One of the things I've noticed most about Cava is inability to play with other children. He tends to be, overall, a very solitary child. Whenever we have kids come over to our house to play, Cava more often retreats to his room to work on a puzzle or one of his activity workbooks (especially his seek-a-words).
I'm sure some of his reticence comes from having been picked on by other kids, but part of it may from his having spent all of his life before being part of our family in an orphanage.
It's been shown medically that when a child has grown up in an orphanage it biologically affects the make-up of the child's brain. Doctors have scanned the brains of children who have this "institutionalized brain" using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG); while MRI reveals brain structure, EEG shows electrical brain activity. What they discovered is that it changes the structure and the function of the brain.
According to an article by Stephanie Pappas on LiveScience.com:
Any time spent in an institution shrunk the volume of gray matter, or brain cell bodies, in the brain. Kids who stayed in the orphanages instead of going to foster care also had less white matter, or the fat-covered tracts between brain cell bodies, than kids who, at a young age, moved in with families.
Staying in an orphanage instead of foster care also resulted in lower-quality brain activity as measured by EEG, Fox said. Teachers indicated these same kids were also worse off socially.
The article later goes on to write:
"What that means is that the effect of getting a kid out of an orphanage early may be even stronger than this study suggests," study researcher Nathan Fox, a child development researcher at the University of Maryland, said. The effect of institutionalization during those critical early periods can be long-lasting, as can the effect of finding a stable home. That's an important message, given the approximately 8 million children around the world growing up in orphanages, Fox said.
"There's really no such thing as a good institution for an infant or young child," he said.
Hopefully, with Cava being around kids more and more, and as he begins to receive the nurture that his life had previously been neglected, he will start to feel more confident and at ease, so that he can develop socially. Along with his creativity, one of the things I have been working with him on this summer is his social interaction. I know that this, too, will be a process and will take time. Adoption is definitely not about a quick fix or an instant change. Instead, it is about patience, seeing beyond the behavior to the root of his actions, and showing Cava as close to unconditional love as is possible. Even in this short time that Cava has been with us, he will have been here 8 months as of the 19th, Cava has made progress and is adjusting better than I would have if I had been in his place at his age.
Having read the article, however, made my heart break for all those kids who are still orphans and in need of forever families. Not a day has passed since I left Cava's boarding school, that I don't pray for those kids, as well as the millions of orphans world wide.
If there's one thing I hope to do with this blog, it's to show that, while adoption is never easy, it is always worth it.