July 20, 2009, 12:40 pm
<!– — Updated: 12:40 pm –>Challenging the “Horrors” of AdoptionBy Lisa Belkin
A movie opening at the end of this week, called Orphan, is sending chills through the adoption community, and not because it is a thriller.
It tells the story of a family who adopts a young girl from an orphanage, only to have her terrify all around her with what appear (from the trailer, at least) to be evil and supernatural powers.
Fearing that this feeds the stereotype of older adoptive children as “damaged”, many adoption and foster care advocates are joining together to protest the film. They have already succeeded in persuading the studio to remove one line — “It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own” – from the ads for the movie.
Now some are using the controversy to educate the public about the realities of older adoption. The Christian Alliance for Orphans, for instance, has created a website, orphansdeservebetter.org, with a section of statistics, which include:
An expansive 1994 study by the Search Institute comparing adopted teens to other teens found that:
- Adopted teens scored higher on indicators of well-being such as school performance, friendships, volunteerism, self-esteem and optimism.
- Adopted teens scored lower on indicators of high-risk behavior such as depression, alcohol use, vandalism, and police trouble.
- Compared to their non-adopted siblings, adopted teens showed no significant difference in their perception of similarities between themselves and adoptive parents in terms of interests.
- Children adopted transracially showed no differences in terms of identity formation and self-esteem, attachment to parents, or psychological health.
Many other studies have reached similar findings. These include:
- Adopted children are well-integrated into their families and schools and show good psychological outcomes. There are few differences between children who have been adopted and their non-adopted peers (Palacios and Sanchez-Sandoval, 2005).
- Long-term outcomes are positive for adopted children, and generally show little or no difference compared to non-adopted children (Benson, 2004).
- The vast majority of adopted children show behavior patterns and emotional and academic adjustment very similar to those of non-adopted children (Palacios and Sanchez-Sandoval, 2005, Vrand and Brinich, 1999, Brodzinsky, 1987).
- Numerous studies indicate that adoptive parents report high levels of satisfaction with their adoption (Barth and Brooks, 2000).
- People who were adopted fare significantly better than those children who remain in negligent, abusive birth families, or in foster care or institutions (Maughan et al., 1998, Brodzinsky et al., 1998).
- If adopted individuals did experience adoption-related struggles, most of these struggles significantly diminished or disappeared by young adulthood (Feigelman, 1997).
- People who were adopted reported more confidence in their judgment than non-adopted persons, viewed others more positively, and saw their parents as significantly more nurturing, comforting, and protectively concerned and helpful (Marquis and Detweiler, 1985).
I have to admit, some of these facts surprised me. For years I’d heard stories of older adoptions that ran into trouble, and while I like to think that a horror film would not sway me, I am realizing that anecdote over the years already has. A letter of protest to Warner Bros. CEO Barry Meyer from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute warned that the film “may impede recruitment efforts by feeding into the unconscious fears of potential foster and adoptive families that orphaned children are psychotic and unable to heal from the wounds of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.”
Do you carry these assumptions? Is it a film studio’s responsibility to challenge them? Or is this nothing but a summer horror film, just innocent, insignificant fun?
In a real life adoption thriller, hundreds of Canadian families who thought they were well on their way to adopting children from Ethiopia, found themselves in limbo last week when the agency arranging the adoptions suddenly went bankrupt and closed its doors.
CBC Canada reports on one family, Mark and Sarla Ksotelyk, who live outside of Edmonton, Alberta, and who had spent the past two years inching through the process to adopt a five-year-old boy and his three-year-old sister, when they were flabbergasted to see a notice of bankruptcy appear on the website of Kids Link International Adoption.
The couple has already adopted three children from within the Canadian foster system, and had been expecting to bring the Ethiopian siblings home in October. Now they are not sure who is caring for the children in the African orphanage funded by the agency.
“It’s a terrible feeling to be half way across the world and to know that your kids are in danger and in need and there’s really not much you can do about it,” she said. “You feel absolutely helpless.”
Far more so, one assumes, than you feel simply watching a make-believe horror film.