Preserving Families Should Be Job One

13 04 2010

The tragedy of Artyem, the young boy sent to Russia by his adoptive mother, once again brings to light the need to strengthen and preserve families.  Some parents, whether by birth or adoption, find themselves facing challenges or behaviors that they simply do not know how to deal with.   Some respond by reaching out to their faith community or extended family.  Others look to mental health professionals or state agencies.  And others find the help they need through parent support groups or in extreme situations, child protection services and local law enforcement.

Despite these resources they simply are not enough.  Federal and state programs to assist families are woefully underfunded.   Mental health care in the U.S. is often inaccessible either due to restrictive insurance policies or a shortage of professional counselors.  And local child protection offices and law enforcement are too often unable to assist families due to funding, manpower or legal reasons.

Most families who are facing parenting difficulties do find help and go on to flourish.   But for a variety of reasons some families do not find the help they need.  And some parents because of denial, guilt or the fear that their child will be taken from them, do not reach out for help.

For those loving parents who need help raising their child, don’t be afraid – you are not alone and help is there.   Here are some places to start looking.

For those who love their children, have sought help but not yet found it – keep looking, keep reaching out.  Perhaps there is an organization on our list that you have not yet contacted.  Take a look and don’t give up.

And all of us must demand that our state and federal governments do more to protect our families.   We must demand  that mental health care is available to every family that needs it.

Finding families for children is only a part of the solution for children in need.  We must keep families in tact so that children are not abandoned or relinquished in the first place.   To ensure that children do not simply live in a family, but grow and flourish, more must be done.

Strengthening and preserving families must be job one.

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3 responses

13 04 2010
Karen M

I adopted my son from Russia in 2008. I was, at the time, single and adopting a 4 year old boy. I was elated by my adoption but felt unprepared when he came home and started having violent outbreaks and screaming fits. The first 6 weeks were a mixture of heaven and hell. I found a translating web-site that spoke for me. My son would get so excited when I would go to the site because he knew he would understand what I wanted better. But the fits still continued. His frustration on not being able to communicate back must be why, I thought. I use to make him lay down and take deep cleansing breaths… sometimes 10 or more at a time. That would calm him but I wasn’t always there and he would become “out of control” at pre-school. It was a struggle, but he is my son and I just needed to help him.
At my 6 month review from the social worker for the adoption, I mentioned my fear of school trying to force medication on him for ADHD. That is when I found out what would change our lives. She said that often children from Russia have something called fetal alchol effects. I explained that I had read about it and heard it called fetal alchol syndrom and did not feel my son had that. She smiled and began telling me the difference.
That was a huge stepping stone that has allowed me to understand my son and make him feel ok when he is over the top. My parents and even my, now husband, argued with me saying that it can’t be… it has to be adjustment or attachment issues or something. My son called me Mama 20 minutes after meeting me and has thought of himself as only my son since. We were bonded completely before his first haircut. I knew it wasn’t attachment disorder. I knew that my social worker was right. My doctor, though he will not diagnose until he is a few years older, agrees with me. So, I give him all the tools he needs to succeed. I talk to his teachers and don’t hide behind shame. It will do him no good. But I also will not allow him to use that as an excuess. He needs to think his way out of situations he has a difficult time with. More often than not, at a 5 year old level, just a few deep breaths does the trick.
I didn’t know how to handle life day by day, at first. Now my son is excelling at school and at least half of the time calms himself down before he reaches that point of no return. He see’s the world with the optimism of a 5 year old and I, his mother, provide him with the tools to continue to do so. I could have given up so easily. I could have taken the easy road… but when I told him today that my job was to always protect him, he told me that his was to always protect me because he loves me more than anyone in the world. Looking back, I never remember making any choice, just looking into his eyes.

14 04 2010
Christy Belleau

I adopted my daughter in Krasnoyarsk Siberia in December of 2009. I picked her up from the orphanage on her first birthday. She was tiny, malnourished and sporting a horrible sinus infection.

Today, after 4 months in my care she has grown 2″ and gained almost 4 pounds. Although still underweight, she is gaining weight and developmentally she is almost on target now, despite having been born 2 months premature. The first month she was a little difficult, the second month really difficult and by month 3 she was settling in and mostly a joy.

Not that it wasn’t and isn’t still hard to put up with behaviors that I am sure served her well in an orphanage setting (like hugely loud tantrums all the time), but I had done my homework and I knew there would be bumps in the road even with an infant and I really worked with her.

Families who do not work with knowledgable social workers and reputable agencies and who do not consult with international adoption doctors at the time of referral and first visit are doing themselves and the children they adopt no favors; and they are much less prepared to handle what must be an unbearably hard adjustment for a child, surely much harder than for a parent.

There are many good books and online groups filled with adoptive parents who can answer questions and refer you to resources, go and find them and make sure that you know this road is the one for your family before you commit to a child, because once you do you are morally bound to keep the promise you made to them to provide love and care and a forever home.

When you want a child so much you are willing to endure the rigors of a Russian adoption, you must also realize that this is bigger than seeing a child who needs a home and falling in love on the spot. It is about helping a young person who has suffered unbelievable losses adjust to a new family, language, country, etc. and that is hard and huge! It takes a lot of love, and patience and sometimes outside help!

Even though my daughter seems bright and engaged now, I know there may be issues to deal with later on. Even though she seemed reasonably healthy I have learned that she requires more testing for an issue that could be quite serious. Nevertheless, she is my child and all hurdles will be ours to cross together, just as they would be if I had given birth to her. She was adopted, but now she is just my daughter and I love her dearly.

I believe that the vast majority of adoptive families are loving, caring and thriving; and I just wish when some horrible news surfaces that we could have a little perspective. Tell the whole story so as not to doom children to permanent orphanage care because there are a few people who do unspeakable things.

14 04 2010
Karen M

Christy… very well said!

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