Sunday, February 18, 2007

A most confronting book & Hienous crimes on children

As we edge closer to the 'approval' stage of our adoption (approval from the Tasmanian adoption services to be suitable as adoptive parents, that is), I've been busily reading the mandatory books. The first one, "Adoption Parenting, Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections" was an excellent introduction to the many facets of parenting a child who has experienced more sadness and trauma in their first few years of life than most of us will in our entire lifetimes.

It has a lot of examples given by adoptive parents who have been-there-done-that (the BTDT's, as we call them in the adoption community) and provides useful information about the signs we newbies need to be looking out for, useful tools for fostering attachment with a child and all manner of details on all types of attachment disorders. I had no idea there were so many different categories of possibilities but when I got to thinking about it all, it really does make sense to be alert and informed.

Before we started the adoption process, we had no clue and had never thought really about how an adopted child can be affected by loss of the biological parents voice, smells, features and habits let alone loss of a culture, loss of family history, the trauma of upheaval in being moved from caregiver to caregiver (bio parents to foster parents - sometimes more than one set of foster parents - to orphanage to adoptive parents).

When you take a minute to think about that kind of effect on a child's life and compare it to the 'norm' - being born to your parents, knowing your parents, siblings and extended family and never needing to feel that you cannot trust them as you have only ever know them and them alone to care for you ... it really does hit home about why children of adoption are traumatized in many and varied ways and can stay that way for the majority of their lives if they are not shown how to 'be in a family', to trust that their parents will feed, clothe and protect them, be reassured that this is not a midway point until their next set of caregivers and so on.

Just the simple fact that a child who has spent any amount of time in an orphanage or social welfare institute may not know what it means to be part of a family and therefore doesn't have the skills to know how to interact when placed in a loving family.

That is the one thing that made me sit up and take notice and then to read more. Scott and I spend a lot of time these days just talking back and forward about the different methods for combating this possibility so that our child will grow into their teenage years and then into adulthood knowing how to interact on a relationship level with other people.

Can you imagine if you were born, placed for adoption and lived in an orphanage, moved to an adoptive family and no-one ever took the time or care to demonstrate to you, in a practical fashion, how a family loves each other, takes care of each other, shows affection, provides a safe haven in the home and the knowledge that no matter who the child grew up to be, no matter what choices they make, no matter how many mistakes they might make, that they will be able to turn to the safety of their family without fear of being cast out again?

This base level knowledge that the majority of us have as part of who we are is learned behaviour simply due to the fact that this is all we have ever known.

In the same way, a child who has lived a little or a lot of their life in an orphanage doesn't know anything but the survival instincts of those who have to compete for the attention of very few carers looking after a whole lot of kids, maybe they have to even compete for warmth and food depending on the standard of the orphanage.

The second book that is mandatory reading for us is "Attaching in Adoption - Practical tools for today's parents". This is the confronting book that the subject alludes to. There is a different depth to this book that can be a little scary in that it recalls real life children's experiences, including physical abuse, emotional and mental abuse, abuse by family members, by foster parents, multiple placements, extreme anger and severe disassociation disorders as a result of those crimes against children.

Some of these are going to be rare in the adoption community as thankfully not everyone's a predatory family member abusing a child from toddler years to early teens but it does give me insight into the possible traumas our child may have suffered prior to adoption.

Some days I just had to put the book down and walk away. I even found that one particular day, when the news was telling of the Romanian orphans living under the ground near drains and pipes, I was reading in this book a particularly grim experience a child had been subject to &, later that day if that wasn't enough, ended up talking to a mother of a child who had been abused for quite some time in their younger years. The mother was in complete denial about the seriousness of this and the severe effects on her child (now a very depressed and lonely individual). It was all I could do not to bellow at her to 'wake up woman!' and I found myself quite aggravated and immensely sad at the denial a human being is capable of, even when a family member is involved it still doesn't hit home that they must be there to do everything within their power to help address the effects of the abuse.

Normally, I am quite a positive person, with much to be happy about I don't have much cause for sadness. That day it took me quite a few hours to resolve the frustration and anger I felt. Even now, I just have to think of the conversation and tears come to my eyes.

It just goes to show, parents must keep their eyes and ears open for signs (and if you don't know what they are, read about them and find out!) that their child has suffered or is suffering some form of abuse, even from family members, as hard and as despicable as that is to stomach.

I know parents around the world have said this, in their millions, but if anyone, family or otherwise ever, ever contemplates this crime upon one of our children, or even a child that I know that is not my own, they should think again. Their life will not be worth living.