Vulnerable children are not blank slates

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Today I want to share with you Joey’s Journey. He is one of the few male Chinese intercountry adoptees adopted out of China who I hear from, due to the 1-child policy that has seen an unequal proportion of females being adopted out, rather than males.

Joey’s experience highlights the issue I wrote about in my LION review early this year; of trauma that occurs prior to adoption and how adoptive families cope (or not) with this. How it impacts everyone in the adoptive family and how our society turns a blind eye to this aspect of adoption.

Adoption agencies and governments (both sending and receiving) need to step-up and be accountable because after 60-plus generations of  intercountry adoption worldwide, with all the blogs and forums now available where adult intercountry adoptees are actively speaking out, governments and agencies need to embrace what we who live it are saying and start to make changes in intercountry adoption policy and practice. Without this, we continue to repeat the same mistakes.

Change could include things such as:

  • family preservation and support first to be reunited if lost, support if a known disability exists, micro financing if poverty is the reason why families are placing their child in an orphanage to begin with.
  • extensive trauma training within our sending countries. It begins at the start. Carers of vulnerable children need to recognise the trauma a child goes through in being separated from their genetic family. Having multiple carers go through a child’s life while in an orphanage or foster care is not optimal. Look at ways to reduce this and ways to identify those children more at risk and develop early intervention pathways that flow into the transition a child undergoes when being adopted to a foreign country.
  • mandatory trauma training of social workers and professionals who are assessing prospective adoptive parents. How can we expect adoptive families to “get it” if those assessing them don’t even understand the depths of trauma that vulnerable children are living daily and will live with, forever?
  • mandatory trauma training of prospective parents who are deemed eligible not just in the early phases of considering adopting a child, but once they’ve been approved and when matches are made, this trauma training needs to continue long past picking up the child and bringing them home.
  • develop centralised portals of trauma specialists who adoptive parents can turn to from the beginning of their journey and through out, to ensure they are surrounded by the right professional supports.
  • adopting multiple children to one family at the same time should not happen if the adoptive parents have no experience in adopting/fostering or caring for vulnerable children. I’ve written before about the practice of separating biologically related children (twins) and keeping bio siblings together should be the only exception for allowing multiple children into one family at the same time  – but with the requirement that a full support plan needs to be in place.

I’m not saying we adoptees have the answers or that any solutions will be easy, but at least we can start the conversations and bring these issues to the forefront!

5 Replies to “Vulnerable children are not blank slates”

  1. Your assessment of very few male children being adopted from China is incorrect. The majority of children eligible for adoption in China are special needs and there are more male children than female children waiting for adoptive homes. Even before the special needs adoption program in China became so dominant there was an increase in male adoptions due to mass migration as a result of industrialization.

    1. Thanks for the education Dawn! I’m referring more about the adult adoptees who come to look for peer support groups so I should clarify. I mainly see and hear from Chinese adoptees who are young adults at the moment – they are mainly female .. perhaps as the years go forward, the males that you are talking about will grow up and we will start to hear from them .. I hope so.

  2. Thank you for posting Joey’s Journey and your article, Lynelle. Trauma training for prospective adoptive parents is an absolute must. These little people have already suffered such a deep injury to their psyche and need adoptive parents who understand what that might mean. For many of our children, our love and commitment will not fix everything. The best we can aim for may be to help our growing sons and daughters to find a way to nurture the lost child within and to understand the vulnerabilities that will remain there for life.

  3. So well put Lynelle. You continue to do great work that I hope is heard in appropriate places.

    Hope we will see you again at Coapc.

    Congratulations also on Colour of Time.


    Jenny ________________________________

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