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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.....

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

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 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 15:33:30

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Lilka Sat 06-Oct-12 11:13:52

Flatbread, all people who adopt in the UK now are asked to take 6-12 months off work, including single parents. And there's a good reason for it. 12 months was not enough for my older two children, I had to give up work altogether for a time. And I am single, and yes it was hard financially. Prospective parents nowadays are told about this, and they are also warned about the possibility that the child's needs might be too great for them to return to work, although this isn't often the case.

Attachment theory is not about having a nuclear family, children from other types of set up fit well within it as well. The infant child has needs, including being fed, interacted with etc. It needs a caregiver (or several caregivers) meeting these needs consistantly over months so it can form a bond with them. If the baby cries but is ignored, if it isn't fed etc, then it can develop attachment problems. Later on, physical and sexual abuse might create or compound existing problems. Frequent complete changes in caregiver - going into foster care, then new foster home, then another one, then an adoptive home for instance, that means 5 homes, is likely to result in some level of difficulty forming new relationsips and trusting adults not to leave you. In communities which don't so much have a nuclear family, the parents still do not walk off forever and abandon the child, they are involved parents and usually they do meet all the childs needs whenever they are caring for it. The child is looked after by the same community (and set of caregivers) consistently, they aren't taken somewhere new after a year of life and given a whole new community of caregivers and then never see the old one again. Therefore the child is having their needs consistently met by a group of people who it forms a bond with over the first years of its life

Flatbread, that's not at all what my understanding of attachment theory is. With most children who are born to and raised by their mothers (and fathers if they're in the picture), in those early weeks and months the attachment is formed between the baby and mother when the child's needs, physical and emotional, are consistently met by her primary caregiver(s). This expectation from the child that when she's hungry she'll be fed, when she's lonely she'll be picked up and cuddled etc is what forms the attachment. This primary attachment forms a blueprint in a baby's brain for all future relationships and is HUGELY important.
I'm not talking out my arse here, I have a foster daughter who has an attachment disorder and it has been the most difficult of her 'labels' for her and for those around her to deal with. The damage that was done to her was in the first 2 years of her life.
For a child who has been institutionalised, they have learned the survival skills of 'using' any adult around them to give them what they need, be it food or a cuddle. So while their needs may be met SOMETIMES by the carers around them, they have no choice over who looks after them or whether their needs will be answered. This is (some of) what causes attachment difficulties.
This woman, A, presumably knows all of this. I would imagine (hope) that she spent at least 3 months nesting-in with her child. She will have done her best to answer every little cry her child makes to make her understand that she will always be listened to. She will have made a fuss each time her child falls to teach her to cry when she falls. She will have made a huge fuss every morning when her child wakes beside her to teach her child that when she wakes, she should shout out for her mother. 3 months is not a long time but I think about how my own dd changed in those 3 months and while I would have absolutely HATED to leave her, in the right care, she probably would have been fine. Some people don't have the luxury of good adoptive leave.

Flatbread Sat 06-Oct-12 08:04:34

Dame, I meant travel as in postings to different places/countries. This might mean a new nanny in every country.

Even if it is within the US, presumably A will continue working and will need to employ a nanny, and that person might leave/new one hired and so on.

Achillea, I am not sure how good the reason is...like some one mentioned upthread is institutional care any better than being cared part-time by nanny and part-time by new mum?

I find the premise underlying attachment theories i.e., a nucleur family with mum staying at home, not reflective of how children are brought up in many societies, with multiple caregivers. Nor is it reflective of our modern world, where we have single parents. Dies that mean a single career woman should not be allowed to adopt unless she wants to take a year or two off her work? How absurd is that...just puts pressure on women to confirm to some ideal 1960s family set-up.

achillea Sat 06-Oct-12 07:38:28

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.

DameKewcumber Fri 05-Oct-12 18:25:02

I didn't read anywhere that mother travels? Only that she was planning to leave the country - ie back to America or new posting in June. Nanny is daytime only which doesn't seem to imply travel to me.

Flatbread Fri 05-Oct-12 15:01:03

True, Lilka, some children adjust to changes harder than others, both based on their personality and experiences.

We don't know this girl at all, but it seems her new mum travels for work. So it is likely that she will have to get adjusted to new environments and carers/nannies. In this case, it seems multiple carers and attachments are inevitable.

You mention in your son's case how hard the moves were, even though he had love. I wonder how much harder the adjustments might have been, if he hadn't been given love by his carers in each new place.

Lilka Fri 05-Oct-12 14:39:19

Actually, if you reread my posts, I haven't advocated the nanny either bonding or not bonding with the child. I consider some relationship with her inevitable anyway given the nature of nannying. But not knowing this girl, and this family, how could I be in a position to state what the girl does or does not need?? I have been talking hypothetically (and hopefully made that clear) based on my own knowldege and experiences (I am the adoptive mother of 3 children, all of whom have difficulties with attachments)

"Doesn't matter where it comes from and even if one carer leaves, children adapt, as long as they are getting love in their lives"

Unfortunately that is definitely not always the case. My DS has always had love in his life, from foster carers or me. That hasn't stopped moves damaging his ability to form relationships securely. Yes, children adapt, but sometimes they adapt in a negative way. And he hasn't moved nearly as much as many adopted chilren I know. And again, I do not speak for this girl that i do not know

Flatbread Fri 05-Oct-12 14:19:42

Creating a bond with someone and then breaking it off (eg. nanny) has the potential to exacerbate the attachment issues, not make them any better, because it reinforces the message that caring people are either absent or abandon you

So the answer is to have a distant nanny, who is not allowed to bond with the child hmm

Anyone else, other than the parent, who has to take care of the child should keep a distance, so the child does not form a bond? hmm

Frankly, sounds a bit insecure parenting to me.

