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EFFECTS OF INSTITUTIONALIZATION


HETEROGENEITY OF THE ORPHANAGE EXPERIENCE

Institutional life is extremely heterogeneous; thus, post-institutionalized internationally adopted children have come from widely variable backgrounds. Some factors that affect the quality of care in the institution are obvious, such as the staff/child ratio, staff training and awareness of basic child development needs, and the financial and other resources available. The philosophy of the institution is also vitally important.

The most critical factor, however, is the individual experience of the child. This overrides all other considerations. This experience is affected by the duration of institutionalization, the child's life experience prior to institutionalization (including genetic factors, prenatal exposures, family history, birth history), and the child's experience in the orphanage. The child in the crib that all adults must pass during the daily routine will likely have a different experience from that of the child whose crib is in the back corner of the room and whose needs are attended to last of the group.

The social, engaging child likely will have these qualities reinforced, although a quieter, more timid child may be more readily ignored. The child who becomes a "favorite" may receive special privileges, foods, outings, and attention, compared to the child who is perceived as "difficult" or a "trouble maker." Thus, the effects of institutionalization - even in children of the same age, in the same room, in the same orphanage - are profoundly different.

 

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

 

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