A few people so far have alerted me to the recent 20/20 series on Russian adoptees which can be viewed in its entirety (in 5 segments) on ABC's website. You can read the text here or go directly to the first video segment, linked here.
The series focuses on adopted international children who have been found to have Reactive Attachment Disorder. I found the program fairly accurate in its portrayal of the struggles that families and children face in such cases. Any of the children portrayed could be children whom I know.
I had a little trouble with the presentation. I didn't appreciate the way that 20/20 overdramatized everything, such as the family's disgust at the lack of hygiene that their newly adopted children displayed. The narrator emotionally announced the family's horror at seeing the bath water turn black. There was another scene in which an adopted girl from Russia ran around crying for an hour, captured on home video. I didn't like the way that the report talked about "these children," as if they are a different species or a lesser part of society.
I wanted to empathize with the families and children and say, "yes, this happens." But at the same time I wanted to ask what the ABC television network had to do with it. How was it doing any good for them to go and make a news story out of it? Are they helping to break a taboo? Will there be more support offered for families? It felt like they were treading on personal territory, as if you turned on the tv and saw that in a foreign country your personal traumas were being analyzed by the public. I wondered if the reporter had ever been to Russia.
The "intriguing" development that 20/20 offered was a report on a special camp that adopted kids can visit, run by a woman who seems to get along well with them. I liked what I saw of her on the program. I could see how the camp could be therapeutic. It had a fairly regulated daily schedule, including chores, which may more closely resemble orphanage life and therefore help a child calm down. It also had plenty of outdoorsy activities to help release some nervous energy. And we saw the kids being coached to love and respect their adoptive families.
The only thing that bothered me about the camp portrayal was that I wondered if it could be run by Christians, but nothing was mentioned. I wondered what could possibly give someone the heart and the stamina to reach out to children in such a way. But on 20/20 there was no mention of God. We only saw a brief scene of people saying grace before a meal.
After watching all 5 parts, I looked up the camp lady, Joyce Sterkel. She has apparently received much commendation for her work serving international adoptees. I skimmed a few articles about the ranch and didn't see Joyce mention her faith anywhere. But then when I went to the site itself, it did describe the ranch as a Christian home, and it said in very careful language that children were encouraged to attend church and improve their spiritual lives. I just wish that God could be given a little glory in the news. The problems are real, but the solution is more than just another program.
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