Maintaining Connection to Birth Culture among International Adoptive Parents
In the US, Hague Adoption Convention guidelines require parents adopting internationally to receive ten hours of preadoptive training. For some parents, this training includes information regarding maintaining the child’s connection to their heritage and culture. Though this goal of connection is espoused in the Hague Convention document itself, adoptive parents place varying importance on birth culture, and make heterogeneous choices with respect to if, how and when to incorporate birth culture into the family life. Studies that address cultural socialization (CS) are often limited to families adopting from a single country, or to small sample sizes. Furthermore, most studies have been limited to descriptions of what and how families maintain child’s birth culture, and do not venture into the depth of cultural authenticity achieved by adoptive families. Many families struggle to provide authentic CS due to a number of factors including their own understanding of the culture of origin, location and cost of services, and other family concerns (child’s special needs, child’s age).
In a large, international online survey, parents adopting internationally since 1983 were asked questions concerning the maintenance of a connection to their child’s birth country: whether they felt a connection was important, and what they did to maintain that connection, for themselves and for their adopted child(ren). Parents were mostly from the U.S. (88%), straight (91%), and married (75%). The research team wanted to assess the cultural authenticity of parents’ socialization practices, particularly as related to the level of importance parents placed on maintenance of culture. Using a five-point scale based designed to address the level of authentic cultural socialization, 1132 parents’ open-ended responses were rated by a team of coders. These ratings were then analyzed with respect to parent report on the importance of culture, families’ access to postplacement services, whether parents received preadoptive training, parents’ desire to return to the child’s country of origin in the future, and the severity of the child’s special needs.
Preliminary results show that families who place importance on maintaining connection to birth culture are more likely to engage in more authentic CS. Parents who traveled as a family (outside of adoption requirements) to the child’s birth country were more likely to engage in authentic CS. Neither receipt of ten hours of preadoptive training, nor finding the training useful had any relation to authentic CS. Parents who indicated that adoption was their first choice (versus simply wanting more children, or being infertile) were more likely to engage in authentic CS. This study provides information regarding parents’ willingness and ability to achieve cultural authenticity in socialization practices.