Ranch for troubled adoptees?

Again, thanks to the K@W for this article.  There are way too many things in this article that disturb the living hell out of me.  I do think on one hand it is extremely important to raise awareness of the fact that adoption agencies not only hide medical records to move forward on adoptions, but families are not even close to being equipped to deal with these sort of situations.  And furthermore, it is part of being a parent.  I feel as though the fact their child is adopted gives parents an easy “out” when it comes to troubled kids.  There are definitely troubled biological children in the U.S. who’s parents may give up their children, but to me this “Adoption Disruption” feels a bit more complicated.

First disturbing quote:  “I just say: ‘This is not your fault. You have a screwed-up brain.’
And then I do my best to explain why the current situation isn’t
working. I tell them, ‘Take something from this. Learn from your
experiences.’ “

Would you really tell a child “you have a screwed up brain.”???!!!

Second disturbing quote:  “For adoptive parents, options are limited
He rarely judges those adoptive parents who arrive at this painful
conclusion. Sure, one couple sent a one-paragraph e-mail (“just
incredibly lame,” Sutley said). But for the most part, such families
are held hostage—especially when adoptees act out sexually or falsely
allege abuse by their adoptive parents.”

Options are limited for adoptive parents?  Families are held hostage?  Sure the behavior is unwanted and disruptive, but by saying that an adoptee is holding a family hostage???…

Something stirs me a bit to hear about these stories (as you can tell).  The fact that there should be a need for a camp for abandoned adoptees, or to even call it a boarding school for adoptees, and then hearing the ways in which these children are thought of just bothers me to no end.

There is definitely something to be said about the growing numbers of adoptees who are going through intense emotional, psychological and medical stress-stresses which seem for the most part to be masked by adoption agencies.  But for parents to simply opt out of the life-binding agreements they made to these children as permanent members of their families is pretty severe.  I do feel as though these adoptive parents have as much responsibility as biological parents of children who are troubled emotionally or medically, to caring for them through thick and thin.  The blame falls on both the shoulders of the agencies ill-preparation for parents, and the parents.

These situations are absolutely unacceptable and for me it illustrates how the popularity and frequency of adoption have outpaced the monumental needs to examine the health disparities and ramifications of both the cultural context of the sending countries, and the lack of health continuity through out the adoption process.

Please read the following article and feel free to post comments or thoughts.  G.S.


Ranch raises hopes for adoptees
Youths who are so troubled that parents weigh giving up find friend
in remote haven
By Bonnie Miller Rubin | Tribune staff reporter

EUREKA, Mont. — At first glance, the children saddling up the horses
look like they were cast by Hollywood to play wholesome, athletic,
all-American kids. But outward appearances don’t tell the whole story.

For adoptive parents, options are limited
One has molested a sibling. Another has tried to kill the family pet.
Lying, stealing, vandalism and fire-setting round out the list of

Because their parents no longer can manage them at home, the 24
youngsters—almost all international adoptees—have ended up on a
special ranch in this remote, rugged corner of northwest Montana.

This is the final stop. Most already have logged countless hours in
psychiatric units, wilderness programs and residential treatment
centers, searching for answers to their disturbing behaviors. The
goal is that through intense intervention and structure, their
conduct will improve sufficiently so they can go home.

But a handful will never return, moving on to new families. They are
victims of an expanding phenomenon known as adoption disruption—the
official term for when parents attempt to return their adopted

“Some parents just can’t do it anymore; they’re done,” said Joyce
Sterkel, who runs the Ranch for Kids, a therapeutic boarding
school. “It’s tragic … and everyone is a victim.”

No one appears to keep data on adoption disruption. While still a
statistically rare occurrence among the approximately 20,000 foreign-
born children adopted by Americans each year, such relinquishment is
happening with increasing frequency, experts said.

One Ohio adoption agency reports receiving as many as five calls a
day from parents about disruptions, up from just one or two a month a
couple of years ago.

“No one knew the magnitude of the problem,” said Sterkel, 60. “The
horror stories just keep on coming.”

While dissolutions of domestic adoptions are not unheard of (a decade-
long study of 5,750 Illinois children adopted from foster care
through the mid-1980s found a rate of 6.5 percent), it is among the
international population where experts are seeing a troubling spike.

Experts blame the jump on a confluence of factors.

First, as Americans adopted more children from overseas—the figures
have almost tripled since 1990—the number of children with despairing
behaviors grew, and these children are now hitting adolescence, when
their rages are more dangerous.

Moreover, many parents were unprepared for the challenges, in part
because agencies glossed over their charges’ complex medical
histories—or omitted them altogether. “Now, they’re out there all
alone … living in a constant state of crisis,” said Amy Groessl, a
therapist with the Children’s Research Triangle in Chicago, which
serves high-risk families.

Problems lurk beneath surface
While some adoptive parents may undertake parenthood with unrealistic
expectations, more typically they are merely ill-equipped to cope
with profoundly damaged children. Due to one or more of a variety of
reasons—among them fetal alcohol syndrome, mental illness, abuse,
attachment disorders—the youngsters can’t function in a family,
though they show no outward signs of disability.

“These kids are the victims of every kind of abuse you can imagine—
sexual, physical, emotional,” said Sterkel, who runs what may be the
only therapeutic school exclusively for adopted children.

Parents receive no hint or preparation for the tumultuous road ahead,
she said: “They thought love was enough.”

So when the nuclear family melts down, parents must grapple with a
heartbreaking choice: “Do we remove this child … or do we all go

Sterkel, a nurse and mother of three grown children, knows the
struggles personally as well as professionally.

She witnessed threadbare orphanages when she lived in Russia for two
years in the early 1990s as part of a humanitarian relief effort.

After returning to the U.S., Sterkel couldn’t shake the image of
Katya, suffering from years of abandonment and neglect. She adopted
her in 1996 at age 10. Two years later came a 14-year-old Russian
boy, Sasha.

The oldest of four, Sasha and his siblings were first adopted by a
Colorado family, an arrangement that quickly unraveled. Sasha moved
on to a second household, also in Colorado, while his two sisters and
a brother were split up and placed in several other states.

Soon after, Sasha tried to poison his new mother—slipping crushed
pills into her sandwich. Charged with felony assault, he was sent to
juvenile detention.

“My new mother told me that I should forget them [his siblings], but
I couldn’t,” the 23-year-old said recently, sitting in the ranch’s
cozy kitchen. “I went nuts.”

When Sterkel heard his story, she decided to rescue him. The adoption
was finalized in 1999. Today he helps out on the ranch, connecting
with angry, hard-to-reach kids like he was.

“I still have a lot of trust issues … especially with women,” said
Sasha, his blue-green eyes narrowing. “But life is a lot better now.
Of all the families I’ve had, this one is the best.”

There would be one more son—Michael, now 20—bringing the brood to

Ranch built on word of mouth
Meanwhile, the word ricocheted around the country that this Montana
woman, who speaks conversational Russian, and her husband, Harry
Sutley, could offer a respite to parents in crisis. The phone would
ring, and before you knew it, the Sterkel-Sutley clan was caring for
a dozen or so troubled children.

The wind howls across the craggy landscape here, 5 miles from the
Canadian border. There’s plenty of physical activity and virtually
nowhere to run. In the early days, Sterkel didn’t have much of a
treatment plan beyond keeping the kids busy and nurtured.

Today the program employs 15, but the youngsters—most between the
ages of 12 and 17 but some as young as 4—live in the same Spartan
dorms, with their meticulously made beds and family photos on their

The blueprint is unchanged: The route to self-esteem is through
teamwork and productivity.

The first half of the day is devoted to academics (a former
convenience store serves as a one-room schoolhouse), followed by
chores. On a ranch, cows always need milking, ditches digging and
fences mending. It’s a bracing change for socially isolated children
more accustomed to finding companionship with a TV or computer.

The most coveted time, though, is spent with the horses—also known as
equine-assisted psychotherapy. Push a horse and he’ll push back,
while hefty doses of kindness, patience and respect will usually
yield results. It’s a way to connect with aggressive, angry children
and nudge them toward new insights.

Traditional counseling, meanwhile, is available, but only at a
parent’s request.

“Here, everyday life is therapy,” said Bill Sutley, Sterkel’s 35-year-
old son, an electrical engineer by training and an affable wearer of
numerous hats, from ranch manager to math teacher. His Soviet-born
wife, Elena, also works with the children.

The typical stay is 6 months to a year, although some students stay
longer. Tuition ranges from $2,950 to $3,500 a month, for room, board
and school.

