Joaquín (16) and Nico (12) lived most of their lives in homes for children without parental care in the city of Buenos Aires. For ten years, they waited “impatiently” – they told the judge – to find “a mom and a dad”.
In 2017, the dream seemed close to being fulfilled: they met a couple, they moved in with them and they started the pre-adoption process (the step prior to final adoption). But the illusion was short lived. The couple felt overwhelmed and, first, they tried to continue alone with Joaquín, because he was the “least problematic” of the two. The fraternity that was between them, did not make it possible and on December 22 of that year, they were taken back home.
The failures in the bonding processes – when the child or the possible adoptive family begin to know each other – and during the custody, which implies coexistence and lasts a minimum of six months, are more frequent than is believed.
Although both stages were intended as a “trial period”, specialists in working with children deprived of parental care agree that it is essential to allocate all the necessary resources to prevent these misunderstandings from happening, due to the harsh impact emotional that it provokes in the boys (to see aside), with histories crossed by the violence and the violation of its rights.
According to figures from the Council for the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents of the City, 188 adoption processes were accompanied last year, involving 272 boys, and 11 dismissals of 15 of them took place. The majority were during the bonding stage. On the other hand, data from the Public Prosecutor's Office of Buenos Aires indicate that in 2017 a total of 109 boys and girls with pre-adoptive guardianship graduated from the different homes and 23 were dismissed: 87% corresponded to adolescents and the remaining 13% to groups of brothers.
For Yael Bendel, general advisor tutelary of the Public Ministry Tutelar, “the numbers of the returns are alarming”. “A child returned is a child again abandoned, and neglect is an emotional abuse very difficult to reverse,” says Bendel, who says that adoption always had an adult-centric look and this requires a cultural change. “The right is for children to have a family,” he says, “not for adults to have a child.”
Work strongly with the registrants and their “adoptive availability”, so that they understand what are the characteristics of the “real” children waiting in the homes; strengthen the evaluation and selection process and deepen the accompaniment with specialized teams during all the stages, for the referents some of the challenges.
But it is also important to always focus on the needs, desires and respect for the times of the boys and girls, preparing them for that moment of their lives and accompanying them.
“I speak of 'devolution' instead of failure because it seems to me that failure is a too soft and light word for the harm that these situations provoke in the child,” explains Fabiana Isa, a psychologist and general coordinator of the Outreach Program for Private Children of the Parental Care of the Faculty of Psychology of the UBA. And he describes: “I think about it in the line of the digestive metaphor: if a child enters the circuit of a son, it would not be possible for a return, but this child who could not be assimilated is returned as a failed one”.
According to Isa, the process of “evaluation of parental suitability” is fundamental, where not only the economic and physical availability of the adults, but also the affective and emotional one, must be investigated, providing them with truthful information about the needs of the children who wait to find a family.
In that line, Lucas Aón, in charge of the Civil Court Nº 25 of CABA, explains: “It is very important the work that the court does when it chooses the family, as well as to inform the candidates of the stories of the boys, in We are telling them that they are not going to be able to face that. “
For María Laura Casal, director of the La Casita de Manos Abiertas home, “it would be essential that the household teams participate in some way in the selection of applicants, since we are the ones who know the boys the most, something that is hardly done” .
Do not burn stages
In addition to working with the candidates, the specialists stress that it is key to listen to the child regarding their wishes about how to form the family. “Before asking for the candidates' folders, we tell them all the alternatives that exist, to see what they want,” says Aón.
Children and adolescents are not always ready to think of a family other than the one they met. “They should be prepared for this meeting, informing them of the entire process and respecting their times and their needs,” emphasizes Adriana Donato, National Director of the Unified Registry of Aspirants to Guardians with Adoptive Purposes (Dnrua).
Precisely, the lack of clear information and prepared the children is what made the adoption process that Grace and Pablo started with two girls will not prosper. The situation exceeded what they could do.
After waiting for years, this couple came to a call to public call of two sisters of 11 and 14 years. When they met, they felt that everything was going to be perfect, but the woman said that the girls were not completely convinced that an adoption was the best for them. The girls had illusions of returning to their family of origin, who soon contacted them through social networks. “Deciding we could not go on was the hardest moment of my life, but it was the best,” says Grace.
