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Early Adulthood in Romanian Adoptees

This is a study of Romanian adoptees who entered the United States in the early 1990’s and are currently transitioning into early adulthood. These individuals are now between the ages of 18 and 30. The study investigates how these young people’s adoption and their early life experiences are currently affecting their transition into adulthood. The aims of this project are to obtain access to the youth whose parents participated in earlier studies of Romanian adoptees and inquire about their patterns of transition into adulthood, social networks, health, mental health, educational achievements, etc.

Specific research questions answered by the study include:

  • What are the patterns of adult developmental milestones for Romanian adoptees?
  • How do Romanian adoptees compare to normative groups on achieving adult transitions?
  • What is the relationship of pre- and post-adoption experiences to patterns of transitions, health, and mental health in early adulthood for Romanian adoptees?

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christinanedelcuCristina Nedelcu is a visiting faculty and a Ph.D. candidate at MSASS. Cristina has worked in the field of Child Welfare for more than 20 years, both in the US and internationally. Cristina has served as an adoption and permanency planning social worker, supervisor of Adoptions and Permanency Planning and Senior Manager of Training and Professional Development at Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services. Before immigrating to the US in 1994, Cristina was an Assistant Director of Training and Development with Holt International Children Services in Bucharest, Romania. Cristina was among the social work pioneers who developed and established a network of foster and adoptive families in Romania to address the urgent problem of institutionalized children.Cristina received an MD degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Carol Davila” in Bucharest, Romania in 1991. She graduated with a MSSA from Case Western Reserve University in 2002. Cristina has participated in various research studies for CWRU on Indian and Norwegian adoptions and in emerging adulthood for youth in systems of care. She is the co-author of an encyclopedia entry on the topic of Romanian adoptions in the Historical and Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia of Adoption (2006) and the co-author of a chapter on the Romanian Child Welfare System in the Inter-Country Adoptions: Policies, Practices and Outcomes (2013). Cristina was a presenter at different local and national conferences between 2005 and 2014. Cristina’s current research interests include: child welfare, domestic and international adoptions and child and adolescent mental health. She teaches a variety of courses at MSASS and was very active in the development and implementation of the virtual program at MSASS.

As early as January 1990, a month after the Ceausescus were shot and communism changed in Romania, numerous media reports brought the world’s attention to the thousands of abandoned children residing in institutions and the ease in adopting. There was a huge decrease in the number of children in institutions between 1990 and 1993 that was due largely to children leaving Romania for international adoption. The major countries involved included Western Europe, Italy, the US, the UK, and Australia (see Groza, Ileana & Irwin, 1999). Published studies of adopted Romanian children have been conducted in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Overall, results from these studies suggest the that vast majority of the adopted children had health, developmental, attachment, behavior, and sensory problems when first placed in their adoptive homes; this is particularly true for those with any history of institutionalization. In addition, the longer the institutionalization, the more difficulties are encountered. On a positive note, most children seem to recover from the negative effects in most areas of development. Overall, while results have been positive there is much reason to be concern about at least some of the children because they do not recover even after years in their adoptive home. Professor Groza conducted the one of the early studies of Romanian adoptions in the US with a graduate student (Daniela Ileana) in 1994. In the first wave, data were collected on 475 children residing in 399 families, which is about 16% of all adoptions from Romania between 1990 and 1993. In Fall, 1995, the families who participated in the first year of the study and gave their addresses (n=330) were contacted for a second time; this was 83% of the Wave 1 sample. Data were collected on 238 children living in 209 families at the second wave of data collection, representing a response rate of 63%. In 1999, families in the second wave were contacted again. The third wave consists of 123 children in 102 adoptive families. This represents a retention rate of 53% of the sample from the second wave of the study (n=230) and a retention rate of 37% of the first wave. The adoptees were very young during this period. The last time data were collected, they were on average 10 years old. That was 15 years ago. Romanian adoptees are now entering adulthood. Little is known about the long-term impact of these early experiences that were followed by living in a resource rich adoptive family. In contrast to negative outcomes in the transition to adulthood for youth who age out of foster care, children who are adopted internationally enter middle and high income families and communities. Adoption gives the adoptee an opportunity to have a different life outcome than if they had remained in an institution in their country of origin by giving them access to health, education, recreation and other resources. Yet, little is known about the pattern of adult transition for adoptees in general and for adoptees that experience early deprivation. This includes the health, mental health, social networks and early adult developmental milestones. This is a study of Romanian adoptees in early adulthood to learn about how their adoption and their early life experiences affect them now. The aims of this project are to obtain access to the youth are between the ages of 18 to 30 whose parents participated in earlier studies of Romanian adoptees. The specific questions that will be answered by the study are: What effect, if any, does a history of institutionalization have on completing high school, higher education pursuit or job seeking behavior? What are the patterns of adult developmental milestones for Romanian adoptees? How do Romanian adoptees compare to normative groups on achieving adult transitions? What is the relationship of pre- and post-adoption experiences to patterns of transitions, social networks, health, and mental health?