Since 2004, about 150 kids have cycled through, with only six booted
out—all within the past year. One severely ill girl lasted just four
days, after swallowing a fistful of batteries. Her parents and
insurance already had spent more than $900,000 on treatment, with no
end in sight. (Unlike special-needs kids adopted from the U.S. foster
care system, no federal subsidies exist for children from overseas.)

“It takes a lot before Bill and I will cry ‘uncle,’ ” Sterkel
said. “But we have the staff to think about.”

From here, about one-third will return home, while another third—
mostly those 16 and older—will move on to Job Corps, an education and
vocational training program run by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The remaining third will discover that their parents are
relinquishing their rights.

Sometimes the task of telling a child that he or she will be joining
a new family falls to Bill Sutley.

“I just say: ‘This is not your fault. You have a screwed-up brain.’
And then I do my best to explain why the current situation isn’t
working. I tell them, ‘Take something from this. Learn from your
experiences.’ ”

For adoptive parents, options are limited
He rarely judges those adoptive parents who arrive at this painful
conclusion. Sure, one couple sent a one-paragraph e-mail (“just
incredibly lame,” Sutley said). But for the most part, such families
are held hostage—especially when adoptees act out sexually or falsely
allege abuse by their adoptive parents.

“Sometimes, parents have no choice … otherwise they risk losing the
rest of their family.”

When all efforts have failed, Sterkel starts a new placement process
with a call to A Child’s Waiting in Akron, Ohio—one of the few
adoption agencies that works with youths they did not originally

Children are listed as green, yellow and red, based on the difficulty
of finding replacement families for each.

Their numbers have risen so dramatically that A Child’s Waiting plans
to build transitional housing specifically to accommodate that group,
said Crissy Kolarik, co-director. “The red kids have the most
significant issues, such as sexual predators,” she said.

To help prevent future disruptions, agencies are emphasizing more
preadoption training and postadoption support for international
adoptions. Some are telling prospective parents they should assume
their children were exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero.

For one north suburban Chicago mom whose foreign-born daughter is at
the ranch, the warnings came too late.

Often accused of abuse, she said police and DCFS knocking on her door
have no framework for dealing with such an impaired girl. Her short-
term solution? To never be alone with the child. She is still
undecided about the long term.

“All I can tell you is that we grieve for what might have been.”

17 Comments on “Ranch for troubled adoptees?

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, this article is disturbing in so many ways and its becoming a trend in America, paps are WAY to underprepared for adoption, the complexities in it are getting overlooked for the american dream of having a “baby” when will it be about US?

    btw, i added your blog to the “adoptee blog” page on my site…..if thats not okay please let me know 🙂

  2. good lord….where to begin?! thanks for drawing attention to this one!
    us bastards just so inconvenient and troublesome….

  3. I know many American (and Canadian, where I live) prospective adoptive parents are seeking to adopt children from Russia. While not all of these people are racist, a number of them are choosing Russia because they can find White children there. Sometimes I think though this obsession with White children is causing them to shoot themselves in the foot. It’s known that many Russian orphans have been exposed to alcohol in utero and have fetal alcohol syndrome as a result.

    I’m thinking of expanding my family (I’ve got one biological child) through adoption, and if I do, Russia is probably the last place on my list. In fact, if I can’t adopt from elsewhere, I’ll content myself with the one child I’ve gt. Not that I don’t admire the Russian culture or Russian people, but I don’t feel equipped to handle a child with potentially severe emotional problems. I’d try an East Asian country (number one) or potentially an Africa and South Asian country before adopting from Russia.

    Sorry to sound harsh, but it’s true.

    • My son was adopted from Russia in 2003 at age ten months. He is a loving, happy, healthy, well-adjusted individual with a wonderful attitude. A truly delightful person.

      We listened very carefully before his adoption and clearly heard the prejudices associated with children from Russia and sadly sometimes Russian families living in the US. At that time, we made the decision that where he was from was irrelevant to anyone other than his Mom and Dad and therefore didn’t share that information. What mattered then and what matters today is the kind of person he is and the person he will become. Where he is from is information that belongs to him and he can share it, or not. Sadly he did make that choice last year at his first grade table. One of the children laughed at him and when I was in his class a few days later, that same child asked me if we “got him from an orphanage.” I was speechless and it was obvious to me that his parents are very misinformed. It was a teaching moment for my son who had never heard the word orphanage before.

