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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Mental Health Minefields

Most adoptive parents are never given access to an orphanage’s inner sanctum.  You see what the officials want you to see, and never the twain shall meet.

And what do the powers that be not want you to glimpse?  Either the poor physical conditions or the poor mental health of their charges.

Children ending up in an institution do not generally hail from the top of the gene pool.  Most of us “nurture or nature” optimists figure it will turn around one way or the other with good food, love, and education.

Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.

In some of our own children, I’ve observed periods of self-loathing, infantile behavior, poor school performance, or despair as though the whole world is against them.  And then, poof!  It’s gone.  While bio children may swing through similar cycles, there’s a certain edginess, the black and shadowy precipice of the unknown, where they might slide over the edge at any moment… into true insanity.

I have visited these inner sanctums, usually only reserved for Russians working in the orphanage or educational system.  It could have been any reason why I gained access:  I asked; it was a holiday and the directors were gone; I spoke the language; I was perceived as a pleasant and professional person who could take things in stride.

Who knows?  But I most likely saw the most in those places that would not allow me full  access.  Other than our second son’s high-walled, lock-down, non-stop security situation, in the other orphanage and internat, to varying degrees I saw milling minors both from afar and up close.

I smiled at the children, greeting them warmly, realizing that I might be one of a very few visitors they might encounter that year.  I wanted to make every moment count.  As they drew closer, my analytical mind stole a furtive glance here or there where the signs of mental illness could be seen.

Physical marks drew the map:  the headbangers with their telltale bruises, the cutters and slashers with their striped arms or legs, as well as the moaners, the grunters, and the rocking self-soothers.  Some had pockets full of trash, while others stared off into the distance and talked to themselves.  The aggressive ones pushed and shoved to get closer, the passive ones walked in circles near the edge of the group.  These were some of the children, certainly not all, and not the majority, but enough to give one pause.

Psychiatrists would have a hey-day here, doling out diagnoses and/or medications like candy on Halloween.  Alas, there were no mental health workers present.  The children’s issues would be left for a later date and a distant land, if they were that fortunate.

Often the adoptive parents visited their drugged children-to-be, noting how quiet and withdrawn they were, later wondering why there was a sudden change in personality as soon as they were given custody….



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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar AP says:

    I think that one of my older adopted children is showing signs of mental illness. The odd part of it is that she sees it as being more normal. Afterall, this is what she did in Russia – roam the streets, run away, poor school work, self loathing, bad language, etc. So she is now choosing bad friends who make her feel normal. Sometimes that is easier than “being good”.

    • avatar admin says:

      I know, AP, there is a definite connection between what they feel is “normal” and how they choose to react to situations, and it can lead to not wanting to try the more difficult way of being good….

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