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EFFECTS OF INSTITUTIONALIZATION


ORPHANAGE CULTURE

Orphanages are part of the society in which they exist, and consequently reflect the beliefs and attitudes of that society. Abandoned children or handicapped individuals may be grouped with "unwanted and outcasts . . . lepers . . . convicts . . . political prisoners and the mentally ill" as people who must be isolated from society. Staff in such institutions may lack clinical skills, training, educational and financial resources.

The psychological milieu of the orphanage is another factor that contributes to the outcome of the child. Orphanage staff views of the children reflect the attitudes of the culture and society, ranging from "all children are valuable"' and "children are innocent" to "not even their parents want them, so why should we care" or "there must be some defect in these children or else they wouldn't be here."

A worker in a Romanian orphanage described the mindset where he worked as follows: "A woman who abandons here child (is) a bad person regardless of her reason for this action… The way the parents are looked upon as persons is reflected in the way the child is treated … in institutions … the only thing one knows about the parents is that they abandoned the child … this reflects badly on the child." To support his observations, he states that the treatment of children changes when the child is assigned for adoption: "The child will be taken special care of, given the best food, dressed better, hugged and given more attention." His interpretation is that the child then 'starts to reflect the personality of the adoptive parents who are always thought of as rich and …. civilized people."

Thus, the experience of early deprivation in institutions may contribute to delayed growth, cognition, and social/emotional development. Children may demonstrate behavioral problems such as hyperactivity, indiscriminate demands for affection and attention, superficiality of relationships, and absence of normal anxiety of failure or rebuke. Psychiatric authorities state that "group rearing of abandoned children is inherently destructive and incompatible with normal psychological development.

 

From THE HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION MEDICINE by Laurie C. Miller. © 2004 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by Permission.

 

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