      His biological parents already had three children and could not afford a fourth, particularly one that was premature and was in hospital for three months. We are forever grateful to them for doing one of the most heartbreaking and difficult acts any parent should have to do – give up a child so that they may have a better life. It would my privilege to meet them someday and thank them for their generosity.

      For every horror story, how many wonderful children are adopted from Russia. I do not want to minimize the harsh realities that some children face who come out of any system whether it be Russia, China, etc. where they are neglected, abused and/or lived in an institution, but they are clearly not the majority. I have yet to personally meet an adopted child from Russia with a major problem.

      You do sound harsh, misinformed and prejudice.
      And a bit judgemental.

  4. I have heard wonderful things about this ranch. I have to say I find your comments biased. I have witnessed firsthand families held hostage by children whose past traumas created such behaivors in them that they were dangerous to live within the family setting, and in those cases I totally agree that families are held hostage by children with severe needs. I am sure that families with biological kids who end up killing them might have opted for an out of home placement if they had been given the chance, but they are rarely given any options either.

    I think you made something very complex and very tragic for all involved, and simplified it to the point of pinning the blame on the parents who simply could not help these children. No one is to blame except those who traumatize children. Systems where children are treated as nothing more than an animal, and are passed around from home to home, or systems where children are constantly being ripped out of good homes only to be sent back to their abusers, or systems where they are cared for in an assembly line style such as is found in most orphanages-those are the situations where the blame should be placed. I am sure I missed some other situations in my quick list.

    There are A-parents who should never adopt it is true, but there are wonderful people with big hearts who are sacrificing all for kids who scoff at all help sent their way. You can offer anyone help, but unless they want to heal there is nothing you can do, and at some point if the child’s pathology is so severe that other family members are at risk for harm or even death, it becomes necessary to find another living arrangement for that child. People do this all the time in all places all over the world, sometimes the name we use to label it is jail.

  5. anyone who bashes these families hasnt got a clue what it is like to live with severely disturbed children when all you want is a family. parents wanting to reach out and give a home and their hearts to a child in need should be commended not blasted.

    it isnt the parents fault. it isnt the child’s fault. if you want to blame anyone, blame the system, blame greedy agencies and orphanages, most of all blame the birth parents. the fault lies with all of these.

    the statement that was made in the article that they are all “victims” could not be truer.

    we’ve been blessed thus far that our disturbed children seem to be healing and havent gone to the point of being more than we can handle. many days they are much more than I bargained for, or signed up for (and yes, I said specifically -no reactive attachment disorder, no fetal alcohol, no sexual abuse issues and I got two of the three).

    It is perfectly legitimate to say I don’t want to adopt a child with these issues. After all, if I gave birth to a child (and I did – four times), I would not be drinking while pregnant, I would not abuse and neglect my child – why shouldnt I be able to say I will and want to lovingly parent a child without a family but I will not sacrifice the rest of my children to do it? why is that condemned?

    as for the reverse discrimination by the poster bashing every white child from Russia – please don’t adopt any child until you can be less racist. Personally, one of the reasons I would favor Russia is because those kids don’t have a chance otherwise. it matters not what country a child is born in or what race they are, it matters that they need a home.

    I’m really disappointed by the narrow minded attitudes of the posters here.


  6. Thanks for all your comments everyone!

    I do think this is really good dialogue, but I won’t apologize for my opinions before.

    I agree that there are MANY victims when it comes to families who’s children have psychological disabilities that can be paralyzing for any family. It is sad, and even sadder that agencies are unable to equip parents with the realities of adoption and coping mechanisms for all involved. I am also angered by the social and psychological situations that have placed these adoptees in such precarious situations where emotional scars continue to haunt them even in their new families in the US.

