Foster families in Romania can be considered as being special families. Feeling wounded in their narcissist self because of their inability to give birth to a child they recourse to adoption as the last solution. Largely encouraged by the social policies in the field of social protection of children separated from their parents, national adoption has expanded in Romania during the last years, reaching a number of 14 417 adopted children between 1998-2008.
In FISAN project, financed by UEFISCSU, in IDEI programme, during 2009/2011, we assessed 24 adoptive families from Romania together with their children, aged 11-17, who had been adopted in early childhood (0-4 years). The assessement was performed with a complex battery composed of semi interviews for child and parent, a structured interview for parents, CBCL questionnaire for the child and the parents, as well as other questionnaires (PSS), for the child alone. Our conclusions presented in this article are based both on the data collected within the project and on the observations made by the research team during the interactions with the adoptive families.
Adoption, as it is defined by law 273/2004, is “a legal process which creates links between adopter and adopted child and family ties between adopted child and relatives of the adopter”. The legal aspect of adoption is well covered by internal and international documents. Romania’s inability to obey international regulations that it had already agreed to in 1994, resulted in the establishment of the Moratorium of 2001, regarding international adoptions of children from Romania. After the adoption of the Moratorium, children separated from their biological parents, declared adoptable in accordance with the legal procedures, may be adopted only in Romania. The prohibition gave birth to many controversies at national level, but especially at international level. Such controversies have not always sought “the supreme interest of the child”. What is the supreme interest of a child in early life? To have a family able to meet most of his/her needs and requirements of a healthy development, a family that is able to respect him/her.
When the biological family is unable to take care of the child, the society must take over this vital problem of the child and find an optimal solution. The only definitive solution is the adoption. But adoption is a unilateral and freely consented process of a family.
While the children may be given to foster families, they can not choose these families. In this situation, besides the socio-economic and educational features, family motivation and cultural aspects are important characteristics which determine the success of adop- tion. The socio-economic and educational features of the family will determinate the level of understanding of the child’s needs for a healthy development as well as the family’s possibilities to meet these needs. The family’s motivation for adoption will largely determine the place the child will occupy in the family.
- When adoption is made in order to “have someone around who should give us a glass of water when we are old” the family’s reason is a social profit. An investment that will pay off later, for the benefit of the foster family. We can see here the outline of a process of “child exploitation”.
- When adoption is made because “we failed to have a child”, this narcissist wound, accompanied by a high degree of culpability (not being in line with the world!) and shame may often be passed to the child and he/she will feel like a second-hand person, a substitute, a replacement. These feelings are enhanced by the attitude of the society. Family infertility is still a stigma in the eyes of the society (Lansford, Ceballo Abbey, Stewart, 2001). Often, these parents, loaded with the emotional burden of failure, do not communicate with the child about his/her statute and do their best to avoid the disclosure of adoption. We already know the alienating potential of the condition where a child is denied his/her true identity being replaced by a false one and the adoption is kept a secret.
- There are situations where the motivation of adoption is to obtain material benefits. These cases are rare, of course, and would require proper identification and prevention measures, knowing that they do not offer a healthy family environment for the adopted child.
- The simplest cases of adoption, although not riskfree, are those in which there is an implicit motivation for a family to adopt: when a parent marries again and the new spouse legally adopts the child/children of the other spouse, or when a tragedy occurs in a family and the larger family decides to adopt the orphans.
- But there are also adoptions by virtue of love and compassion for children who are separated from their natural parents. In these cases, the adoptive parents’ sacrifice capacity is remarkable. Such a motivation brought many parents from all over the world in order to adop the little unhappy children form Romania in 1990’s. Parents came from as far a country as America to a country like Romania, in order to adopt children.
They wanted to adopt them even if they had an obvious disability, hereditary or acquired after the separation from their natural parents occured. The efforts of those foster parents are best described by an adoptive mother in Austria, who adopted a child from Romania.
The day when the foster child came home from school, complaining of evil colleagues who mocked him saying that he was adopted, his mother taught him to answer: “Yes, I’m adopted! This means that my parents loved me so much, that they went out to look for me. You happened to be born in your families but for me, they went all over the world to bring me home”. Of course such a generous incentive is more common in societies focused on children. The last elections in Romania did not persuade us that we are such a society. There was not any place left in the latest election speeches to plead the cause of the child in Romanian society. Even in these cases of adoption, based on healthy reasons, there is a risk of failure. The risk may come from a too high level of expectations compared to the level of the adopted child. In such cases, we can see a similarity with families who want a child, and after the baby is born, the parents discover the inconvenience of raising a child.
