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An Interview with Victor Groza,
Author and Editor of "Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption"

By Allison Martin

Dr. Victor Groza is an Associate Professor and the Interim Associate Dean for Reseach and Training at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. "Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption", edited by Victor Groza and Karen Rosenberg, presents seven professional articles on the theory and practice of infant-placed and older adoptions.

Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption focuses on the success of adoption. How do you measure this success? To what do you attribute success in adoptive families?

Dr. Victor Groza: For the most part, adoption has been a very successful social arrangement.  There are several ways to measure the successes in adoption.  Disruption, which means the removal of the child from the adoptive placement prior to finalization, does not occur in most cases.  The most commonly used estimate is that about 15% of adoptions disrupt, which means that most adoptions (over 80%) remain intact.  In addition to the research on disruption, success can be examined by post-legal adoption outcomes such as parental satisfaction and problems after legalization.  Most studies support the notion that adoption outcomes are overwhelmingly positive.  Finally, success can be measure by looking at the percent of children who remain in their families over time.  At least one study suggest that in the course of 4 years only 8% of the adopted children ended up in out-of-home placements.

Success in adoption depends on several factors.  Families who develop informal networks of family, neighbors, friends, other adoptive families, and associates who give them consistent, positive support for the adoption are almost always successful.  Two, having access to appropriate, easily accessible and affordable social services positively affects the adoption, also.  Three, parents need to be flexible in their expectations of their child--the ability to change your expectations to match the capabilities of the child you adopt is critically important.  Finally, creativity and flexibility in family functioning is important.  Parents who are patient, can wait for rewards from parenting, and let child develop and change within their own time frame as well as altered the way they discipline strengthens the adoptive family.

What lessons can be applied for the support of adoptive families?

Dr. Victor Groza: Support is the linchpin of successful adoptions.  Families need to have and maintain strong systems of support from family, friends, people from their church or synagoge, and their communities.

Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption covers a wide range of adoption issues (identity issues, search, ethics, infertility). How did you select the main themes you wanted to address?

Dr. Victor Groza: Our hope is to have the parents, professionals and researchers representing these populations to start a dialog together that will help us better strengthen and understand the issues in adoption.

We cast a wide net and the authors selected the themes.  Missing is a chapter on transracial adoptions, open vs. closed adoptions, kin vs. nonkin adoptions, international placements of infants vs. older children--plus others.  In another year, I hope to solicit another request for contributions and offer a revised edition. 

The first chapter explains that "In a review of 24 studies of infant adoptions, Kadushin and Martin (1988) suggest that 66% of adoptions are successful. They indicate that only about 16% are problematic."

What types of problems can occur for families that have adopted children as infants that parents may not be aware of ahead of time?

Dr. Victor Groza: Some children do not have special needs that are apparent but develop them over time.  This includes emotional and behavior problems as well as learning difficulties.  Families struggle when they thought they would parent one type of child and the fantasy and reality don't match.

What types of special needs are most common in special needs adoption?

Dr. Victor Groza: A child is designated as having a special need if he or she meet one of the following definitions:  has a diagnosed developmental, physical or medical disability, is mentally retarded, is at risk of mental retardation, has an emotional disability, has a psychiatric diagnosis which impairs the child’s mental, intellectual or social functioning, was older then age 8 when available for adoption and caucasian, is a member of a minority race or ethnic group or the child’s biological parents are of different races, or was a member of a sibling group of  three or more children to be placed togetheror a sibling group of two if one of the children has a special need as defined previously.   By default, this would include virtually every child who had entered into the child welfare system. 

The importance of identity issues for adoptees and adoptive parents is emphasized in "Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption". How can parents help their children with these issues, especially families who have adopted internationally?

Dr. Victor Groza: Whenever a child joins a family through adoption from another culture, the family becomes a multi-cultural family.  As a multi-cultural adoptive family, it is the responsibility of the family to build as many strengths in their child as possible.  Having a solid sense of a cultural identity is a strength.  It is also the responsibility of the community to support the family and find or develop resources in the local community that strengthen and support the family.

One such resource for the families who are or have adopted children from overseas is the local ethnic community and programs that can be developed with this community.  A strong sense of cultural identity helps children better navigate the majority American culture.  A strong sense of identity affects self-esteem; self-esteem and attachment affect each other.  When a child lives in a home where they are obviously different from those around them, we cannot negate this difference.  The difference must be acknowledged and celebrated so that it does not negatively affect the child’s sense of self.  If there is no celebration and acknowledgement of the differences, child may feel that they are unacceptable or interpret it as a sign of rejection. 

In addition, buying books, dolls and music that are representative of the child's culture enriches the social environment of the family.

The conclusion of Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption, describes how, "Most adoptive parents become educators about adoption as well as advocates. They learn that they have to stop and educate their extended family, friends, and community acquaintances about adoption. They work to help people in schools, social services, and churches/synagogues understand some of the unique issues in adoption."

What advice do you have for parents in communicating this information?

Dr. Victor Groza: Sponsor community forums, speak to both children groups and adult groups, use adoption month to make sure the local library displays adoption info--the list is endless.  Be creative and work as a team to find ways to get the message out to the public and normalize these children in your community.

Read Review Or Order from Amazon

More by Dr. Victor Groza:

Book Review: "Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption"
Book Review: "A Peacock or a Crow?"
Interview: "A Peacock or a Crow?" and Romania Adoption
Interview: "A Peacock or a Crow?" and International Adoption
Article: Dickens, Boys Town or Purgatory: Are Institutions a Place to Call Home?

Dr. Victor Groza is an Associate Professor and the Interim Associate Dean for Reseach and Training at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is a prolific author and editor in the field of adoption studies; four books and over 40 professional articles are in publication. "Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption", edited by Victor Groza and Karen Rosenberg, presents seven professional articles on the theory and practice of infant-placed and older adoptions.
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