    But again, MY OPINION as an adoptee is one that has been perpetually characterized by feelings of abandonment. No, I don’t speak for everyone, but as this is a personal blog I am entitled to my feelings and I appreciate your feedback. Many adoptees I have met characterize their experience as such. When I saw this article clearly placing the blame on these children and many of you say that they “hold their families hostage,” I was shocked. Many of you have expressed that there is no one to blame. There are definitely those who are more to blame than others. I am angered by the continuous blame-ridden coverage of adoptees in the media where families are innocent parties within the adoption triad-Decisions to abandon their children justified, and adoptees like me ridiculed for questioning all involved. The adoptees, children are the victims-perhaps the families are unknowing victims, but in the end it is the children who have suffered and inadvertently take out their trauma on the people around them despite how much they love them back. There are extreme family conditions and situations that I can not know of first hand-and I acknowledge the fact that many families are unequipped to handle these relationships. But as an adoptee, the issue of abandonment feels even more pronounced in this article.

    I see many adoptive parents comment on my blog who are angered, who are defensive about my opinions. Please take a look around at the community we adoptees have created online. It is one for the most part that has formed out of a sense of loss, confusion of identity and a need to find hope from the hundreds and thousands just like us isolated and spread through out the world. I speak for myself, and others. I speak out because I believe (just as many a-parents have validated) that our opinions are stifled and not respected. I ask you all to listen because this is why so many of us are speaking out today. There are many a-parent allies out there as well, and I hope that you will help and stand in solidarity with us.

    Thanks for your comments. GS

  7. I appreciate your comments, really I do. I have to respectfully clarify though that I am not blaming the adoptee. They did not choose the trauma that was inflicted upon them. To think otherwise would be ludicrous. They do, as we all do, have the choice on whether they want to heal from past traumas or whether they want to remain angry and grow bitter. This doesn’t take away from the facts that many were victims of hideous abuse, but they can choose to remain victims or they can choose to be victorious.

    You are very correct in saying that adoptive parents are not adequately prepared to parent children with these challenges. I know we weren’t when we were united with our much loved and much prayed for daughter. Why weren’t we? I am not sure, but I can surmise that some of it lies with adoption agencies being places of business, and therefore they have to make money to stay in business. If that is the case I am sure they are afraid that if they were completely honest they would love adoptive parents. I can believe that some of it stems from feelings of needing to “rescue” children by placing the homeless into homes. I can also believe that there are legitimate adoption agencies who are doing the best thing they can think of with a problem that doesn’t have a perfect solution, and in doing that they may be less focused on education and more focused on placements. Lastly, there is also the fact that most information about attachment, trauma and how trauma impacts brain development (it is true trauma changes the brain-regardless of the age of the person) is relatively new. We are all playing catch up with our children, and that leaves more than one victim in the wake of previously unavailable information. I can also choose to be the victim or I can choose to be victorious by hitting the ground running and adovocating for my child, which is what we have chosen to do.

    I am glad that you are speaking out, but what would be far more helpful is to help educate adoptive parents about these issues and how those early beginnings impacted your lives. There are too many parents who adopt and try to apply traditional parenting practices on children whose lives have been altered by trauma, rather than understanding that their children need non-traditional and high attachment styles of parenting. Helping a child who has been through hell to learn to love and trust again is no easy task, and each parent not only needs a great deal of support and encouragement, but they also need to be dealing with their own histories to be the best parent they can be.

    I have witnessed five adoption dissolutions these past three years in families who were either simply not prepared to parent a very disturbed child, or they had exhausted every effort to heal the child and the child simply could not heal in their home. In the last scenario this child is now finally healing as an only child in his home. The decision to find another placement for this child still haunts these parents, but they wanted both of their children to have the best opportunity to make it in this world. This child was not simply shoved out the door with a “good luck to you.” His parents carefully chose a family who knew about attachment and trauma, and who would never be adding anymore children to their family.

    Were his adoptive parents to blame for this outcome? I don’t think so. Was he to blame? Certainly not he was just a child. The blame lies with the heinous abuse he received while living in the orphanage, where he was repeatedly whipped with leather straps and nearly starved to death at thirteen months old. Sadly, there is evil in this world and children are its biggest victims. I guess you can believe that by some divine intervention this family was able to get him out of that place, and get him to a place where he had a chance at living. Had he stayed in the orphanage he would surely be dead.

    The other situations are similar and in each case the parents tried to intervene and help the child heal. Sometimes the parents issues got in the way and sometimes the child’s issues were so great that they were clearly a danger to all within the home.