The motivation of foster families is widely influenced by the cultural context. In Romania, the adoption is not traditionally a common solution for the children separated from their parents. Romania is not a society to value the child and place him/her in the spotlight.
The communities look down on the adopted children as if they were second-hand people and their families are often stigmatized. Stigmatization of foster families by the society seems more common worldwide than we expected (Lansford, Ceballo Abbey, Stewart, 2001).
The number of adoptions based on a healthy motivation is much lower in our country compared with other countries, where the lists of families waiting to adopt are very long because the protection system does not have adoptable children. In our country, traditionally, the adoptions were made in an extended family. Only after1997, and especially after 2001, with the creation of new structures and the initiation of new legislation to protect the children, the cases of national adoptions have increased and Romanian families have become more interested in adoption.
NGOs, especially those with origins abroad, were most active in adoption, increasing the number of adopted children and changing largely the traditional Romanian view on adoption. The exploration this ‘vision’, reveals that the major impediment met by Romanian families in adopting a child is a material one; “We would like to adopt, if we were better off in material terms”, that is what the majority of interviewed families tell us, in a survey taken in early 2009, in the counties of Timis, Arad, Hunedoara (Muntean, Bârneanu, Negrea 2009).
In our presentation we highlight the characteristics that define the adoptive family, but without comparing it with non-adoptive families. The adoptive parents have been less researched so far (Lansford, Ceballo Abbey, Stewart, 2001). The comparison that we make will be based on the success of adoption.
What is the difference between an adoptive family that has successfully achieved the ”lineage between adopter and adopted” and a less effective family in this process? In view of this presentation we consider that the success of the adoption lies in the child’s resilience.
According to assessments made by Smith in 2001 (apud Wiechelt Johnson, 2004), on a third of the resilience cases in a group of children reared in poverty and adversity, the protective factors which promote resilience are:
- At least one close relationship with a model or a healthy attachment to the ones who takes care of them;
- An easy temperament, a good, warm nature, which would make them pleasant to the others;
- Friends at school and participation in interest groups and in camps;
- A language and a capacity for reflection superior to the general level of their peers.
Our assessment shows all these factors even though here we deal only with the first factor, the child’s attachment in relationship with his parent/s.
In our presentation, we will focus on the type of attachment between the child and his adoptive parents.
The whole literature on resilience (Werner & Smith, 2001, Masten, 1994, in Johnson & Wiechelt, 2004) highlights the importance of the first links between the child and the persons that protect him (Bowlby, 1984) in building child’s resilience.
2. FISAN PROJECT
FISAN project started in 2009, being a PNII exploratory research project, funded by UEFISCSU.
The project is conducted by the Research Center of Child-Parent interaction (CICOP), the Faculty of Sociology and Psychology, UVT. Within the frame of the research targeting national adoptions, the conditions to achieve adoption, the interaction between the adoptive parents and the adopted child interaction and the community representation on adoption, are seen in terms of the attachment theory. The purpose of this research is to know and understand the conditions under which adoptions may be spared the risks of failure and also the extent to which adoptions can help develop resilience in children separated from their biological parents. The project benefits from coordination and collaboration on the part of the Department of Research from the University of Lausanne, led by the internationally recognized Prof. Blaise Pierrehumbert. FISAN is part of the international network initi- ated by Prof. Blaise Pierrehumbert, called “Adoption, adolescent attachment” which includes 12 universities in Europe, Canada, USA and Asia.
In this research, data collection is focused on adolescents who had been adopted at an early age and on their families. The research is of the transdisciplinary type, action-research.
This accounts for its immediate benefits for the participating families, since the researcher is an adviser too who may recommend the family or adolescent to a specialist service if it is in the interest of the children and their families. The teenagers implied in the project will benefit from their participation to an art-therapy camp that will support their efforts in self-discovery, a process that is, perhaps more more difficult in the case of adopted children. Collaborative agreements have been initiated at government level with structures involved in child protection issues.
The attachment of the adopted child was investigated by means of a specific instrument: FFI (Steele, 2003). Reactive attachment disorders are highlighted by means of DAI (Smyk, Zeanah, 2004), modified by the Lausanne team. Both parents and children respond to a general questionnaire containing behavioral items specific for the Romanian version of the CBCL (Achenbach, 1981). The family is assessed by means of an instrument called Parental Development Interview (PDI). The objectives of the project are:
- During the 3 years, a total of approximately 150 foster families with young adolescents will benefit from specialist support, in order to improve the relationship with their adopted child.
