Melissa Fay Greene article in February 2011 Good Housekeeping

This month’s February issue of Good Housekeeping includes an article by Melissa Fay Greene that left me almost gasping. Never before have I read an article in a mainstream publication that addresses so honestly the challenges faced by some adoptive families.  Greene wrote ”Love Medicine” in response to the case of the Russian boy who was “sent back” to Moscow by his overwhelmed adoptive mother, Torry Hansen.  In the article, Greene profiles two sets of adoptive parents whose children exhibited similar attachment issues and violence. But the adoptive parents in Greene’s article sought help and fought through to better outcomes. Their families remain intact.

Greene begins “Love Medicine” by explaining:

In the universal condemnation of [adoptive mother Torry] Hansen, one population remained mostly quiet. Adoptive and foster parents of neglected, abused, or traumatized children …

Greene goes on to say:

Adoption literature brims with upbeat slogans… Roughly two million adopted children living in American households prove there’s truth in those phrases. But “A Match Made in Heaven” fails to capture the commitment and resilience demanded of adoptive parents, and the courage traumatized children need to attach to new caregivers.

Here I will add that Guatemala was often held up as the gold standard of foster care, but those of us who adopted from Guatemala know that foster and orphanage situations varied widely. Greene writes:

For infants, there really are only two continents: the land of well-being, and the land of lack.

***

[W]hat if, on top of physical or neurological damage, love, kindess, and delight don’t envelop the baby? If she is fed from a bottle that is propped against the bars of a crib, or lies in soiled diapers for long hours; if no one burbles baby talk to her and no one rejoices when she rolls over and no one comes when she cries, the baby stops reaching out. As the infant withdraws and shuts down, her brain fails to develop key pathways, the elemental approaches to love. Love is a duet, not a solo.

Greene outlines ways in which the two adoptive families in “Love Medicine” coped. “Theraplay’ saved one family whose children from Ethiopia struggled. The other family, with a daughter from China, reached out to fellow adoptive parents and their own parenting abilities (the father is a mental health clinician). As the article stresses, there is hope for families who are struggling, and for parents who wonder if they can get through another day. Imagine what life is like for your child: new faces, new food, new smells, new clothes, new language. Even for children who haven’t suffered neglect, everything familiar has disappeared. As the families in Greene’s profile demonstrate, the key is love and commitment. Get help. Don’t give up.

Greene concludes:

[E]very year, a fraction of adoptive parents will be unnerved by a new child’s issues. Finding a way to love a traumatized child, and helping that child learn to love, takes years, say battle-weary parents. Those parents who survive and thrive often say that it was the hardest and most satisfying work of their lifetimes, and that it unlocked the door to their greatest treasures: their own beloved children.

In my opinion, this article should be required reading for every adoptive parent and every person who is considering adoption. But you’ll have to buy it on the newsstand; I couldn’t find a link on the Good Housekeeping website. Sorry~!

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11 Responses to “Melissa Fay Greene article in February 2011 Good Housekeeping”

  1. nancy smith says:

    I bought the magazine today and to my surprise, the family who adopted the Chinese girl are friends of mine! and furthermore, that the author (Melissa Fay Greene) has a new book coming out in April on her experiences as the mother of five adopted Ethiopian kids and four biological. I am so getting this book and recommend it to all (as well as her previous book on AIDS orphans/adoptions in Ethiopia.) Thanks for the tip!

  2. Jessica says:

    I’m also a big fan of Melissa Fay Greene, ever since first reading an essay of hers in the Jill Smolowe anthology “An Empty Lap.” Greene’s book about AIDs orphans/adoption, “There Is No Me Without You” is outstanding. Looking forward to her new book in April. May the family with the daughter from China who shared their experiences and success be an inspiration to others. Thanks for reading, Nancy!

  3. [...] EVENTS « Melissa Fay Greene article in February 2011 Good Housekeeping [...]

  4. Erin says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Thanks for the post! The article was great and I am disappointed it isn’t online! I have an adopted son from Ethiopia (he is almost 4 now, but was 10 months when we brought him home). We were very ill-prepared for the challenges we would face because we thought since he was still an infant we would not struggle with many of the attachment/behavioral/emotional issues older kids have. Thanks to two different attachment therapists we are able to function as a family – professional help is very important!

  5. Jessica says:

    Thank you for your insights, Erin. Like you, I wish the GH article could be posted on the GH website. The information contained within is that important. Many, if not most, families are not prepared for the challenges they may face. As we all know, there is no shame in asking for and getting the professional help we need. Articles like the one in GH let us know we’re not alone.

  6. Ceci says:

    I was glad this article was published. The general public needs to know that all adoptions are not rosy. We have gone through much of what these couples went through with our daughter, who has been with our family for 3 years. We have even struggled with our families to understand all that is going on in our house. No one wants to hear the bad. I appreciate the honesty and hopefully more people will understand that there are good and bad things that come with adoption.

  7. Jessica says:

    You are so right, Ceci. Often the real work of adoption comes after our children are home. The strugges are seldom discussed, and they should be. Adoptive parents need to know they’re not alone. I agree it’s often very hard for other family members to understand. Connecting with other families has been incredibly helpful for me, either in my area or online in adoption groups. I hope you’re able to find a community who understands. Thanks for writing.

  8. [...] for adoptive parents– before, during, and especially after the adoption process. The February 2011 Good Housekeeping article by Melissa Fay Greene on the effects of long-term foster or…. For anyone specifically interested in adoption from Russia, the NPR article includes links to past [...]

  9. Yesenia says:

    I found the article on Melissa’s website:

    http://melissafaygreene.com/pdf-love-medicine

  10. Jessica says:

    Fabulous, Yesenia. Thanks! I’ve added it to the April 8 post.

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