    Some of those who are adopting out of Africa right now face the impact that the civil wars, and child soldiers have had on children, and that is by far one of the most scary areas right now. Two kids I know of lived in an orphanage, well known by many, where each night they were sexually abused since there was no adult supervision after dark. They had witnessed the horrors of a madman during a civil war, and the children were so traumatized that the adoptive family could not help them even begin to heal. In fact, the children were very dangerous to themselves and the other children within the family. In this situation the adoption agency should never have approved this family due to younger children in the home, but if they hadn’t been approved those children would still be being raped.

    So, what is the answer to this problem? My husband and I have talked about this at length and we haven’t been able to reconcile this problem.

    I can tell you that in each situation that I know of where families have disolved the adoption they have not done it easily, and they have not done it without great anguish. Each family loved these children, and none of the families have fully recovered and gone on with life care free.

    We are thankful that we have the resources to help our daughter and that she desires to work hard in healing from the trauma of her time in a neglect filled, emotionally abusive (and most likely physically abusive as well) orphanage. We are committed to each other as we all walk through this journey as a family, which means we all have our work to do to reach our goal of being as healthy a family as we can be.


  8. Hi MeDenne,

    Thank you for your very respectful post. I agree with you in many regards, however I feel uneasy with the state that “They do, as we all do, have the choice on whether they want to heal from past traumas or whether they want to remain angry and grow bitter.” As you have stated before, many of these children have suffered severe traumas, inescapable and tragic. I’d like to believe that we all have the agency to change our own circumstances-It’s this whole idea that we are keepers of our own destiny. But there are certain circumstances some being social, others being psychological that leave permanent scars-emotional marks of abuse neglect etc. Some can heal, but others have been indelibly etched into the minds of many of the abused. Regardless of whether they are an adoptee, many are left scarred for life-a harsh reality and a hurtful reality for many adoptive parents who are (As we’ve said) unprepared to deal with these realities unmentioned by adoption agencies.

    “There are too many parents who adopt and try to apply traditional parenting practices on children whose lives have been altered by trauma, rather than understanding that their children need non-traditional and high attachment styles of parenting.”

    I also agree that there are far too many parents who are unprepared to deal with adoptees who have emotional or psychological traumas. Yet another short-coming of most adoption agencies. But far from the “traditional” parenting techniques that don’t apply to these adoptees, I believe that in all transracial adoptive families there are additional issues at stake. Just like the fallacies of colorblindness, it’s also a myth that transracial adoptees can be “assimilated” without suffering from the realities of our racially divided country. I agree that parents need this education, and it is something we as adoptees, educators, advocates are working hard to address. It’s clear that many adoption agencies are not preparing parents enough. It’s a tight-rope walk for many agencies as they balance promoting adoptions to families as a legitimate way to build a family, and the unwritten fact that there are many subtleties and nuances to being a transracial family.

    I agree that in extreme abusive cases it’s hard to point the finger anywhere else but the abusers, and to some degree the agencies who did not prepare families. However, I am only remarking on my experience (as an adoptee) who has experienced the feeling of abandonment. And as I read these stories of these adoptees who were abused/neglected put up for adoption, then put up again-It made me feel incredibly sad, and pained. And again I can only speak to my experience as an adoptee, and maybe for others, but the feeling of abandonment is something I hope to never suffer through again. And that is not to say that I do not understand or empathize the pain that my birth mother must have experienced prior to my relinquishment.

    Thank you for your comments, I appreciate your concern and sensitivity to these issues. There need to be more a-parents like you and your partner. Best- GS

  9. I appreciate your comments about adoptee’s feelings of abandonment and concern that adoptee’s not be blamed. I agree totally. it is not victim and perpetrator when it comes to a family being dissolved. it is victim and victim – unless the parents are neglectful or abusive.

    What I tell my children continously is that it is never a baby or young child’s fault when a parent is unable/unwilling to care for them. What I also tell them is that while they are not responsible for what happened to them in the past, they are responsible for how they choose to live now and in the future.

    I refuse to enable a victim mentality for my kids. I’ve told them that if, God forbid, they had any physical disability, I would expect them to work to overcome that disability to the best of their ability. That we would not focus on what they could NOT do or why it happened to them, we would celebrate what they COULD do and help them achieve their dreams for their future.

    So, when my son goes into full attachment disorder mode – huge entitlement issues, argumentative, oppositional, defiant, pretending he cannot hear what is being said to him, passive aggressive, etc. I do not tolerate it.

