Affection problems are common, but almost all children adopted from abroad disappear in half a year, says a Finnish study.
From abroad an adopted child can have symptoms in many ways before adjusting to a new family. The child may be in great need, or may find it difficult to receive care. He may just cling to one parent and reject the other, or pay attention to others, even strangers, instead of his own parents.
The child may also be restless, and even small changes or departures may cause a strong reaction. Such attachment problems are perfectly normal in adoption families, says the adoption curator of Our Common Children Anja Wikstedt.
“It takes its own time before the child feels safe and confident that he or she has got a permanent home,” Wikstedt notes.
Docent and clinical teacher of pediatrics at the University of Turku Helena Lapinleimun according to attachment problems disappear from almost all children adopted from abroad within six months. Four years after adoption, there are no more problems with attachment than in the general population.
In 2007, Lapinleimu and its research group started the ongoing FinAdo longitudinal study, which monitors approximately 1,800 children adopted to Finland from abroad.
According to Wikstedt, international adoptions in Finland have decreased significantly since 2005. Young and healthy children more often have a family in their home countries, where more children have previously come to Finland. Thus, children adopted from abroad are now often in need of special support and some are also taken into care in difficult circumstances.
“On the other hand, in many countries, the resources available for child protection have improved at the same time. For example, many orphanages are now of higher quality, which can alleviate children’s attachment problems even before they arrive in Finland,” says Wikstedt.
Lapinleimun According to him, the majority of children adopted to Finland from abroad grow into ordinary, working adults. According to the FinAdo study, there are no significantly more behavioral disorders in adopted children than in other children. Nor can it be seen that children from certain countries or from certain types of families have more adjustment problems than others.
“The child’s higher age of arrival in Finland slightly increases the risk of challenges. If the child has had several placements in his or her country of origin before arriving in Finland, the challenges are more likely. The child has been able to move to an orphanage, return to their parents, move to a new orphanage, and so on. This is always tough for a child, ”says Lapinleimu.
According to Lapinleimu, children adopted from abroad have clearly more learning difficulties and language development problems than other Finnish children on average, regardless of the age at which the children came to Finland.
“A child has been able to move to an orphanage, return to their parents, move to a new orphanage, and so on. This is always tough for a child. ”
Adopted children often learn Finnish well and quickly, and they do not differ from other children at the level of the basic language. Instead, many of them experience problems in deeper language learning.
“Such problems are often revealed in school when learning language structures and more abstract concepts.”
To Finland mainly children aged 2 to 6 are adopted from abroad. Most children currently come from South Africa, Thailand, Colombia and the Philippines, says Save the Children’s head of international adoption. Marjo Mäenpää.
Prior to adoption, all applicants for adoption must seek adoption counseling.
“The parents are therefore well trained and can also prepare for possible challenges. During the counseling, we discuss, among other things, what special needs the adopted children have and how these needs should be met,” Mäenpää says.
Our Common Children also arranges adoption coaching from abroad for adoptive parents. Although adoptive parents are well coached, according to adoption curator Anja Wikstedt, it is very typical that parents need outside support at some point. For this reason, the association provides parents with low-threshold assistance.
Wikstedt recalls that many adoptive parents have been expecting their child for several years. When a child finally comes, they may have high expectations for their own parenting.
Like in any other family, however, the severity of everyday life may come as a surprise. The child may feel stranger, and feelings of love may not come as quickly as the parent would have liked. A parent may feel that he or she should be able to give a child who has arrived from difficult circumstances quite a lot.
Wikstedt encourages parents to seek help at an early stage if needed.