Currently the girls live in the home where they met and Grace and her husband became their emotional references.
Isa says that there is a very important moment before the link: “It's the first meeting, which I call 'blind date', where there are fantasies from both places, there must be a decision to see each other again.” And he adds: “You do not have to burn stages, you have to give kids the chance to choose, and not the feeling that it's the last train.”
Experts agree that building the link requires time, patience and effort. Here is another key factor: the accompaniment during the entire preadoptive and adoptive process. At the moment when the parents begin to feel that they are not able to handle the problem (which usually happens during coexistence) they have to make it known and ask for help.
For Rosa Cabral, a lawyer specializing in family law and a member of the Judiciary, the link “is a tsunami that devastates the expectations of everyone involved”, therefore, the support of an interdisciplinary team is needed, “a resource that the State does not provide. ” “It should be external to the court, because the court is a comptroller and, then, the applicant will not want to put all the complaints or feel free to say what he feels,” says Cabral.
From the Dnrua explain that they have a “Program of technical support and accompaniment to families for periods of attachment, guardianship and adoption.” In these last two stages, accompaniment is provided at the request of adults, offering a space for listening and reflection. In the City, the Ruaga created in 2017 a team of accompaniment of connection: “From the moment in which the applicants are known with the children we have a support team 24 hours”, says Karina Leguizamón, president of the Council of the Rights of Girls , Children and Adolescents of the city of Buenos Aires.
Regarding the possibility of establishing penalties for those applicants who return the boys, Bendel maintains: “We believe that they should be left out of the records of applicants, some courts have done so.”
When they returned home, Nico and Joaquín said that these parents did not have patience, that they were very demanding and that they did not accompany them in the game and in sports.
The failure for them was very hard. “When Joaquín realized that the guard was falling because his brother was very naughty and the adopters did not know how to handle it, he got very bad, please ask for an opportunity.” The brothers were desperate for a family, ready to put up with ” remember Carolina Paladini, public defender of minors and encapaces in charge of the Ombudsman No. 7 of CABA.
The boys had their revenge. Thanks to a public announcement that spread LA NACION found a new family. “When I started telling that couple about the boys and I read them the letter of thanks they had written to the judge after knowing they would have another chance, they got excited in a way that already showed that it would work”, Paladini account.
And he concludes: “I am impressed that boys of 16 and 17 years old continue asking for a family, they do not lose that illusion despite having suffered more than one abandonment”.
The marks in the boys: how to get them to believe again
“What happens that nobody wants us?”, “Do we have to separate?”; “Why are they abandoning us again?” Natalia is 29 years old, but she remembers as she did today what she felt when she was 12, when a failed guard made her return, together with one of her two sisters, to the home of children without parental care in which they lived. It was the largest; followed by Malena, 9, and Cristina, 6.
In the distance, he knows it was the best. “The only one they wanted was my middle sister, who stayed with them, the youngest and I were a nuisance, nothing we did or said they liked,” he summarizes. When returning home, Natalia was the most affected: “I did not want to go to school, I had lost all kinds of interest,” he says.
For these children, going through a new situation of abandonment is very painful. “They usually experience depressive or equivalent behaviors, such as sleep disorders, feeding, disinterest in what they used to like, school difficulties,” says psychologist Fabiana Isa. Hence the importance of working so that they do not feel that they are “failed” or that they are “guilty”, warns the specialist.
Take out the faults
Carolina Paladini, public defender of minors and incapable of the City, emphasizes that these children “are left with a lot of psychological vulnerability, with much fear of starting a new relationship,” so “in the therapeutic framework we must focus on what it meant that return and look for strategies so that they rearm “.
However, Isa clarifies: “In the long run, for many children, a return is the best, because being condemned to indifference leaves tremendous subjective marks.” It is what Natalia thinks today, that she has lived for more than 16 years in a family that loves her, where she could know what it was like to be really a daughter. What he regrets is having separated from his sisters, whom he saw again as adults.
That is one of the most difficult situations for a group of brothers. “It is terrible that Justice allows it, that child that was left is going to carry with it the terror that, at some point, when he does something that does not close, he will have the same fate as his brothers who were returned,” says Isa. In addition, he considers that “this expulsion attitude speaks of the inconsistency of these adults and their inability to arm other resources.”
