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Community Support and Multi-cultural Adoption

Dr. Victor Groza explains the importance of community support for your child and family in multi-cultural adoptions.

Interview by Allison Martin

The importance of identity issues for adoptees and adoptive parents is emphasized in "Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption." How can parents who have adopted internationally best help their children with these issues?

Whenever a child joins a family through adoption from another culture, the family becomes a multi-cultural family. As a multi-cultural adoptive family, it is the responsibility of the family to build as many strengths in their child as possible. Having a solid sense of a cultural identity is a strength. It is also the responsibility of the community to support the family and find or develop resources in the local community that strengthen and support the family.

One such resource for the families who are or have adopted children from overseas is the local ethnic community and programs that can be developed with this community. A strong sense of cultural identity helps children better navigate the majority American culture. A strong sense of identity affects self-esteem; self-esteem and attachment affect each other. When a child lives in a home where they are obviously different from those around them, we cannot negate this difference. The difference must be acknowledged and celebrated so that it does not negatively affect the child’s sense of self. If there is no celebration and acknowledgement of the differences, child may feel that they are unacceptable or interpret it as a sign of rejection.

In addition, buying books, dolls and music that are representative of the child's culture enriches the social environment of the family.

Success in adoption depends on several factors. One, families who develop informal networks of family, neighbors, friends, other adoptive families, and associates who give them consistent, positive support for the adoption are almost always successful. Two, having access to appropriate, easily accessible and affordable social services positively affects the adoption, also. Three, parents need to be flexible in their expectations of their child--the ability to change your expectations to match the capabilities of the child you adopt is critically important. Finally, creativity and flexibility in family functioning is important. Parents who are patient, can wait for rewards from parenting, and let child develop and change within their own time frame as well as altered the way they discipline strengthens the adoptive family.

Support is the linchpin of successful adoptions. Families need to have and maintain strong systems of support from family, friends, people from their church or synagoge, and their communities.

Most adoptive parents become educators about adoption as well as advocates. They learn that they have to stop and educate their extended family, friends, and community acquaintances about adoption. They work to help people in schools, social services, and churches/synagogues understand some of the unique issues in adoption.

Sponsor community forums, speak to both children groups and adult groups, use adoption month to make sure the local library displays adoption information -- the list is endless. Be creative and work as a team to find ways to get the message out to the public and normalize these children in your community.

Dr. Victor Groza is an Associate Professor and the Interim Associate Dean for Reseach and Training at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is a prolific author and editor in the field of adoption studies; four books and over 40 professional articles are in publication, including Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption.

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