- During the first year of the project, a total of about 15 young scientists will be trained how to handle research tools and to comply with the social rigors of research in the social human field.
- During the first year, the research battery will be translated and validated
- During the project, the volume of attention paid to and of information available on adoption will double at all the 47 DGASPCs throughout the country and at the Romanian universities with social – human sections.
- Following the project, new laws and structural reorganization will be developed in the domain of adoption.
- The Romanian research in the socio-human domain will reveal, with this project, too, its capacity as serious partner at European and international level.
- In the entire Romanian society, the problem of adoption will be represented in a way that should facilitate the success of future adoptions.
Changing the image of adoption in our social representation during in valorization phase of the research is part of an important requirement aiming to implement European standards in child protection system in Romania. In a broader sense, the desired effect of our research will be a contribution to the significant changes of attitude and parental functions in interaction with the child in Romania.
3. BATTERY OF INSTRUMENTS USED IN ASSESSMENT
The theoretical framework of our research is the attachment theory, which brings into the psychology of human development, an ecosystemic and interactionist
The instruments of evaluation are: • three qualitative interviews (FFI, PDI, DAI),
- CBCL (for the investigation of conduct disorder),
- School Success Profile questionnaire.
In this study, to highlight successful characteristics of families in the adoptions we will use two of these tools, both of them being qualitative interviews. One of them, (mainly FFI) is addressed to the child and the other one, mainly PDI, is addressed to adoptive parents.
The interview as a method of investigation is one of the most important ways to understand our fellow beings. But, in order to find out about others by asking them questions, we, the researchers, “must always remember to treat them like people, our fellow beings” (Fontana, Frey, 1994). Only this way they will feel comfortable enough in order to disclose their lives in front of us. After the meeting an adoptive family, mother said at the end: “I was afraid that some important and pretentious people will come along and we will not know what to answer to their questions. But in fact, it was a pleasure to talk to you …. you are welcome to visit us again!”
1. The semi-structured interview for the parents of adolescents adopted during their early childhood.
It is created by adapting and combining three qualitative- type interviews: Parent Development Interview (PDI), developed by Aber et al., Working Model of the Child Interview (WMCI) (part of the Child Attachment Interview’s developed by Target, Fonagy and Shmuel-Goetz, 2003) and Reflective Functioning, included in the last revised, variant of PDI.
The interview is made up of 60 questions divided into 6 sections:
Representation of the child,
- Representation of the relationship with the child,
- Emotional experience with parents,
- Personal history of parents with their own parents,
- Separation from the child,
- Representing the past and the future with child.
The interpretation of the answers is rather difficult in the sense of arranging all the data collected and then of sorting them according to several categories related to:
- the emotional experience of parents: anger, sense of powerlessness of the need for help, the sadness of separation, guilt / embarrassment, joy / pleasure and competence/ efficiency
- child’s emotional experience (as it is perceived by his parents): anger, dependence / independence, sadness of separation and joy / pleasure
- the overall encoding and parental style: how parents reflect on (mentalize) the relationship with the child, parent’s consistency, the richness of perceptions and how they describe and talk about the relationship with their child. The parent style identified by the test can be: punitive, setting limits, inefficient, negotiating, permissive.
2. A semi-structured interview for the adopted youth. It is a tool created by compiling the two known assessment tools for children: Child Attachment Interview (CAI) developed by Mary Target, Yael Shmuel-Goetz, Adrian Datta and Peter Fonagy (2003) and Friends and Family Interview, (FFI) developed by Howard Miriam & Steel (2003).
CAI representations assess security of the attachment to both parents and the child’s overall mental state relative to the attachment. FFI aims at the attachment representations, particularly the aspects of coherence in attachment relationships.
Test items are:
- function of reflection or mentalization,
- understanding of feelings that are present within the significant relationships,
- evidence of a secure paradise in relation with significant figures,
- evidence of self-esteem,
- relationships with colleagues,
- anxieties and defense,
- differentiation of parental representations,
- classification of attachment by a nuanced score
- other items recorded during the assessment,
- non-verbal language encoding.
Attachment is the only relevant value for the topic of this presentation. Attachment is presented on two and respectively on four levels: autonomously secured attachment and insecure attachment with its 3 dimensions: avoiding (resigning), preoccupied (ambivalent), disoriented / disorganized.
Each dimension has 4 assessment categories:
- = absent,
- = little evidence,
- = average evidence,
- = clear evidence.
