Skip to main content
×
×
Home

‘It's Quite a Journey’: Australian Parents’ Experience of Adopting Older Children from Overseas Orphanages

  • Kate Alessia (a1) and Louise Roufeil (a2)
Abstract

Intercountry adoption, often of children post-infancy, is one way of forming a family in Australia. However, few studies have invited Australian parents who have incorporated older children into their family to tell their story. Fathers are under-represented in studies of parenting generally and adoptive parenting specifically.

As part requirement for a clinical psychology dissertation, with ethics approval from the relevant university, 28 parents (13 fathers and 15 mothers) were interviewed about their experiences of adopting children over the age of 24 months from orphanages in China, Ethiopia, India and Thailand. Although parents’ experiences and recollections were diverse, almost all parents had been confronted by difficult child behaviours, at least initially. Contrary to previous research, the child's gender, age or duration of institutional care did not appear related to parental experience.

Six major themes emerged from parent interviews: (1) the long wait and intense emotions of adoption; (2) disparity between expectations and reality; (3) recognition of children's difficult past experiences; (4) parenting as a path to self-discovery; (5) the perception of needing to present as coping; and (6) unmet needs. Mothers blamed themselves for their children's behavioural problems, rather than attributing difficulties to children's previous adverse life events. Both mothers and fathers were reluctant to use support services because they felt scrutinised and feared repercussions, and those who sought assistance generally found professionals ill-informed and unhelpful. Parents made recommendations about how the adoptive parenting process could be improved and expressed a strong desire for more information, both pre- and post-placement.

Copyright
Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Dr Kate Alessia, Droylsden House, 143-145 Baillie Street, Horsham 3400, Victoria, Australia Email: Kate.Alessia@bigpond.com
References
Hide All
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2006). Adoptions Australia 2005–06. AIHW catalogue number CWS 27. Child Welfare Series number 39. Canberra: AIHW.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2011). Adoptions Australia 2010–11. AIHW catalogue number CWS 40. Child Welfare Series number 52. Canberra: AIHW.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77101.
Cronin, C. (2003). First-time mothers – identifying their needs, perceptions and experiences. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 12, 260267.
Fägerskiöld, A. (2008). A change in life as experienced by first-time fathers. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 22 (1), 6471.
Farina, L., Leifer, M., & Chasnoff, I.J. (2004). Attachment and behavioural difficulties in internationally adopted Russian children. Adoption & Fostering, 28 (2), 3849.
Fontenot, H.B. (2007). Transition and adaptation to adoptive motherhood. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 36 (2), 175182.
Forbes, H., & Dziegielewski, S.F. (2003). Issues facing adoptive mothers of children with special needs. Journal of Social Work, 3, 301320.
Gair, S. (1999). Distress and depression in new motherhood: Research with adoptive mothers highlights important contributing factors. Child and Family Social Work, 4 (1), 5566.
Gray, D. (2002). Attaching in adoption: Practical tools for today's parents. Indianapolis, IN: Perspectives Press.
Hamilton, L., Cheng, S., & Powell, B. (2007). Adoptive parents, adaptive parents: Evaluating the importance of biological ties for parental investment. American Sociological Review, 72, 95116.
Hayes, N. (2000). Doing psychological research. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.
Hoksbergen, R., & van Dijkum, C. (2001). Trauma experienced by children adopted from abroad. Adoption & Fostering, 25 (2), 1825.
Hoksbergen, R.A., ter Laak, J., van Dijkum, C., Rijk, K., & Stoutjesdijk, F. (2003). Attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder in adopted Romanian children living in The Netherlands. Adoption Quarterly, 6 (4), 5973.
Jackson, D., & Mannix, J. (2003). Mothering and women's health: ‘I love being a mother but . . . there is always something new to worry about’. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 20 (3), 3037.
Johnson, D.E. (2000). Long-term medical issues in international adoptees. Pediatric Annals, 29 (4), 234241.
Johnson, D. (2004). Short and long term effects of early childhood institutionalisation. Paper presented to the 8th Australian Adoption Conference, Adelaide, South Australia.
Kalmuss, D., Davidson, A., & Cushman, L. (1992). Parenting expectations, experiences, and adjustment to parenthood: A test of the violated expectations framework. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 516526.
Koepke, J.A., Anglin, S., Austin, J., & Delesalle, J. (1991). Becoming parents: Feelings of adoptive mothers. Pediatric Nursing, 17 (4), 333336.
Loutzenhiser, L., & Sevigny, P.R. (2008). Infant sleep and the quality of family life for first-time parents of three-month-old infants. Fathering, 6 (1), 219.
Mauthner, N.S. (1999). ‘Feeling low and feeling really bad about feeling low’: Women's experiences of motherhood and postpartum depression. Canadian Psychology, 40 (2), 143161.
Meijer, A.M., & van den Wittenboer, G.L.H. (2007). Contribution of infants’ sleep and crying to marital relationship of first-time parent couples in the 1st year after childbirth. Journal of Family Psychology, 21 (1), 4957.
O'Neill, C. (2000). Adoption, permanent care and foster care: Home-based care in and beyond the 1990s. Australian College of Paediatrics, 36 (5), 415417.
Palacios, J., Sánchez-Sandoval, Y., & León, E. (2005). Intercountry adoption disruptions in Spain. Adoption Quarterly, 9 (1), 3555.
Pope, C., Ziebland, S., & Mays, N. (2000). Qualitative research in health care: Analysing qualitative data. British Medical Journal, 320, 114116.
Rutter, M., O'Connor, T.G., & English and Romanian Adoptees (ERA) Study Team. (2004,). Are there biological programming effects for psychological development? Findings from a study of Romanian adoptees. Developmental Psychology, 40 (1), 8194.
Rutter, M., Colvert, E., Kreppner, J., Beckett, C., Castle, J., Groothues, C., Hawkins, A., O'Connor, T.G., Stevens, S.E., & Sonuga-Barke, E.J.S. (2007). Early adolescent outcomes for institutionally-deprived and non-deprived adoptees. I: Disinhibited attachment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48 (1), 1730.
Smith, J.A., & Osborn, M. (2003). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In Smith, J. (Ed.) Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (pp. 5180). London: Sage.
Solchany, J-A., E. (1998). Anticipating the adopted child: Women's pre-adoptive experiences. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 30 (3), 123129.
van Ijzendoorn, M.H., Juffer, F., & Poelhuis, C.W.K. (2005). Adoption and cognitive development: A meta-analytic comparison of adopted and nonadopted children's IQ and school performance. Psychological Bulletin, 131 (2), 301316.
Willig, C. (2003). Introducing qualitative research in psychology: Adventures in theory and method. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.
Zeanah, C.H., Smyke, A.T., Carlson, E., & Koga, S.F. (2005). Attachment in institutionalized and community children in Romania. Child Development, 76 (5), 10151028.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Children Australia
  • ISSN: 1035-0772
  • EISSN: 2049-7776
  • URL: /core/journals/children-australia
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed