If you “hang around” in adoption circles long enough, you’re bound to hear the term, “Children from Hard Places.” What does that mean? Well, it can mean a lot of different things……

It can mean that something traumatic happened to them when they were younger – a sudden destruction of what they knew as life and family. The sudden death of their only remaining parent would be an example of that. They weren’t physically harmed but there was an event that caused significant emotional upheaval in their young life.

It can mean that they were the victim of abuse – either a one time event or an ongoing series of abuse and neglect “issues.”

It can also mean that they spent a lot of their “formative” years living in “living arrangements” that did not allow for one on one caregiver to child arrangements. That could be an orphanage, that could be shuttled between a number of different foster homes, that could be living with extended family where they were “allowed” to live there but were only tolerated and weren’t given the attention, love and care that they needed.

I read a study once that said a child can handle 14 to 17 months in “institutional care” before it starts leaving a lasting impact on them. Given that the average length of adoptions (not only in Haiti but elsewhere also) is upwards of 2 years, that means that the vast majority of the kids who are adopted internationally, even if they have never been through any violent abuse issues, have been through the hard places of institutional life and have scars and baggage from it.

That’s why the term “children from hard places” is an often times accurate description of adopted children.