More of a who is right.....adopted daughter

(135 Posts)
MmmPercyPigs Mon 01-Oct-12 18:04:24

Two of my colleagues have recently had a big falling out. We are in an expat community in a Russian speaking country and colleague A (America) has recently adopted a daughter from Russia. Her DD is nearly 3 years old, and seems to be a lovely girl.

Colleague B is Canadian but of local heritage. She is furious, because colleague A has changed the girl's name (from a very obviously Russian name to a more 'Western' name) and colleague A has forbidden her nanny to speak in Russian to the girl (the girl speaks no English). Colleague B voiced her objections and the two have fallen out.

I don't really have an opinion on it, but I was interested in hearing a few more point of views.....

Flatbread Sat 06-Oct-12 11:56:36

Happy, I am not talking out of my arse either. There are a lot of children in other cultures who do not see their birth mother at all, for several years. The birth mother is working in another city/country, and the children are bought up by an amalgam of grandparents, uncles, aunts etc. with care takers changing depending on requirements within each household (e.g. At aunts for a month, another uncle for two etc.)

In situations where the husband has many wives, childcare may be delegated to different wives on different days, for all children.

Where extended families stay together, the family/child rearing tasks may be divided, with one aunt taking care of cooking and feeding, another of putting the children to sleep etc. As children get older, they may start taking childcare responsibilities.

A lot of women who work in other cultures, do not have the luxury to pay attention to their children cries or make a fuss over them. These children do go on to be normal.

Does that mean all these children are fucked up because they do not have a 'traditional' family structure, where there is one go-to person who fusses over them?

Attachment theory comes from a 1960s, middle class western notion of an ideal family with mum focused on kids. Fluid, multiple attachments is not a key part of this type of family structure. Doesn't mean it is wrong or unhealthy for the child who grows up in this environment (ok, some may be fucked up, but you find these type of kids in every type of upbringing)

In A's case, making the nanny speak in English to the child and trying to create a distance between the nanny and child, so that the child bonds only with new mum, IMO, is wrong and not necessarily to the benefit of the child.

Flatbread, I hope you didn't think I was implying that you were talking out of your arse, I certainly didn't mean to. And I am not setting myself up as an expert on attachment at all. I said that because I have had FC in my life for 10 years and see the results of poor early infant attachment and early childhood trauma. As an adoptive mother now, I will do anything in my power to make sure that dd has a secure attachment to me and dh and I suppose to me, attachment theory makes sense and gives me a framework for what I can be doing to 'undo' the damage of my dd's start in life.

I accept what you're saying about attachment theory being a 'new' western notion. I know my parents, now in their 80s, certainly grew up in a time when children were less 'precious' and their cries wouldn't have been instantly answered. BUT I think the difference is that they didn't suffer actual neglect whereas most children from institutions, and children who come to be available for adoption, are emotionally neglected and in some cases physically and sexually neglected.

I agree that there are other family models that are successful. There are a lot of Filipina minders that work near me and most of them have children at home who are being minded by family. So I agree that the nuclear family is not the only way for a family to live.

I have several Israeli friends who grew up in kibbutzim at a time when children were reared centrally, away from their parents, and only saw their parents in the dining hall at meal times and for a couple of hours a day in the evenings. To a one, they would all say they thought it was a terrible upbringing and that they would never bring their children up that way (kibbutzim don't do this any more - children live with their parents now).

In A's case, I hope the reason she didn't want the nanny speaking Russian to her dd was because she wanted her dd to learn English asap and the best way to do that is total immersion in the language, although as someone said upthread I can only assume that once the mother was out of the way, the nanny was speaking Russian to her. If I was the mother, I would want a native speaker to be minding my child, not someone who spoke Russian. I can't remember, was it the op who said the mother wanted to create a distance between the nanny and the child? If so, that's the strangest thing I ever heard. My minder will be starting after Christmas when I'm back to work and my hope is that dd will love her and look forward to her coming and I'll be working with the minder to make that happen.

DameKewcumber Sat 06-Oct-12 21:50:45

"In the UK the don't allow parents to adopt a child and then leave them with a childminder. There is a reason for this." Yes they do. I was very clear about my childcare plans and it wasn't considered to be anything unusual, and wasn't actually substantially different to other adopters I knew. Most social workers will quiz you very carefully about your plans and ask you how you would deal with a situation where a child is really unable/unsuitable to be left in childcare at the point you had originally planned.

I don't know why you think its not allowed? I do think its tough on any child to be in childcare before they are ready and adopted child children generally find that harder than birth children. The need for some parents to rush back to work in some countries is frowned on here but as I said there isn't much evidence that the ultimate outcome for adoptions in the US is any different to those here.

