for the permanent adoption that finally sticks.

ACK!  What agency did these people use?!  How did they pass a homestudy?!  Don't they know anything about attachment?!  Didn't they get any preparation for the possible effects of institutionalization on older children (and younger children)?!  Did someone maybe wave "Attaching in Adoption", by Deborah Gray, or "Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft", by Mary Hopkins Best, in the general direction of these people?

And what about Dr. Brothers' response?!  Have the biokids help with the alphabet and have her give them foreign language lessons?  Excuse me?!  Please tell me something got edited out by the version of Dr. Brothers' column I read.  Please.  Where's the advice to get counseling?  Psychological assessment?  Early-intervention program in the county?  An attachment therapist?  It's obvious from the first paragraph that Dr. B. thinks these folks are a poor fit for that child (I think they've got some Big Problems, myself!)--why the hell didn't she provide a real helpful answer?

But, hell, if you're going to give advice, maybe the advice should be:  Get that child away from those "parents", and to a different couple or single person who actually has a clue.

Holy cow.  I wake up, slug down some DayQuil and zinc tablets (yuck), wade into my blogroll and my email groups, and I stumble across this.  Sheesh.  I am continually amazed at people...

(This is not to say that beforehand preparation and post-adoption counseling is the be-all, end-all for a situation like this.  We all know that some children who are adopted at older ages have serious attachment issues that can be horrible to deal with in everyday life.  But it's obvious from the question that these people are...well, I'll be gentle..."clueless".)

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posted by Kate @ 9/05/2006 04:02:00 PM  
  • At 9/05/2006 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Julie Pippert said…

    This part says it all for me, "We wanted to help an unfortunate child..."

    I don't know how to say it without being equally offensive...but that attitude is a major red flag to me.

    And as far as what you wrote about the family and Dr. Brothers' even more unfortunate advice, I share your sentiment.

  • At 9/05/2006 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    International adoption is such a big investment in emotion, time, and funds, not to mention a sea change in the family structure, that you'd think people would want to protect that investment, by learning all they can. But there will always be those who fall through the cracks, whether by sheer stupidity or incompetence in the professionals who guide them. Probably both. Those few always seem to get the biggest publicity. Damn sad for that little girl.

  • At 9/06/2006 12:13:00 PM, Anonymous LizC said…

    I totally agree that the "to help an unfortunate child" wording just got my knickers in a twist. If I ran an agency, I'd specifically put that in a questionnaire ("why do you want to adopt? a: to have a child to love b: to help an unfortunate/heathen orphan c: someone to do housework"). Would make it a lot easier to reject people before they even start the home study, you know?

    And then, there is assvice and there is assvice. Anyone who uses the word "return" with respect to an adopted child ("gee, this color just doesn't quite mtch my hair") should be taken out and... ok, I won't actually encourage violence against the doctor, but holy crap she is showing her age. To say that her assvice is out of date and beyond useless is understating the issue.

    What a way to wake up!

  • At 9/06/2006 07:50:00 PM, Blogger MomEtc. said…

    Since when did Dr. Joyce Brothers become an expert on adoption? I've seen adoption related advice from her somewhere before. Is this some kind of column she runs. The letter sounds f'in made up for newspaper entertainment.

    If the letter is real, yeah then how in hell did they pass a homestudy??? I know this does happen and maybe it is best to allow this child the right to another family sooner rather than later. I don't think the child should be stuck with people like this.

  • At 9/07/2006 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Kate said…

    Y'know, it's not an either-or situation. There are some great folks who (a) want to parent a child and (b) want to help a child in need. I think it was the whole set of red flags in that letter that just got my back up. "Unfortunate child" is...typical savior phrasing. Putting it first as a reason for adopting is...highly indicitive (sp?) of motivation--in other words, it was "help the poooooor unfortunate chiiiiildren" first, have another child in the family second.

    As for Dr. Brothers, I have to say that I read her response as pretty harsh (though it was disguised). She did put "return" in quotes, and she did (the next day, I think) put together a quiz about whether international adoption Is For You which made some very good points. But still, to not mention all the various ways to try to help the child fit in is a disservice to her other readers, whether she wanted those people to disrupt or not. There might be other adopters in similar situations who don't have the attitudes in that letter who would have benefitted. Grrr.

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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