The psychologist adds that to the professional teams this, in general, “affects them a lot”, since they live it as a failure and, sometimes, they do not want to expose themselves again or expose the boy. “But the worst thing that can happen is that they forget it,” he says. For this reason, he emphasizes that it is key “to put listening to the child quickly”.
Paladini also knows the challenge closely: “I saw faces of great disappointment, of much pain,” he says, “Many times, children do not even imagine it, they are so excited and hooked on the fantasy of the family that they fall in surprise. Others, they tell you directly. “
For example, Francisco, who today is 13 years old and a family, had at 11 a failed guard. He lived for a few months with a mother, who had a very quiet life, in an apartment, when he had clarified that he wanted brothers, a house where he could run and play with pets. “Of course, it did not work for him or for her,” says Isa, “who had expectations that by the second month the boy is already happily attending a bilingual school.”
Sometimes, pain makes children give up. “We had a case of a teenager who had two guards frustrated and she told us she did not want to try it anymore, that she preferred another type of relationship and asked us to be through an affective reference of the home,” says Paladini. “We do not insist,” she adds, “because she told us clearly that she could not go through such a process again.”
Laura Rubio, adoptive mom and specialist in the subject, warns that “it is not easy to sustain the pain of a child who can not manifest it from the discursive, but in behaviors and attitudes difficult to understand”. And remember: “Children who arrive at an adoptability situation do not come from a 'bed of roses', they are suffering children, with emotional wounds and the others, sometimes abused, hurt, violated in their rights in ways that we can not even imagine , and to those who must help to travel those duels “.
For Laura Salvador, of the Familias por Adopción organization, adopting implies understanding that this child is a person outside of our family, culture and customs, and that success has to do with how flexible and permeable the adults can be. “These children, generally, come with a very painful experience, overnight, nobody can change the idea of what a family is, and building the links takes a lot of work, as well as love,” concludes Salvador.
Challenges to work
1. Put the focus on the wishes and needs of boys and girls
Not all children and adolescents wish to have the same type of family or require the same availability. Some, for example, prefer single-parent families. In the case that they have siblings, the priority is always to keep them together or they can continue with the bond once adopted.
2. Guarantee a good evaluation of the applicants
It is very important to ensure that those who wish to adopt have enough tools to be able to carry out the process in a positive way. You have to explain what the needs of that child or group of siblings are. “You can not mask a disorder and say that the only thing you need is a lot of love, because besides that, it will require an emotional and economic availability to accompany a treatment,” says psychologist Fabiana Isa.
3. Provide truthful information about minors
Respecting the identity of each child or adolescent must be a priority. The stories should be made known to the applicants, who are often traversed by multiple rights violations. After knowing them, the adults will be able to show if they are willing to accompany these children, or not.
4. Accompany during the entire process of pre and postadoption
Generally, the greatest difficulties arise during coexistence, that is, in the preadoptive guard period. Preadolescence and adolescence are also often more conflictive stages, as is the case with all children. Therefore, that there is an accompaniment or advice available to applicants, whatever the time they require it, is key.
5. Have more specialized equipment
For the referents in the topic of adoption, there are currently not enough interdisciplinary teams specializing in adoption that are available to families. They consider that the formation of undergraduate is fundamental, for example, in the races of psychology or infantile and juvenile psychiatry.
Proposals to inform yourself and seek containment
Free talks and workshops
“Lazos y enlaces” is one of the free workshops offered by
Laura Rubio Adoption School, aimed at those who are going through a relationship or guardianship. They also dictate one for families that already have the adoption sentence, for those who need legal advice and others. Mail: [email protected]
Advice and calls in CABA
The Ruaga has “waiting workshops” for applicants and accompanying teams for liaison, which work 24 hours a day. In addition, the
Council of the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents porteño launched a website to publicize public announcements of children and adolescents waiting for a family. Line 102.
Accompaniment from the State
Dnrua, talks are held for those who wish to register and meet for registered persons, guardians and adoptive parents. In addition, they provide support in the periods of attachment, custody and postadoption for those who request it.
Sustain between pairs
Being a Family by Adoption aims to strengthen the processes that restore the right of children and adolescents to have their final family. They offer training, talks and provide information to those who think about adopting or are transiting the process.