4. SUCCESSFUL ADOPTIVE FAMILIES: RELEVANT CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FAMILY / RESILIENCE
Attachment types presented in the assessed children are less relevant as long as they are not compared with children raised in biological families. Given that the group studied is not statistically representative, the percentages are only indicative.
In the investigated group, 7 adopted children have a secure, self-contained attachment, which means that 7 foster families are full of success. Of course, that success depends not only on the family’s abilities but also, to a large extent, on the period before adoption.
The longer the period that child lived outside the family, the more this period may influence the evolution of the child in his adopted family. Children from the research group were adopted at different ages, namely between 9 months and 4 years. This difference is extremely important especially because the early age was lived in places significantly different in terms of living conditions: either in the hospital, at the maternal assistant or in an institution with many children.
Our interpretation focuses, as we said, on the family characteristics in terms of paternity, trying to put the child’s attachment in relation to their parents’ characteristics. Below, we present in tables the characteristics of the parents as identified by the PDI.
It is surprising how, the emotional experience of the parents with their own parents in childhood has an impact on the relationship that they try to build with their adopted child. Although they are not always conscious of the importance of their anterior relationship with their parents in relation to their own child, and they often make a poor and idealized presentation of their parents, how they relate to the child is modeled by that first relationship.
Often, during the interview, parents acknowledge similarities between their behavior with the child and that of their parents with them when they were children, too.
As we have seen above, 7 children are recorded with secure attachment. In their case, the emotional experience of the parents in relation to the child looks like this (table 4).
Adoptive parents, in the case of children with secure attachment, are characterized by a low level of anger felt and expressed in relation to the child and by the absence of hostility towards the child. These parents are aware of their role in promoting the child’s attachment, they are warm in relation to the child and they love to interact with the child. These are homogeneous features evidenced at maximum levels.
In terms of parental sense of competence and confidence that they have in relation to the child, parents are placed at higher rates. The parents’ need for support in these cases is not overwhelming, being congruent with the best rates of parental competence. A single parent recognizes some need for support and a lower satisfaction with what he can obtain as assistance. An interesting aspect of parental emotional experience is the feeling of guilt towards the child. It never appears at a maximum rate, but it is absent in just one case. Therefore, some guilt over the child, the feeling that they did not do all they could for the child’s welfare is generalized in good adoptive parents but it is not overwhelming. Perhaps it gives impetus to the awareness and continuous improvement of the relationship with the child and also it is linked to the compassion and love for the child. As a mother said: “I think it would have been better for her if I did not have to work … but I always explained to her that if I hadn’t worked and I had stayed at home with her all the time, we couldn’t have afforded everything she wanted to have which thus we could get…”
Consequently, the pleasure in interaction with the child, the warmth in communication with the child, without any hostility towards the child and the parent’s conscious responsibility in promoting secure attachment of the child, clearly characterize in terms of emotional relationship with the child, the profile of the parent whose child has a secure attachment. We must emphasize the fact that not only secured children’s parents have those characteristics. This thing points out the importance of the children’s personal factors, taking into account their genetic potential and their first life experiences as the cornerstones of their connections with the adoptive parents. That is why, not only the parent’s qualities but also a little luck are necessary in order to build a happy destiny for the adopted child.
The way the child is perceived by his parent influences, of course, the parent’s emotional experiences in relation to the child (Table 3). Comparing the number of children with secure attachment (7) and the values that record the parent’s perception upon the child’s affectivity, the closest values are the values relative to the child’s affectionate manifestations. The significant values in the perception of the child’s affectivity refers to the happiness of the child (67% +13% = 80%), total lack of aggressiveness on the part of the child (54%) and total absence of signs of the child rejecting the parent (50%). Comparing the absence of anger expression for the parent in relation to his child (66% +17% = 83%) with the high value of the child’s perception by the parent as being happy (80%) we note that these values are very similar. Not to be neglected is the child’s lack of aggressiveness (54%) in relation to the weak manifestations of the parental anger (66%).
It is relevant how the foster parents outline an emotional picture of the child, in the case of those 7 children with secure attachment. Studying the values in table 5 columns, we find out that a single column has uniform results, the one about the image that the parents have about their child’s aggression: no parent sees the child’s aggression in relationship with him, with the parent.
The last column shows that these children’s parents perceive but very weak signs of rejection behaviour in the child. They see manipulative behaviour in the child’s only in rare, limited circumstances, and they see their child as being generally happy and affectionate with them.
A third category of data provided by PDI refers to the overall impression that the assessor has on the entire assessment. It is about coherence of information and data provided by parents, reported to the global atmosphere and data. The overall impression that the assessor has on the parental speech, shows us that the researched group is capable of a good description of the child (58%), has a high degree of consistency (55%), a remarkable mentalization of the relationship with the child (37% ) and a wealth of children’s per- ceptions (37% + 37% = 74%). In other words, 74% of the adoptive parents “see” the child.
We can compare the overall picture represented by the 24 foster parents with the picture presented by the 7 parents of the children with secure attachment. Table 8 shows the maximum degree of mentalization in relationship with the child. It is about the parents who reflect on their relationship with the child, who have found and maintained an important place in their minds for the adopted child. Overall consistency of these parents expresses their welfare in relationship with the child, the absence of discontinuities in interactions.
Moreover, the parents’ high mentalization about the relationship with the child is proved by the rich description of their child, thus proving to be experts in knowing the adopted child.
The parental style expresses a constant attitude in relation with the adopted child and is founded on certain principles of relating to the child, whose origins are often betrayed by the parents’ reports on their relationship with their own parents. For the entire group of parents, the style of the negotiating parent (33%) records a value close to that of the children with secure attachment (29%). Does this aspect suggest that at the adolescent age of the children, parental effectiveness is conditioned by the ability to see in the child a negotiating partner rather than a container of “parental wisdom and experience”?
Regarding children with secure attachment, the situation is as follows (table 10): Only the negotiator and the permissive style occur among parents whose children display secure attachment.
These styles prepare the child for the emotional and pragmatic family space, as partners in dialogue in searching for optimal solutions, as partners in successful or less happy events. In the case of the permissive style, the parent often grants the child freedom of expression which, meanwhile, shows great confidence in the child but may be seen as a source of risk, of exposure of the child.
Research in neurobiology in recent years, concluded on the best parental qualities on a healthy child development, structuring the following important aspects in interaction with the child (Siegel):
- reflective dialogue
- emotional communication
- cooperation, collaboration
- narration coherence
- repairing of breaks.
Neurobiology demonstrates the veracity of attachment theory concerning the healthy development of children. Parents’ consistency, coherent narratives about their own childhood told to the adopted children, their ability to reflect on the child but also to establish a reflective dialogue, negotiating with the child, the lack of angry behaviours in relationship with the child and the perceived behaviour of parent rejection by the child, condition the repair of breaks. Humour in the dialogue, cooperation in various activities, as it is explained by parents are as many is sues as have been pointed out in interviews by the parents whose children display a secure attachment.
5. Study of Case
The S. nuclear family, is composed of the two parents and two adopted children; the two adopted children have the same mother. The first adopted child, L., was 2 years old when she was adopted and now she is 14 years old. At that time, Mr. V.S. was 45 and Mrs. E.S. 39 years old. They had been married for a long time but they had not been able to have children. Mrs S. has found her peace of mind in religion, and Mr. S. often resorted to alcohol as a coping method of dealing with the problems that troubled his life.
He did not use to go to the church, but he did prevent his wife either from participating to the service or getting involved in the humanitarian activities of the church. Without being rich, they could afford a certain material comfort. The father, a pensioner at the moment of the research, had studied for 8 years, then went to a vocational school and worked as a driver, while the mother had studied for 8 years, too and had been a weaver until her retirement.
Mrs. S. had prayed to God to give her a child, and in spring that year she had a dream and a voice told her: “ What are you waiting for, it will come”. That dream brought great joy in the family and both husband and wife were sure that they will have a child.
The year went by and Mrs. S. did not get pregnant. At one of the humanitarian activities of the church for Chrismas, Mrs. S. participated at the collection of food products and clothes for the children who were in care of the child protection system in the district.
The representatives of the system directed the charitable offering to the placement families. Some of the parishioners accompanied the collected things and offered the good and clothes themselves to the children and to the maternal assistants. Also, they took pictures with the people who accepted. One mother, a maternal assistant, had had a girl in her care for a couple months.
The little girl moved the church representative so much that he took a photograph , holding the child in his arms. The reason of taking those photos was to show them at the church gathering to all of the faithful, so that they could have the feeling of having participated at the charitable activity until the last moment when the presents were given to the needy.
Mrs. S. saw the picture of the little girl about whom they probably discussed more, since she was the youngest child they met during that event.
