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I love facebook. It's a way to stay in touch with friends, absolutely. I prefer to see or speak to my friends, face to face, when possible, though. What I really love about facebook is the ability to read what top experts in the field of infertility have to say; people that I am lucky enough to know, some in person, some in virtual space only.
The adoption debacle that occurred just a few weeks ago was almost overwhelming to try to untangle. Certainly there were plenty of voices condemning the parent of the child who was sent back to Russia. Certainly, there were many reasons to feel that this was simply an awful parent, choosing a simply awful way out of a situation that most of us would absolutely never have chosen, regardless of what the problems were. And I get that. Yet, this parent didn't seem completely insane, just completely overwhelmed, beyond completely overwhelmed.
This is the long version of why I love facebook. I know. Here's the point. I popped on and saw Patricia Irwin Johnston's post. Pat is one of the leading advocates for adoption in the field for decades. Truly a giant. Founder and long time publisher of Perspectives Press, one of my favorite book publishers. A fair minded, strong opinioned adoption and infertility advocate. And here's what she had to say:
This is one of the most practical, well-researched and least emotionally-tainted articles I've seen coming out of the Artem case. But of course the author is a teacher of investigative journalism. Major points for parents: adopt from a Hague signatory country, don't practice denial about the info your agency gives you, and ask for help!
(I very much appreciated her pointing out "least emotionally-tainted", a point to be noticed.)
The article that she was referring to was written E.J. Graff on April 17 for the Boston Globe. Here are some of the highlights of the article:
- Russia should ratify and implement the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Enactment would require Russia to offer a fuller social history for each child available for adoption, which might help US agencies place children with the most appropriate families.
- The United States should require fuller post-adoption services and training when parents adopt children older than age one - for all adoptions, even those not governed by the Hague Convention.
- And yet it's not clear that either would have helped Hansen's son. Hansen's was an exceptional response from an overwhelmed parent who should have, and apparently didn't, reach out for help.
- Russian and other eastern European orphanages hold children with some very severe problems, more severe than some Americans who want to adopt can imagine.
- Impersonal institutions can leave serious damage. And, experts say, if this boy had reactive attachment disorder, the intimacy that comes with a new family might have set it off.
- Given its reputation, the adoption agency probably told Hansen all this in advance. But sources say that many prospective parents aren't open to hearing it. They're so excited that they don't fully absorb what they're taught in pre-adoption trainings; in their hearts, some believe that love will solve all.
- But the biggest lesson is too personal to be written into policy. Everyone needs help sometimes - most certainly, exhausted and terrified parents who have adopted traumatized children. Asking for help is no shame.
- Russia is threatening to make adoption policy based on this outlier. If it does indeed close, thousands of institutionalized children who desperately need homes may end up stranded and without hope. That would be a deeper tragedy.
(E.J. Graff is associate director and senior researcher at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.)
I agree with Pat. This is the first article that I have seen written on the subject that truly tries to understand the issues at hand, in a fair, dispassionate way. It's too easy to simply vilify the parent or the agency or one or both countries involved. Everyone involved needs to take more responsibility to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.