    After 5 years of giving my two adopted children nearly all of my time, energy, and money (and I still continue to homeschool them and provide opportunities for their passions and for healing), I am done with them getting it all. Their other siblings have suffered over the past five years and have constantly had to have their needs pushed aside. As for me, I’ve pushed my own needs aside to the point that my health – both mental and physical has taken a huge beating.

    relationships should, and must to be healthy, consist of give and take. the childs role is not to meet the needs of the parent, but as the parent gives to the child, the child must learn to give back in some way – to be respectful, responsible, fun to be around. this is the beginning of them developing healthy relationships as adults.

    It is not healthy for anyone for a child to consistently abuse their family. perhaps the reason the ranch is successful for some kids is that they need to be in an environment that doesnt require the same level of emotional connection that a family, by it’s very nature, requires.

    perhaps by beginning to learn to care about animals, the very disturbed child can learn to care about something other than themselves and realize that it feels good and the animal will not reject or abandon them. maybe then they can feel less afraid to care about people.

    no child should ever have to suffer the way many of these children have suffered. it is wrong that it ever should happen. but it does. so, lets not pretend that children aren’t horribly victimized and that if someone just loves them enough it will be enough to overcome all that has happened to them. it doesnt work that way as those who have tried it know only too well.

  10. I couldn’t agree more. There are tragic situations where the abuse leaves scars beyond what anyone can imagine. There are situations where there is too little help too late, which I see far too often.

    What I am saying though is that in most, not all, cases we each have to make the decisions to either heal or remain stuck in the pain of our pasts. There are extreme instances where the abuse has so altered a persons capability to think rationally, and sadly most of those situations end in incarceration. By the way, as a sidenote most prisoners were not adopted just traumatized birth kids.

    I hate the phrase forgive and forget because I think it is lie. I do believe in the phrase forgive and be transformed though. I should never forget my past and I couldn’t if I wanted to, but I can walk back through the pain, process it now when I am safe, and get all that caustic emotional baggage out so it doesn’t still haunt me. That doesn’t mean I never think about it again, but the raw emotion can be alleviated with lots of hard work.

    It sounds easy, but I know it isn’t. I am walking this journey with my daughter and it is the most heartwrenching thing I have been through. I realize that she will always be processing what has happened to her, but it doesn’t have to destroy her joy and love for life. She can still have friends and a full future. That is what I mean by a choice to let go of the bitterness. Bitterness robs people of the joys of today. Grief is processing work through sadness and pain, but bitterness is being stuck in the past in a way that it harms today.

    As far as colorblindness. There is no colorblindness, even for her. Just today she was telling her trauma/attachment therapist that all the teachers in her school were American except her first grade teacher who was Chinese. I was taken aback by HER description, since we have always used the terms caucasian, asian, african american, etc… to describe people’s ethnicity. Even with all these descriptions she still believed that only caucasian people are American. We obviously need to do more work in this area, and yet we aren’t quite sure how since so much of her struggle is internal.

    We realize international adoption brings another dimension into play as we parent a child who looks nothing like the others within her family. Truthfully, like I said previously, we aren’t always sure how to navigate this area or how to help her. We pray for God to send strong asian role models her way so she will have more diversity in her life and not feel the odd man out. That was one reason we were so thankful her teacher is Chinese American. We know she needs to see people who look like her, but even more we pray for strong healthy internationally adopted adoptees to be role models to our kids, because I know only someone who has lived her story will truly “get” what she feels.

    Just to define what I mean by healthy and strong, we want people who are working at healing from their pasts. I want role models who can empathize with her experiences while still guiding her toward the goodness of life, even in the midst of tragedy. I am not sure if you are familiar with Corre Ten Boom. She is a strong role model that I gain a great deal of strength and perspective from. Another one is Stephanie Fast, who is an adoptee from Korea. They are the people I look to to inspire me.

    At this point we are just trying to heal her from the trauma of the neglect she suffered from and whatever else went on during her first year of life, because without her ability to form a healthy and secure attachment she will struggle tremendously. It is in this area that I want to see more education and support for adoptive families, because this is the area I see far too many adoptees struggling in.

