Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


The Supernatural “Natural Experiment”: Rehabilitation and Remediation of Internationally Adopted Children

Boris Gindis

International adoption is not a modern invention: it has existed throughout known human history. But then something occurred that had never happened before in such a short period of time and on a such vast scale. Within the last 30 years (the last decade of 20th century and the first two decades of a new millennium), almost a million and a half children from foreign orphanages were adopted by families from industrialized countries of North America and Western Europe. The most unusual “natural experiment” of recovery from severe childhood trauma during a dramatic change in social situation of development, started and continues in front of our eyes. Resurgence from prolonged early childhood trauma is among the major themes in the study of human development. International adoption, as a “natural experiment”, gives us a unique chance to gain valuable knowledge about this phenomenon. Traditionally, complex childhood trauma has been studied in the same cultural and linguistic environment. This book offers a new perspective on development mediated by trauma, when a radical change in the social situation of development has occurred.

The truth of life is that although some international adoptees have remarkably good outcomes, too many suffer from complex early childhood trauma in different degrees, and a sizeable minority deal with the life-long negative consequences of early childhood adversity. One of the lessons we learned from the last 30 years of massive international adoption is that the recovery from adverse childhood experience needs focused scaffolding efforts from the “village” of dedicated parents, teachers, community helpers and mental health professionals working as a team.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the changing landscape of international adoption took place: from a robust but largely unmonitored process, through which tens of thousands of infants and toddlers moved into new homes annually, into a smaller but better-regulated system serving primarily children who are older and/or have special needs. Now, the majority of international adoptees is in need of highly specialized rehabilitation and remediation. In order to make remedial treatments more effective, the uniqueness of international adoptees should be taken into consideration, and existing methods should be appropriately modified and adjusted to meet the challenges presented by internationally adopted post-institutionalized children. The issue of methodology in rehabilitation and remediation is crucial at this stage of existence of international adoption. This book, based on currently accumulated research findings and clinical experience, presents the most effective and specialized (newly created or substantially modified) methods of rehabilitation and remediation of international adoptees, ages 5 to 18.

The very diversity of the adoption outcomes points to the contribution of the child’s own biological and psychological characteristics, and a variation in quality of their socio-cultural rehabilitation, remediation and support. The desired outcome of research in the field of international adoption is to provide the proper means of scaffolding former institutional residents to the status of productive, self-sufficient, emotionally stable, and law-abiding members of our society.

Rehabilitation and Remediation of Internationally Adopted Children by Boris Gindis
Rehabilitation and Remediation of Internationally Adopted Children by Boris Gindis

About The Author

Boris Gindis

Boris Gindis, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist, who specializes in the psychological issues of early childhood trauma and international adoption. He is a retired college professor,...

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