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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.....

honeytea Mon 01-Oct-12 20:58:44

But your last paragraph is a reason for talking to the child in English, surely, isn't it? It is a reason fo rthe parents to talk in English but not the Russian nanny.

If the nanny has the child 40 hours a week and the child is awake for maybe 12 hours a day the child would have a pretty even 50/50 split when it comes to languages, she would get the best of both worlds and would be gaining rather than losing a language.

Kayano Mon 01-Oct-12 21:05:47

I am always amazed at people who are not adopted or have not adopted a child getting all her up about what you should or should not do.

I'm adopted and my mum changed my name as I was named after my biological mum and she had a name that has special meaning for our situation.

I live the name I have got now

Just because you've changed your name or had it changed does not mean you can't be told all about your history and birth and talk about it at length.

A name change doesn't mean you delete a child's history... It can mean however that (in this case with a strong Russian name) that people are less likely to pry into your business and make assumptions and stop you being slapped in the face with that nagging reminder that you couldn't name your own child

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 21:23:59

No honey. That would be a disaster, because the child would bond with the Russian speaking nanny rather than the English speaking parents.

The very worst thing to happen to a child who has been adopted is to not form a strong bond with his or her parents, to attach to another adult who will ultimately leave them. I think that people with no experience of adoption don't have any understanding of attachment issues.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 01-Oct-12 21:27:29

I don't thnk you have to be an expert on adoption or attachment issues to know that forbidding a three year old to be spoken to in the only language she understands is going to cause the child upset. Which you would want to minimise surely?

Plenty of young children form a bond with their child carers. I can see why the parents might not want a very strong bond to form with someone who isn't them, but I think preventing a child to be spoken to in their own language is taking it too far.

The child could be taught English without having to forget Russian.

honeytea Mon 01-Oct-12 21:28:55

The child has a big chance of bonding with the nanny over the parents no matter what language she speaks if the nanny is there for a large amount of time?

I have adopted siblings so I wouldn't say I don't have any understanding of attachment issues

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 21:31:00

Yes, but surely they want to avoid her attaching to the nanny over the parents, so it is better for the nanny to not speak Russian to her at the beginning?

achillea Mon 01-Oct-12 21:36:12

You need to consider not 'who is right' but 'what is in the child's best interests'.

In the case of the name, it wouldn't do the child any harm to change her name but not allowing someone to speak russian to her is probably not in her best interests. She will be bewildered and upset and will need to be able to express her thoughts and needs to someone in her own language.

If you think the adoptive parent is not putting her daughter's best interests before her own you need to do something about it to protect the child.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 01-Oct-12 21:37:32

You probably know more about this than I do, so I'm asking a genuine question.

Is the need to avoid a nanny bonding more strongly than the parents worthy of preventing the child from understanding communication?

Because I just can't see it. I know what you are saying a bout the consequences of a strong bond forming and then the nanny leaving, but if the bond with the parents is also strong then it wouldn't be too devastating would it? Would it really be more devastating than what will come from not being allowed to communicate?

Birdsgottafly Mon 01-Oct-12 21:38:49

What they are doing sounds just like what was done to Aborigine and Native American children, before society knew better.

It sounds as though there is to much change to soon.

There will be attachment issues regardless of what language is spoken and not all may be overcome given the childs age.

The transition into the family should be done as gently as possible, but it isn't being done as it should.

Birdsgottafly Mon 01-Oct-12 21:38:53

What they are doing sounds just like what was done to Aborigine and Native American children, before society knew better.

It sounds as though there is to much change to soon.

There will be attachment issues regardless of what language is spoken and not all may be overcome given the childs age.

The transition into the family should be done as gently as possible, but it isn't being done as it should.

Birdsgottafly Mon 01-Oct-12 21:40:29

"Is the need to avoid a nanny bonding more strongly than the parents worthy of preventing the child from understanding communication"

No, it isn't and a child with attachment issues will make inappropriate attachments to any care giver.

KitchenandJumble Mon 01-Oct-12 21:42:07

Drat, I just lost a long message. The upshot of it was that the child has lost everyone and everything that is comforting and familiar to her. She is in an entirely new environment, with a new family speaking an incomprehensible language, in a different country, and has even been given a new name. She cannot possibly understand why this is happening to her. Moreover, she may well have experienced neglect, abuse, trauma. She probably spent time in a children's home, where the care may have been adequate but could never replace a loving family.

The child should not be responsible for all the adjustments here. At the very least, the parents should learn enough Russian to communicate with her on a basic level, especially during the first few months she is home. Familiar, comforting language can help soothe a verbal 3-year-old. It can surely serve to assist the attachment process, which is the most crucial thing of all.

The issue of bonding with the nanny over the adoptive parents is certainly one that they would be right to be concerned about and watch out for. However, I don't think that simply banning the child's first language is the best solution. For a child who has endured so much loss, I think it is incumbent upon the parents to minimize any additional loss.

Again, I'm really speaking hypothetically, since I have no idea what is actually going on in this particular child's family.

