Winter 2002 Issue
THE TRONSBERG FAMILY’S FIRST YEAR UPDATE
by Laura Ellman, LSW
In August of 2000, Kathryn Tronsberg adopted her daughter Kayley, at 13 months, from Moscow, Russia. Upon their first anniversary as a family, Kathryn sent Adopt-A-Child a letter, excerpted in the following, about their past year.
“Kayley and I have had a wonderful year getting to know one another and becoming a family. My daughter is a bright, beautiful two-year old who is tall and developmentally ahead for her age of 26 months... I believe she will weigh in about 10 pounds over her weight when we left Moscow last year and will have gained several inches in height. She has been exceptionally healthy (one bad cold, one bout with stomach flu) this year.
Kayley has been talking in sentences for about three months now. She has quickly learned how to walk steps, run, skip and throw a ball. She is practicing saying her entire name of “Kayley Isabelle Tronsberg” with me when asked. She loved being in the water this summer... She likes picture books and dolls, too. She is currently very interested in learning to dance, and we often spend time practicing to songs on the radio. Kayley is also a very demonstrative, loving child. She likes to show and be shown affection. She kisses and hugs me many times a day.
Kayley is very assertive; likes to be the leader with other children her own age, and can hold her own with older children. We have had to work a lot with the concepts of sharing and taking turns. Kayley spends a tremendous amount of time with my parents. Family is extremely important to me and I want Kayley to have as much interaction with her extended family and to feel loved by and secure with all of them as she is growing up.
Kayley attends the Point Park Children’s School five days a week while I work. Kayley’s teachers have been very pleased with her development. They too believe that she is bright and assertive. In particular, they are impressed with her verbal skills, given her background. One of Kayley’s current classmates is also from Baby Home #8, Moscow. Therefore, her teachers have used their stories to explore the concepts of global culture, language and customs, as well as the idea that families come together in multiple ways.
This past year has been one of the most wonderful of my life due to Kayley. Every person waiting for a child to join their life has hopes and fears about becoming a parent. As a single mother, I had additional ones. I have been so fortunate that Kayley and I have had so few challenges during our first year together. Her health, her ease in attachment, and her personality have all been a blessing. As well, she has helped me to prioritize my life and my values around work, family and home.
I think often of Kayley’s caregivers at Baby Home #8. I am thankful and indebted every day to the individuals who cared directly for Kayley during her first year in Moscow. Because of their vigilance and attention she has had a wonderful foundation of physical and emotional health upon which I continue to build.
Lastly, I hope in the near future to add to our family with a second child through adoption. I want Kayley to experience the challenge and security of having a sibling as she grows older, and I want her and any other children I am fortunate enough to raise to have the love and attachment to each other as they become adults.
I also want Kayley to be comfortable and knowledgeable about her beginnings and her birth country. We are practicing “hello” and “goodbye” in Russian and she has learned how to say her original Russian last name of “Kalugina”, which she says as “coconuts”, in English. We call her Russian birth name her “special name from when she was born”.
Kayley has added so much to so many people’s lives in a very short time since she has joined my family. I am blessed to have the privilege of being her mother and to have her with me every day.
From the Director’s Desk: Sonia Girel
I hope that everyone had a happy holiday, and on behalf of the Adopt-A-Child staff, we wish you a healthy New Year. I’d like to add a special thanks for all of the beautiful holiday pictures, cards and wishes that so many of you sent to our office.
We have received many calls regarding the status of international adoption since September 11, 2001, and I can report that we have been fortunate not to have experienced any disruptions throughout the adoption process. INS continues to review applications in a timely manner, government officials both in Russia and China have been sympathetic and supportive, and our families have not had difficulties either arranging or completing their travel.
