When you decide to adopt a child you go through the process with a Social Worker who is also an Adoption Practiciner. He/she prepares all your paperwork required by the Ministry, your home study, helps you understand your options and gives you advice on parenting. You also take a five day required course to qualify as an adoptive prospective parent.
The Social Worker is an expert on child development, attachment and successful transitions for children into their forever family homes. She told me that my only job when Roman came home was to create attachment. Everything else would not matter if attachment was unsuccessful.
If you have children vaginally and/or you breastfeed, had skin to skin contact with your child, soothed your baby when they cried, cuddled them, and generally met their needs then attachment happens automatically. Bonding is instant but attachment is developed through a relationship. For our adopted children we were not the one’s who were there when they arrived into the world. We were not there to fill our children’s first needs and have no way to know first hand if and how they were cared for until we entered their lives.
In Roman’s case and for many of my fellow adoptive friends we were able to observe the caregivers at the orphanage where our children resided and saw very clearly that these woman loved the children in their care. The children are clean, fed, held and played with. In fact in some orphanges they have music teachers and infant massage.
However, for many of us the first weeks or months of our kids lives were spent in a baby hospital awaiting a spot at a local orphanage and it’s that period that is a mystery. Was there a nurse who picked him up when he cried? Did he get his diaper changed as much as it needed to be? I would guess that there was a loving person who was by his side and my family believes there were angels watching him too because he is so incredibly open, loving and trusting.
Regardless of their life circumstances when they arrived into the world, when you bring your adopted child home the job of attachment begins. We can’t go back in time and we can’t breastfeed but what we can do is lavish them with love. Fortunately, I was confident that I was a great fit to the job description which is basically make his life a full time love fest. My social workers orders were for at least the first six months, celebrate everything, smile, coo, sing, cuddle, praise, hold them, soothe and cuddle them at every opportunity, lavish on the affection.
This may seem a bit odd to outsiders. It may seem like the child is being spoiled or set up to think they are “special”. But there is method to the madness. You can’t be over affectionate to a child in this particular fragile state. It is impossible to smother them with love at this point.
Once attachment is secure then you move on to setting limits and bounderies and managing undesiraable behaviour, but for a mimimum of six months it’s just about love baby. How do I know all this? I was advised by several experts in child development with specializations in adoptive children and an Attachment Specialist as well as my Social Worker.
So how do you know when your adoptive child is securely attached? Well ironically you can’t tell when they are happy. It is only observable when the child is in distress. When they fall and feel hurt, meet new people and situations or feel afraid. When their response to the distress is to seek Mom and/or Dad’s arms as their safe haven then it’s there.
Something so simple but many believe that is the foundation for how that child will view the world, if they will trust others and are able to develop intimacy as adults. It’s that important.
So yes I have 1,589 photographs of my son taken over the past year. My family is like his own personal cheerleading squad and he is probably kissed and cuddled more then the adverage kid on the block
BUT when he skins his knee or bangs his head (which is currently a daily occurance due his current clumbsy stage) he looks to me to kiss and make it better and that’s the only feedback I really need.