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 01-Oct-12 21:44:38

Don't assume things about posters. Just because we don't say what our experience is doesn't mean we don't have any. Personally, and I resent the credential-checking, I have an adopted sister, friends from childhood who were adopted, two sets of friends who have recently adopted and an looking into fostering. I also lived in a different country as a child so understand issues with communication. I know how it feels to want to communicate with people and not be able to. Am I allowed an opinion?

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 01-Oct-12 21:49:26

Maybe the parents are learning/have learned Russian to be able to communicate with their child?

I still don't think that would compensate for not being able to communicate for the majority of the day while the parents were at work, but it may help.

Lilka Mon 01-Oct-12 22:02:22

This is not an unusual situation

Most (international) adoptive families speak their own language only. Often English since the US accounts for the majority of international adoptions from many countries

They may learn some Russian or at least certain phrases that will be useful. But the majority have not planned their life around an adoption, and very few will have any fluency in the childs language. They won't have learnt 'toddler speak' in Russian either! Nearly all children who are adopted internationally have a sudden change of language, with a small transition perhaps. And yes, it can be a hard change. It's hard losing your way of communication - your way of thinking too, because right now i am thinking in English and if I lost my language without quickly acquiring a new one I wouldn't be able to think, let alone speak. But they adjust and in a few months have good English, and will be fluent pretty quickly. They may start to learn their old language (probaby from scratch) later, from a qualified teacher (because even if the adoptive parents have learnt some Russian or whatever it is, they won't be great and the child will just learn their mistakes and bad pronounciation). Very few internationally adoptive families are bilingual.

By the way - how much Russian does this little girl speak anyway? Children from institutions can be very delayed and not have developed their own language to any extent. She may not know much Russian to communicate in in the first place

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 22:06:07


So many assumptions on this thread.

For starters, we don't know how much time the nanny spends with the child, we don't know how much time the parents spend with the child, we don't know the family set up at all.

All we know is that colleague B feels that she has a right to criticise colleague A for her parenting. Which I don't think is right.

I haven't, by the way, said that anyone on this thread has no experience of adoption. I am simply saying that people who don't have experience of adoption, generally find the whole attachment thing very difficult to understand. It seems obvious that "nanny speaks Russian, let nanny speak to child as much as possible", but in reality it isn't that simple.

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 01-Oct-12 22:13:49

If colleague B is Canadian she may well have applied her knowledge of the way that First Nations People of Canada were treated to this. Canadians are quite well informed about the colonialist legacy. In the case of First Nations people, the removal of their names, language and culture is seen as a dreadful act of cultural genocide and part of a legacy that has traumatised the aboriginal people to this day. Of course, a loving adoptive family is not the same as a colonialist power but I can see where her thinking might come from.

OttillieRidiculous Mon 01-Oct-12 22:17:10

maybe the (adoptive) parents do know some basic Russian?

Maybe, just maybe, they have taken a lot of advice from experts in the field of intercountry adoption and - gasp - are following that advice in the best interests of their child. Stranger things have happened, you know.

CandiStaton Mon 01-Oct-12 22:20:40

i think it is non of colleague Bs business, but I agree with her

I know nothing of adoption, but I do know about kids growing up with dual heritage/issues associated with being detached from your heritage; and they are potentially heading for massive problems with the kids self-identity and esteem

CandiStaton Mon 01-Oct-12 22:23:28

Mrspratchett it isn't just canadians either-

honeytea Mon 01-Oct-12 22:23:44

I think there could be better options, like getting an English speaking nanny, that way tge communication would be more natural.

A child looked after by a main carer for 2 weeks is said to gain a good understanding of that language, I'm sure (I hope!) the parents took at least 2 weeks off work to be with the child when she first arrived so it's less about basic understanding, there are ways of communicating with a child that don't involve speech such as flash cards.

I would feel like its hard to draw tge line at what a carer should do to avoid a newly adopted child becoming attached to them, do you ask the nanny not to hug the child, do you ask them not to use lots of eye contact.

I guess my opinion is skewed because I live in a country where you get more than a year off work when adopting so the idea of leaving a child so newly adopted that they don't speak any English with a nanny alien to me, I guess I feel like the child deserves to spend her time with people that she is attached to but ideally that would be the parents, but if tge parents are not available my gut instinct is that she still deserves a secure attachment to her care giver, my worry would be that with the nanny being g "forbidden" from talking Russian to the little girl maybe tge relationship would be strained, but hopefully not.

As I said before I would never say my opinions to a friend unless they specifically asked, she is their child and it is their choices, what I have written is how I feel rather than what I think other people should do.

DameKewcumber Mon 01-Oct-12 22:23:57

"Too many people with too little experience but big opinions nonetheless"

DameKewcumber Mon 01-Oct-12 22:24:33

"Too many people with too little experience but big opinions nonetheless"

Just thought I'd repeat that for anyone who didn't get it first time.

DameKewcumber Mon 01-Oct-12 22:26:09

Adoption is tough.

What every new adoptive parents need is plenty of people with too little experience but big opinions sticking their oar in.

New mother struggling with breastfeeding - "You are not doing it right. Do it my way. NOW" hmm

OttillieRidiculous Mon 01-Oct-12 22:28:53

Where has Colleague B the OP got to?

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