Someone asked Mrs. S., who was examining the picture attentively, a rhetorical funny question: “Why shouldn’t you take this child?”. Mrs. S., who did not even think about it, put the picture down half irritated because of the woman’s question. After a couple of months, Mrs. S. dreamt that she was standing in front of the imposing gate on whose frontispiece it was written: “Orphanage”. In her dream, she heard a voice telling her to enter because there she would find what she was looking for. Mrs. S. woke up very exited and she told her husband about the dream. They both realized that their fate was to adopt a child. Without any delay, the same week, they went to the child protection services in the district where they were told that there is a child under the age of two in maternal assistance that meets the adoption conditions. The two parents found themselves in front of the picture that Mrs. S. had previously examined.
Five years after that event, while the girl was already a schoolgirl, making her foster parents very happy, they found out that the girl’s natural brother was again abandoned by their biological mother. The same maternal assistant contacted Mrs. S., telling her about the boy. The parents immediately decided to adopt him, too to the greate satisfaction of Ms. S. who now had also a son.
At the moment of the assessment within the frame of the FISAN project, the girl L. was almost 14 years old and the boy N. was 6 years old. At the assessment, first, the mother and the children came, and next the father turned up making it easier for the researchers to perform their job without having to be attentive to N., who was not the objective of their research, and, at the same time to tolerate the interruptions from the evaluation process due to the fact that the mother and the girl L. had to answer N.’s questions.
The meeting began with initial questions like the one about changing the baby’s name. “Have you changed the child’s name after adoption?” and the mother’s answer came immediately: “no, she has the name given by her mother: Iulia”. After a couple of seconds she asked the little girl to give some attention to her brother, by calling her “L”. I reacted asking her: “ You have said that you didn’t change the name?”.
Answer: “We haven’t changed the name in the papers, but we use to call her “L”, which is a name that we took from a song!” We have later noticed that the little girl recommends herself “L”. So, the new name had a strong meaning for the parents, it is used by everybod and is the one that the little girl internalized.
When she was asked about the reason of the Adoption, she sobbed and she did not know how to begin. With a self righteous attitude, the little girl pushed her from the back and said: “ Speak at once!” then the mother started by saying: “ You see madam, I dreamed of this little girl and I knew she would be ours, it was God’s work…” and the she told us the story of her dreams.
During her telling us the story, the little girl was watching her bright and severe eyes so that she did not forget any details. There was her birthday, her identity, every detail was important. In their community she had often had to stand up for her children, who were called “orphans” or “gypsies” and they were banished from the village fountain. Both the mother and the father did two things: they went to a confrontation with the persons that were aggressive with their children and advised the children not to frequent those places.
At school, the girl is a prize-winner, which seemed to be wonderful for the parents, who had a limited education. From the little girl’s perspective, the relation was based on security, love and participation.
Being an adolescent, she sometimes had a critical attitude, as if she were an important person, whose opinion mattered. Although he was a church-goer now, the father used to drink on certain occasions.
The only person of which he felt embarrassed was the little girl. The father was an enterprising, resourceful person, who went to work in Italy for couple of months, but he came back because he could not stay away from his family; then, they opened a store in the village, where they all work, including the girl, but only when and for how long she wants.
The FFI examination of the girl, lead us to the conclusion that she had an autonomous secure attachment. The general coherence was situated at a maximum rate, with a high degree of truth in her statements, with many examples concerning her relations with other people, told in a natural, sometimes funny way and she used to be very agreeable for the interlocutor. Having a high level of coherence, the girl presented minimum signals of defence and anxiety. Her behaviour was backed by a very good mentalization and reflection, so that she had a dynamic perspective upon relationships with others and with herself, with a vision of the changes that had appeared and will appear in time.
This feature makes her capable of understanding the others’ vision upon things and upon herself, the feelings and emotions that are specific for the relationships with the significant persons. Last but not least, her great capacity for reflection placed among the prize-winning children in her class. In all her relations with her mother, her father, her best friend Claudia, L. maintains the feeling of security and comfort.
She makes the difference between each parent’s role and she establishes different relationships with each of them in the most efficient way possible, with comfort and trust. A good self-esteem, that materializes itself, according to FFI, in her social skills, school competences and abilities evidenced by the PSS, in the genre identification, manifested by her feminine preoccupations that are typical for her age and in the presence of references to her bodily image and to the different parts of her body. She described herself as being: “jovial”, “honest” and “hardworking”.