The Child Citizenship Act became effective in February of 2001. This law states that all children who were adopted abroad become automatic United States citizens when they arrive in the United States. At this time, internationally adopted children continue to receive “green cards” or permanent alien registration cards in the mail several months after they arrive home. This card is verification that the child entered the US as a “lawful permanent resident”. Parents who wish to have a document proving that their child is a US citizen may either apply for a Certificate of Citizenship through INS (Form N-643 which we send to all of our families) or apply for a passport for their child. Documents needed to apply for a child’s passport are included in the package of adoption papers that all families receive while abroad.
BONDING WITH YOUR CHILD
Laura Ellman, LSW
On November 14, 2001, Diana Schwab, M.ED., MSW, spoke to Adopt-A-Child’s pre and post-adoption groups about how parents can promote attachment with their recently adopted children. Ms. Schwab works with Dr. Sarah Springer, a pediatrician whose practice includes hundreds of internationally adopted children. She is also a therapist at the Center for Children and Families in Pittsburgh.
Diana explained that infants are neurologically programmed to seek interaction with other people. Studies have shown that almost from birth, babies choose to look at human faces rather than objects, as they instinctively prefer human connections. A baby also seeks to connect through communication, and over time learns that when he cries and his parent responds, he is both important enough to be taken care of, and that his expressed needs will be satisfied.
Diana said that the attachment between parents and children is an ongoing process, rather than an event. She said the “signals of connection” that a child displays towards his parents may include looking to Mom for comfort, happiness when she returns, sadness when they separate, and pleasure in one another’s company. Diana then explained that an important aspect of attachment is the concept of attunement. When parents are attuned to their child, they are able to read their child’s behavioral cues and respond appropriately. She said that attunement is not a precise science, but more a result of patience, practice and getting to know your child. She gave the example of a crying baby whose parents declare “You’re hungry, no you’re wet, no you’re tired, no you’re thirsty” until they determine what will calm her. Attunement with a toddler might include knowing when he needs quiet time, a snack or a change in activity.
Diana then spoke about ways to promote attachment with children who have lived in an orphanage. She suggested that initially parents focus upon becoming attuned towards their child’s cues. Through trial and error, parents can learn about their child; does he prefer stimulation or quiet, do loud noises scare her, which foods does he like, etc. As parents gradually understand what a certain cry or behavior means, they can appropriately address them, both verbally and with actions, which in turn builds trust between parent and child. Attunement also tells a child that it’s O.K. to ask for what they need and that they are important enough to have those needs met. Diana added that through the ongoing process of attunement, a child can also gain self-awareness which can sensitize her to read other people’s social cues.
Diana offered the following suggestions for ways to promote attachment with a recently adopted child:
Making and maintaining eye contact with your child while feeding, talking and playing.
Holding, hugging, carrying and holding hands with your child. Initially, some children may not be comfortable with physical contact. One parent gave the example of her daughter who at bedtime would point to her bed and wriggle out of her mother’s arms. Mom allowed her to get into bed, but she sat near her and touched her hand. Gradually, her daughter would sit close to Mom, and after several weeks she would sit on her lap before bedtime.
Limit the number of visitors and care givers in the first month after the adoption. Diana explained that this will teach a child who is in their “inner circle, and about having a Mom and Dad which is really different than having multiple care givers.”
Reading and rereading simple books like Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, both of which reinforce consistency and predictability. Reading can also promote physical closeness with your child.
Diana then explained the importance of treating a child younger than her chronological age for at least the first six months following her adoption. She said that allowing a child to regress can promote attachment and will not make her spoiled nor immature. She gave the example of reintroducing a bottle to a 14 month old to encourage closeness. She suggested that parents go to a crying child in the night, even if they “should” be sleeping through, and said that it is fine to carry a two year old, even if he “should” be walking. It is Diana’s belief that attending carefully to your child’s needs can be an important step in replacing his self-reliance and independence with dependance, trust and attachment towards his parents.
Diana stressed that attachment is a life long process which shifts and changes over time. She encouraged the group to be patient and creative during the “getting to know you phase” of parenthood and advised us to remain “optimistic to the changes that can happen in a relationship.”