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Adoption challenged my idealism


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FAR FROM CHILD'S PLAY: The road to adoption can be rough but ultimately rewarding.


My adoption story

We adopted our son, whom I'll refer to as M, from a Russian orphanage in 1998. He was 18 months old.

Like most adoptive parents, my primary motivation for taking this journey was a strong desire to become a parent.

Fertility was an issue; however I had no qualms about taking the adoption path, rather than pursuing our efforts to have a birth child. My attitude was and still is, that every child deserves a happy childhood, no matter their genetic make-up, health, intellectual or psychological risk factors. An idealist viewpoint, one which has been hard to live up to.

Our adoption, was facilitated through ICANZ (Inter Country Adoption New Zealand). Personally, I can't fault ICANZ in the information they provided pre-adoption to prepare us for what was ahead.

You were left under no allusions, that the journey could be rough and you'd need to be prepared to invest heavily (energy, resources, love, compassion, and initiative) if you wanted to have a positive experience.

M is now 17 years old. We've been very lucky. We haven't had any major issues that I could say were absolutely a result of his adoption. Although, in my opinion, the lack of an attachment in the first 18 months of his life, has had an effect.

I'm beginning to see that the lack of a babyhood attachment doesn't necessarily mean that the child loses the ability to form true attachments. It's far more physiological than that.

To put it very simplistically, and this is only my understanding, when a baby does not have an attachment with one primary caregiver, and the associated love, nurturing, eye contact, sensory responses that go with it, the pathways that would normally form in the baby's brain, don't form.

This can affect the child in a whole variety of ways such as learning difficulties, inability to reason effectively, to be able to assess cause and effect well, short attention spans, low frustration tolerance, and many others. These issues seem to be very common amongst adopted children.

There are also flow-on effects with respect to the social groups your child attracts. It can be difficult to understand why your child attracts children from social backgrounds very different to your own.

For me personally, it has been important to understand this. By understanding who my child is, I can manage my own frustrations and exercise better patience. I've learnt to accept M for exactly who he is, not for whom I'd like him to be in my idea of an ideal world.


By accepting him for who he is, I have been able to maintain a close, non-judgmental relationship with him. A relationship where he can trust me to confide in me and share all that is going in his life. By maintaining this close relationship, I feel I'm in a better position to guide him into the future, slowly, patiently and my biggest hope - safely.

I am certain, if I persist, and guide and coach, maybe well into early adulthood if need be, M will become the productive, responsible, happy, healthy and well balanced adult that we all aspire for our children to be.

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