The relationship with her friend is fine although she has the capacity of a critical evaluation. Mother’s PDI examination was in perfect tune with the girl’s assessment results. Although she had a low level of education (8 classes), the mother demonstrated a capacity for reflection and symbolization encountered only rarely. The statement of some anger feelings in her relationship with the child was made at a temperate level, occurred rarely and was accompanied by funny judgements about herself and her adolescence. Although she did not state the need for support and the incapacity of coping with the parental undertaking, she was always aware of the permanent support from her sisters and her neighbours. She confessed with a guilty feeling the punitive behaviour that she had toward the child in a circumstance that she considered being dangerous for the child. The entire interview was a proof of her joy of having a child and also of her happiness that the child brought into their life, of the positive changes that occurred in the relationship with her husband and also with her father after the adoption. She felt confident and competent, sure of her capacity to cope with difficult situations.
Her life was centred around the child, without manifesting any disappointment at the thought that the girl might have secrets from her at that age.
She proved to be a warm parent, without hostile manifestation toward the child, facilitating largely the development of secure attachment of the child. She presented the girl as a happy, loving child, without any aggressions, control or handling behaviour. She did not feel rejected by the girl in any circumstance, although she admitted that she might have some secrets concerning the preoccupations specific to the girl’s age. The entire interview had a high degree of coherence, with a profusion of perceptions about the relationship with the child and an amazing capacity of reflection on the relationship.
Discussing about their relationship, she said: “We get along very well, we trust each other, she listens to me, she is friendly and secretive… when we want to do something without her father’s knowing …” The parental style is one of negotiation which facilitates the child’s maturity as well as the development of a feeling of competence and self esteem within the child.
What have we learned from assessments up to this point about foster families, assessment tools, children adopted:
We discuss the preliminary results obtained in the project FISAN on the 24 cases of foster families and 7 cases in which the child has a secure attachment, in the context of specialty literature and emphasizing that the number of families in our study is not statistically significant.
The resilience is based on the quality of family relations and on the comfort state of the parents and children (well-being) and not on the family type: biological or adoptive (Lansford, Ceballo, Abbey, Steward, 2001).
The basic condition for the assessment of the quality of the relation is the parent’s capacity for reflection about himself, about the child and about his relation with him; also there are the relationships with the others: the other half, his own parents, the community.
This reflection capacity, practiced and expressed in interaction with the child, is a good model for the child of relating and reacting to the world in general, or to a problem situation, in particular. Our research suggests that the favourable parental style of developing a secure attachment is the negotiator one. This is in consent with the adolescent psychology theories. The adolescent needs a partner parent, capable to respect his opinion and validate his age specific necessities.
The most successful adoptions with resilient children and well-anchored in their relations with the parents, bring to us coherent parents, with a good perception of and respect for the child and also the feeling of child’s value in their lives. Thus, the mother of a secure attachment child, confesses that the appearance of the child led in the family to increased family wealth, including the couple’s life: “We came home from work and stayed like two ground squirrels.
We had nothing to do and we were bored”. It is interesting to note that, in successful adoption cases, where the children develop a secure attachment, the parents often tell the children, in daily ritual moments of the ordinary life, episodes from their own childhood as if, in that way, they wish to pass on to them the profound inheritance of their own childhood, from their original family. Thus they fit the adopted child into their own story and bring him to the riverbed of their lives. The mother of a secure, steady attachment says: “ when she was little, I had to tell her about the things I have done when I was a little girl. As if she had an obsession about it. I had to tell the events over and over again, to repeat the phrases…”
What were the children’s reactions to the foster parents childhood stories? They ask for these stories, they feel the need of these stories being retold so that their foster parents’ stories become their own stories.
They follow-up the mother’s and the father’s childhood through those stories that bind them into the depth, at the beginning of their parents lives of that family. In that way, they found their place and their identity. A relevant element is that, in most of the cases, foster parents change the child’s name, although they do not change it in the papers. They name the child and the child identifies with the new name and thus he identifies with the foster family.
It goes without saying, that the parents see the resemblance of the child within themselves and the child, in turn, sees himself similar to his parents. The parents are not perfect, flawless persons, who are hard to please. They had been children too, they had made mistakes so, that may happen, it is allowed not to be perfect without loosing the loved ones’ affection. This gives a secure, relaxing feeling of trust into the others.