    I too feel sick that these kids will feel the trauma of being abandoned once more, and that ultimately they will feel their challenges are way too big for someone to love them and stick with them through it all. The reality is these stories are filled with tragedy for all involved. I wish I had a better answer to this problem, but I am at a loss. The only truth is that everyone loses, which is why I advocate so strongly for more education, more post adoption support, and more adoptive parents to be honest about their children’s struggles so they can get help sooner.


  11. By the way, I forgot to address that the fact that you are correct in saying that there are cases where people don’t have access to the help that they need to heal. I find this situation maddening!

    It breaks my heart to see a young adoptee struggling with attachment and abandonment issues and nothing is being done to help him/her early on. I find it maddening that new mothers are told to get well baby check-ups and newly adoptive families are left in the dust.

    Adoptive parents should be getting attachment check-ups to help their children form healthy and secure attachments at the beginning. These situations should be proactively identified and the families should be given the support and help they need. Too many children suffer and lose out at the hands of insurance companies who won’t pay for the treatments and therapy that is needed for these children to heal, and too many adoptive parents are seeing the world through rosy colored glasses and missing the pain that is right in front of them, the betrayal their children have lived through.

    Thanks for posting this and discussing this topic because it is so important.

  12. Hello, it’s me again. I admire people who adopt children with or at risk of psychological disorders – like fetal alcohol syndrome – but I personally don’t feel capable of doing so. And I’m not saying I would be reluctant to adopt a Russian child because he or she is White (I’m White myself, after all): the fact is that Russian orphans are at higher risk than those from, for example, China for fetal alcohol syndrome, and I don’t think I would be capable of handing a child with such problems. But if others feel able to do so, all my respect to them.

  13. I wish what you are saying was true, but it simply isn’t. When I was in China adopting my child and during the missionary trip I took two years later, we were served rice alcohol by villagers.

    It is true that alcohol abuse is fairly rampant in Russia, but i am not sure it isn’t just as prevalent in places like China. Even if it isn’t my daughter does not have fetal alcohol syndrome or affects. She has reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. Personally I prefer the diagnosis of Complex Trauma Disorder or Developmental Trauma Disorder, which is what childhood trauma experts are trying to get the name changed to. Of course, that is another topic all together.

    There is little doubt in her minds that our daughter was abused while living in the orphanage in China, especially since by definition neglect is emotional abuse. She was most certainly neglected at the very least, but we highly suspect there were other forms of abuse in her background as well.

    As far as admiring people like me who adopt “hurt” children, please don’t. We had no idea our daughter’s heart was so wounded. I am not sure if we would have had the guts to go forward in adopting period if we had known what we know now. I would like to think we still would have proceeded with adoption, but I can’t say with 100% certainty we would have. So, we really went into the whole journey of adoption pretty naive.

    Since being united with our daughter we have never regretted one day with her. She is a blessing to our lives in more ways than we can express, but most of those blessings have come with a great deal of pain and sorrow. We have had to really fight for her heart, and it hasn’t been easy. In fact, it still is a challenge as we continue to show her the road to healing and learning to trust and love.

    I am glad you are asking about the different countries and I am glad you are thinking about the predominance of challenges from those countries, but as you question remember than every adopted child, regardless of age, country or type of adoption, has come to his/her forever family from a deep loss.

    Adopted children all have a history before they are united with their adoptive families and those histories are usually filled with feelings of rejection and loss. Even newborn babies have been in their birth mother’s wombs where they have become familiar with her voice, her smell and even her emotional state. If that child is unwanted while inside their birth mom they can feel it. If that birth mother is under a large amount of stress, as in China with the one-child policy in full force, those stress hormones (cortisol) are being sent into the child through the umbilical chord, where it is caustic to the child’s developing brain. In a nutshell, what women do, feel and think about their children, inside the womb or outside, effects the child in more ways than most people once thought.

    So, any parent who is starting the journey into adoption needs to seriously consider the fact that many relinquished children come into families with backgrounds steeped in trauma, and trauma impacts children. They need to understand that they could easily be adopting a child with mild, moderate or even severe attachment impairments. Furthermore, they need to do all the research and reading about attachment parenting, parenting transracial children and parenting post-institutionalized children that they can and they need to be proactive in helping their child reach their God-given potential.


  14. Well, some studies have found that pregnant women in China do drink less alcohol than pregnant women in Russia (or the West, for that matter), so it’s safe to say that there are probably fewer Chinese than Russian adoptees with fetal alcohol syndrome.

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