Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Adoption Update, Part Two

The second session of SENAME’s orientation for new adoptive parents took place Monday night. Contrary to my expectations, the majority of the 150+ attendees from the first session did return! Hope was etched on the faces of some; anxiety and doubt on others.

Children were the focus of this session; specifically, the characteristics of those children who are currently in SENAME’s care. The very first myth laid to rest by the psychologist leading the session was that all the children living in SENAME’s children’s home are available for adoption. This is not true, and during our breakout session it was explained that for many biological families in Chile who are unable to care for their children, seeing them spend their entire life in an institutionalized setting is preferable to surrendering them for adoption. This is obviously a difficult and delicate situation for everyone involved.

Of those children who are available for adoption, most are healthy but a good number do suffer from mild health issues (especially bronchial) related to living in a group setting. While those with serious health/developmental needs are fewer, there are almost no families willing to adopt them – a common theme in adoption everywhere.

Children placed through SENAME will typically face two key issues: abandonment and institutionalization. As relates to the latter, it was noted that placing children in an institution is the state’s response to an immediate need but that it only satisfies the basic need for protection. The adults who work in these homes do their best to provide love and attention for the children but nevertheless many of the kids initially experience some delayed development as well as eating, sleeping, attachment and communication issues.

The stages of the adoption process were described as:

Honeymoon: the child behaves in such a way as to be accepted

Testing: the child acts out in such a way as to test whether he will be loved and accepted unconditionally

Incorporation: the child’s behavior is accepted, he begins to open himself to the possibility of being loved and he begins to trust

After the initial session, we broke up into groups and then into smaller groups to read and discuss case studies of actual adoptive placements through SENAME. Afterwards, we shared our thoughts with the whole group and received input from the staff member who was leading the discussion. For the most part I agreed with her comments, except for two which caught my attention. The first was that the purpose of the small groups was not to get to know one another at this point – they want to wait until after the couples have received the green light to adopt before forming relationships among them. (I found that a little strange.)

The second was her statement that your adopted child will only seek out his/her biological family if they have had a negative experience growing up in your home. I felt this was a blanket statement and I believe that the reasons adopted children seek out their roots are as individual as the children themselves. I also believe that as parents we are to support our children if they desire to search one day, not feel that they or we did something wrong to create that desire! (So I found that statement a little strange, too.)

All in all, it was an interesting time and I was especially proud of Pedro for doing such a good job sharing his thoughts in Spanish when he was put on the spot in our small group. (And afterwards we had a dinner date together which made the evening even more special!)

1 comment:

Erin lee said...

oh steph, i'm so excited for you guys. i know this is going to be a long and hard journey your beginning but that 2 of you are the perfect people to embark on it. i agree with you about the children seeking out there biological family. a very close friend of my sister was adopted and she had a wonderful and loving family and they got along as any family did. when she was old enough she did find her birth mother but it wasn't anything to do with her family. it was just a personal need of hers.