In this blame game, many longstanding questions surface about social work practice and policy in international adoption. Social workers counseling prospective adoptive parents need advanced knowledge of the unique challenges facing any adoptive family, families who adopt children with difficult histories, and children from other countries, including Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Clinicians need a sound grasp of the clinical, policy, and ethical dilemmas involved in international adoption so they can provide effective care.Really good stuff here! But I'd like to think that ALL adoption social workers already know all of this. . . .
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Intercountry adoption presents predictable issues for children. Some U.S. adoptive parents gravitate toward adopting a child from another country because they want no contact with the child’s birth family. This lack of understanding a child’s need for connection, identity, and information may deepen the child’s sense of loss. Today’s adoptive parents are advised to maintain some sort of contact with the child’s birth family and weave the child’s ethnicity into the fabric of adoptive family life by, for example, eating foods, celebrating holidays, speaking the language, or socializing with people from the child’s country of origin. Doing so can be hard in a family’s busy life and requires earnest, sincere, ongoing parental commitment and effort.
While all adoptees encounter loss, children adopted from other countries face additional losses. These may be minimized, denied, and dismissed in a world that sees adoptees as lucky to have been rescued from an orphanage or poverty abroad.
Adoption agencies are paid to make adoptions happen. This may create an incentive that does not serve the best interests of children or families. Biological families may not get the support they need to parent. Prospective adoptive parents may be encouraged to overlook misgivings about adoption as a path to parenthood or their compatibility with a particular child. Agencies may do an inadequate job of helping prospective parents with unrealistic expectations screen themselves out of the adoption process.
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Families are best able to explore these issues in the context of a noncoercive collaborative relationship with a clinician who is well educated about adoption issues and takes a nonjudgmental, strengths-based stance. Each adoptive family needs access to a longstanding relationship with an adoption-informed clinician who can help them navigate the turbulent waters they may encounter on the lifelong adoption journey. Training programs to prepare clinicians for this highly specialized work are needed.
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The decision to parent is a leap of faith—in oneself, the child, and the future. Children in Eastern European orphanages desperately need families. Justice, which forms the heart of social work’s mission, demands that all reasonable efforts be made to keep children safe within the protection of their birth families; when that is impossible, they are best served when nurtured and protected by families within their countries of origin. International social welfare programs should pursue these goals. When children cross national boundaries for adoption, their new families also need support and compassion.
And what about this line: "[Adoption} Agencies may do an inadequate job of helping prospective parents with unrealistic expectations screen themselves out of the adoption process." Huh? Why do we talk about PAPs screening themselves out? Isn't that the social worker's job???