This first identity, which the child builds up in his foster family by gathering values, attitudes, behaviours is at the same time assumed assertively and entirely by the parents, like an extension, a favourable, healthy development of the family. Now, the parents and the child become capable, as a family unit, to cope with an eventual rejection on the part of the community. In two of the seven cases of children with secure attachment, the parents stand up for the defence of their children in front of the community with the feeling that they are defending themselves. One of those cases is detailed in the case study we presented previously, and in the second case, the mother goes to school and to the bishopric for an unfair punishment of the girl during the religion class. The reflection capacity of the parent it is also distinguished by the parental style. When the parent is capable to negotiate the decisions, the limits, the expectations with the child, the latter has good chances to become responsible, autonomous, tolerant toward interdictions and frustrations. To this healthy practice of negotiation in the relation parent – child, the humour element can be added. Families with children having a good self esteem, parents and children joke together, they share the moments of joy. Humour is known as a coping element (Ionescu, Jacquet, Lhote, 2002) but how many parents know and understand the importance of the entertainment, laughter and buoyancy moments spent in the company of the child. In the most unhappy adop- tion cases, the children are bantered by the parents, they are ridiculed and brought to silence by a feeling of incompetence.
This kind of parent manifests a high degree of hostility in front of the child, even though they do not recognize it. Irony is an aggressive, violent manifestation that makes the other the target of one’s verbal attacks. A child who is bantered by his parents is emotionally abused and aggressed. Unfortunately, we have met this kind of situations, in two cases the children becoming patients of mental health clinics.
The healthiest children are those who have extracurricular activities (music, sport). They also have a rich social network of friends clearly outlined. This network supports and contributes to the welfare of the child.
In cases where the parents pretend exceptional school results from their child and they are dissatisfied with the child’s performance, the children are bashful, uncertain even when they manage to have the results that the parents pretend. Also, we can notice that those children describe themselves in the terms the parents describe them. The parents expectations when they are insistently expressed (“I want him to respect me, not to misbehave, not to answer me back”) incur adverse reactions on the part of the child. In two of those cases, parents admitted that they have threatened the child with sending him back to the orphanage and, in another case, parents admitted that they have thought to give up their bringing up the child.
Generally speaking, the adoptions are made when the parents are at an advanced age. But the experience proves that the most successful adoptions are those where the parent is capable to play with the child and has the energy and enthusiasm for play and for new discoveries.
Probably the most serious conflicts appear from some parents’ desire to control the child extra-family relations. Those parents feel betrayed by their children if they have close relationships with persons outside the family circle, even with classmates.
The parents accuse the child, in such cases, of lack of loyalty towards them. In most of the secure attachment cases, parents complain of the children’s “ shyness”, of their retiring into their selves in troubled moments. We know it from specialist literature that a sign of a child with the insecure attachment, who is disoriented and disorganised is the social indiscrimination, the fact that he leaves with the first person who asks him to do so. The children with secure attachment, like any other child, probably, act exactly the opposite way; they are shy. The timidity is not only accused by the parents, but it is also imprinted by the child in the self-portrait that he sketches out. In some of the cases (3 out of 24) children develop a behaviour of writing to their parents if conflicts or discontents about the interaction appear. This behaviour has a maximum reflection and mentalization potential, so that this “strangeness” recorded by the parents with amusement is, in fact, the sign of the child’s reflection capacity, which is life saving in stress situations.
In the most difficult cases, children reject the questions addressed to them from the interview. Probably the most unhappy adoption situation brought us to a child who rejected four of the questions with the wording:” May I not answer this question?” The child’s easy temper is very important to the success of the adoption. The changes brought about by adolescence put the parent in front of a novel situation. Thus, we believe that the assessment made by the research determined in parents a higher level of awareness of the age characteristics of the child, with all of the changes that are likely to occur. In all the secure attachment cases, there is a pet inside or outside the house with whom the child plays with pleasure. In a family, to the question: “where do you go when you are angry?” a little girl answered: ”to Pilu”( this was her dog). It is interesting that the family was aware of the little girl’s behaviour. Maybe it helps if we mention that in the case, the mother did not manifest physical tenderness and she, herself, came from a childhood dominated by a selfish mother, whom she accused of “ not seeing her” when she was a child because she was concerned only with herself ”. Last but not least, we must underline a remarkable fact: we know that The child’s welfare it is accompanied by a good physical health. In all of the cases of secure attachment the children are healthy and have a good resistance to states of illness.
Often the parent tells about the deplorable physical condition that the child had when he came into the family, and recognizes the gradual improvement of his immunity in time. In the cases of children with secure attachment, although the invitation to assessment procedures was addressed to only one of the parents, and although only the mother was expected, in most of the cases, the fathers came, too. Sometimes their participation to the assessment was insignificant, some other times they brought explanations and important nuances. That was a proof for us of the importance of the adopted child for the foster family.
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