I know a number of children (myself included) who have not had our birth mother as our main caregiver, and have been provided care by different people over varying periods of time. Love is love, and it builds your self-esteem. Doesn't matter where it comes from and even if one carer leaves, children adapt, as long as they are getting love in their lives. Multiple attachments are healthy for a child, and far better than having caregivers who don't really care or bond with you.

Obviously, some children are more insecure than others, but I find it hard to understand how anyone can advocate that the nanny not provide as much love and comfort she possibly can to the child.

DameKewcumber Fri 05-Oct-12 14:14:59

"She has just adopted a child and she leaves that child with a nanny from 7-5?

Words fail me." based on your post (though you might have made one earlier which I don't remember) I didn't presume you had no insight into adoption - I'm not psychic (just self-important).

I have an equal opportunities approach to disagreements - I disagree with any one - adopters/adoptees/non-adopters/non-adoptees if I think they are stating as a fact something they can't possibly know. I think "words fail me" indicates a rather dramatic disagreement to someone doing something. Someone else said "I think its a shame that..." I don't think that's dramatic.

Obviously I disagree because its something not a million miles away from what I did but I'm not going over it again because I'm starting to look deranged.

Lilka Fri 05-Oct-12 13:34:57

If the child has never formed an close attachment to anyone before (she might of, this is all hypothetical) then that may well have affected her ability to form them now and in the future. Attachment issues are common among adopted children nowadays, although it's rarer to have very serious problems with it (attachment disorder). Not just lack of attachments, but many moves and broken off relationships in a childs earliest years have the potential to cause these issues. Creating a bond with someone and then breaking it off (eg. nanny) has the potential to exacerbate the attachment issues, not make them any better, because it reinforces the message that caring people are either absent or abandon you. The child needs to learn that a reliable carer will be meeting her needs and very importantly, will not leave her and will be meeting them for a long time to come

Of course, this is one situation where the child needs to be looked after for part of the time by someone other than the mum, and every adoptive parent placed in that situation has to decide what the best thing to do for their (unique) child is - daycare or nanny or something else. And I suspect that most adoptive parents facing that decision will weigh the pros and cons for each very carefully before deciding, and isn't making decisions on a whim or selfishly, but genuinely on what they think is best for their child in their family situation

Flatbread Fri 05-Oct-12 09:38:39

Happy, who is a primary carer? The person who spends the most of her waking day with her or a legal guardian, i.e., the adopted mother?

I am not saying this in a way to diss the nanny or mum. In my mind, both are equally important caregivers to the child in this stage in her life. And trying to diminish the role and caring provided by one, in order to establish 'supremacy' of the other, IMO, is not to the benefit of the the child.

If the child has indeed formed no attachments in her infancy, then, again, I don't see the benefit of giving her only the option of only one person to form a bond with (not someone the child chose, anyway) The child could well be better off having a number of people in her life who show her caring and love, even if the people providing the love change over time.

I think it is different models/world views on how a child ought to be brought up. The western one of a nuclear family with one primary carer while in some other cultures, it is perfectly normal and desirable for the caring to be provided by a broader community.

Flatbread, I think the difficulty with an adopted child who has spent time in an institution is that they quite possibly have formed no attachments in infancy. If that's the case, it's very important that the child makes an attachment with her primary carer. When we came home from Russia with our 14 month old daughter, the advice we were given by our social worker (and from the many books on attachment I had swallowed in the long wait) was to not allow anyone else to hold her, feed her, bath her etc to create that dependency relationship where the child knows her needs will be consistently met by her carers.

From the information given by the op, I presume that is what A is trying to do. No it isn't ideal that she's back to work so soon but it is much better, IMHO, that the child is being minded by a nanny as opposed to a creche situation which would be too similar to the institution she came from.

I feel sorry for the American mothers of adopted children that I know. Many of them adopted their children long after I did and are back at work months ago. What's the alternative for them? Not allow Americans to adopt? In Ireland, where I live, you have to make a commitment (not legally enforcable but would be held against you if you wanted to adopt again) that one parent will be at home with the child for its first year home. While I think that's a great start for the child, I think for many people it's a very difficult thing to commit to. We can only presume that A is doing the very best for her child and has made her decisions accordingly.

Flatbread Fri 05-Oct-12 08:45:19

Hmm, I am not sure that adopted children are less capable of having multiple attachments. They may be slow to form attachments per se, but it should have little bearing on multiple attachments.

The studies/experiments I have read on attachments have come from a western focus of a nuclear family, where there is one main child carer, usually the mother. And trying to replicate that relationship in adopted children.

But in many cultures, there are multiple carers from an early age, and children learn to attach (or not) based on the caring shown across all these relationships.

Forming a close bond with the nanny in this time of upheaval might actually help the child feel secure and happy that will help her form a bond with her adopted mother, over time.

And it might equally be the case that the child will never be that close to her adopted mother, due to different personalities. It happens within non-adopted families as well. Does that mean the mother should not allow the child a chance to form close attachments to anyone else, just because of a narrow view that mothers must have the strongest bond with the child?

Lilka Fri 05-Oct-12 08:39:40

It's obviously not ideal to have a nanny at this stage. But unfortunately parenting and adoptive parenting is a lot about doing the best you can under your individual circumstances when you can't provide 'ideal' (which is quite often)

MaryZed Fri 05-Oct-12 08:26:52

Personally I prefer people to be self-important than passive-aggressively insulting.

Flatbread, children are capable of forming strong attachments with multiple people. Unfortunately, adopted children are much less able to do this, especially if they have spent their first formative years in institutions with many different carers.

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