Many different family/societal models are successful - however children in institutions haven't had any kind of family model you recognise and that is apparent in their behaviour. They display behaviours that just aren't present in the kind of non-nuclear or non-western set-ups you talk about. My DS had a distinct self soothing mechanism (he rocked) which you just don't see in NT children who have a "normal" start in life in any kind of family set up and that was the norm amongst the children in his home. And this was a very well run home with kind carers who did the best they could for the children in their care. By 11 months the only thing he could rely on was that everyone leaves - hospital for 3 months then moved to orphanage, then baby room for 3 months, then 6-12month room for 5 or 6 months (then sick bay for a month) then moved to the 1-2 year room, each time all the staff changed. Having a nanny for 6 months whom she liked teaches this child nothing different to what she has learned already. That everyone leaves. And whilst its important that the nanny is kind to her, it is vital that she learns to attach to her mother and to start learning that she won't leave.

Attachment is not a construct of recent western society its just been observed in the west since the 1960's. Doesn't mean attachment problems don't exist in other societies.

achillea Sun 07-Oct-12 15:40:28

Dame Kew, it's probably different in your LA.

It's not easy though for a child to learn that her mother isn't going to leave if she leaves every day? Or did you have a partner as well?

feelingawfullylow Wed 10-Oct-12 00:15:58

"It's not easy though for a child to learn that her mother isn't going to leave if she leaves every day" - when the mother returns every time, then the child soon learns that she isn't being abandoned and mummy isn't going to leave her forever.

ithinkimightbegoingmad Wed 10-Oct-12 10:48:30

flatbread my H comes from a polygamous culture where the children are very much raised by a wider circle of family and community members. It doesnt make Attachment Theory any less valid IME/O....the mothers/caregivers very much practice 'attachment parenting'...the babies are strapped on whilst the adults are doing chores/working in fields/ fetching water etc and it is normal for the children to sleep with the adults up until the age of around 5 years old. The children are affected the same there as here, if their needs are not met consistently and reliably when small

I dont think Attachment Theory is taking about a traditional western family structure at all....it may have been 'discovered' in the 50s/60s but it has alwasys existed. And writing it down as a 'theory' is a westernisation, sure

Kewcumber Wed 10-Oct-12 15:33:30

it might be different LA's, achillea or it might just be different social workers. But if they are going to restrict adoption to those who can afford to take 1-2 years off and never use a childminder then they're going to run even shorter of adopters than they are now.

DS didn't have any problem attaching to me after the first say 4/5 weeks because he saw me every day. We co-slept, and once I'd gone back to work I did nothing other than work and look after him. Outside of his childminders hours (and my mum who cared for him one day a week) I didn't go out without him, I never left without telling him how long I would be, I was never late picking him up and we did all those things which do promote bonding.

He had more consistency from me than he had from any other person in his life (the same I would guess for this girl as she comes from a similar pre-adoption set-up). Even those carers he liked worked 24 hours on and three days off so there was really very little consistency.

We have annual reviews by a social worker so we can send reports back to his birth country and they always comment on his attachment to me and how incredibly well he has done for a child who was so delayed at 1yr. I chose his childcare extremely carefully to be as far away from institutional care as I could and had I not be happy that he would manage I would have found another solution and not gone back to work. As it is going back to work allowed me instead to take time off a sabbatical for a couple of years after I had been hospitalised and he was very unsettled at a time when he was about to start school. You know the kind of decision that most parents make for their children all through their lives. Adoptive parents aren't any different despite dealing with unusual circumstances - they just do their best.

This woman is doing her best and whether she could do better isn't really possible to judge without knowing both mother and child despite so many people on here being so convinced she should do things differently. Differently may not be possible and she's doing more for this child than colleague B (or indeed anyone else) so to decide on the basis of scant information that she should or shouldn't be doing something even with the experience of having done something remarkably similar myself seems ill-judged.

Hayleyh34 Wed 10-Oct-12 15:39:45

My child goes to a childminder every day for a few hours after school. I had a years adoption leave but couldn't afford more than that. I had been very clear with SS about this.

She has adapted really well and now knows that she can be left somewhere and we will pick her up.

It has taken ME nearly a year to adjust to it...

Kewcumber Wed 10-Oct-12 15:53:22

Yes hayley - DS adjusted a great deal faster than I did - little bugger!

Hayleyh34 Wed 10-Oct-12 16:11:14

It's amazing how adaptable they are isn't it? Whereas I spent many a time crying in the loos initially!

Still feel like part of me is missing most days sad

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