1. Parenting
Carrie Craft

May Comes Early for Jolie

By March 15, 2007

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O.K. It seems that the reports mentioned earlier were wrong about Angelina Jolie's adoption of the Vietnamese boy being final in May. Well, Jolie is in Vietnam right now with her oldest child, Maddox, completing the adoption of little 3 1/2-year-old Pham Quang Sang from the Tam Binh orphanage in Ho Chi Minh. According to the latest report this was an emotional meeting as the child was very frightened of Jolie and Maddox. The same report states that Jolie has changed the child's name to Pax Thien and is planning on completing the rest of the adoption paperwork later today when the child will also be issued an American passport.

I think this adoption journey may be a bit different for Angelina Jolie and her family as she adopted much younger children in the past. I wonder what she has done to prepare for an older child adoption. Has she considered the language barrier? Did she research changing the child's name before making her final decision? Some research suggests that changing a toddler's name may cause identity problems later in teen years. I learned this from attachment expert Vera Fahlberg at a conference several years ago.

I think the Jolie-Pitt's will find that bonding with Pax will be work as he is losing everything at this time and is probably extremely confused, scared, and grieving his many losses. He is losing the only home he has ever known, as he was abandoned as an infant and placed in the orphanage, the only care givers he as ever known, his country, and his language. Jolie seems to do an excellent job in maintaining her children's culture, such as raising Maddox to be Buddhist which would be the custom in his native Cambodia, but is she ready to do the work of bonding and helping a child through his grief?

What have you done in your family to help with bonding or grief? If you've adopted an older child, what issues surprised you or for what issues were you not prepared to face? Click "comments" below and share.

Jolie Completes Adoption
Angelina Jolie Adopts Second Son

March 16, 2007 at 2:33 pm
(1) Laura says:

I hope Angelina and Brad have done their homework. I’m in the processing of adopting my 4th older child, as a single mom, and I know first-hand that it’s a LOT of hard work to help an older child adjust. It’s not something to be entered into lightly, without serious preparation, or because you want your kids to “grow up together” and Angelina and Brad have previously stated.

March 20, 2007 at 1:09 am
(2) Stacey says:

So what would be the alternative? Would the child be better off remaining in the orphanage without a family? Are there any “perfect” adoptive families?
It isn’t fair to judge Jolie & Pitt, or to speculate on their capabilites, or lack there of, at parenting. Hopefully, they have done their homework. And if they haven’t, they won’t be the first nor the last to learn the hard way.

They will certainly give this child opportunities that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. It is also certain that they won’t be perfect parents, but I don’t know anyone who is. Adoptive parent, birth parent–the job is hard as heck, regardless of the path taken.

Children can be amazingly resilient. Sometimes I think we project problems on them with excessive anxiousness about issues such as a name change.
We have have two older adoptive children, one of which is beautifully adapted and the second which will be joining us in a week or so, complete with a new name. (the girls had names that were identical except for one letter)
When we discussed the posssibilty of a name change with our second daughter, she said “New life, new name. Please, I want a new name.” So that is her perspective, at age 9.
Out of the mouth of babes…

March 20, 2007 at 2:20 am
(3) adoption says:


Research suggests that name changes are harder on toddlers and pre-teens. So, your 9 -year-old, congrats by the way, should have no problem with such a change. She had a say in it and is not in the middle of an identity shift – such is the case with toddlers who are – becoming more independent – and pre-teens – the same.

Regarding your other comment about remaining in an orphanage – please – I don’t think anyone would suggest such a thing!

March 20, 2007 at 9:24 am
(4) Tammy says:

I’ve adopted older children as well — one 7 year old and one 15 year old. The biggest challenge we had was in developing a mutual attachment, but we have been tremendously successful, given time! I find it strange to refer to a 3 1/2 year old as an “older” child, though I get what you’re saying about the language barrier. I’m friends with a woman who was adopted from Korea when she was 5, and she said that in the old foster care system she was labeled “mute” and treated as a moron for several years before they realized the extent of (1) the language barrier and (2) her physical problems (a huge buildup of ear wax, making it difficult to hear or decipher a new language). Within months of the discovery of her ear wax issue, she was quickly becoming fluent in English. Today she’s getting her master’s degree in social work! How far our system has come. And how exciting that a couple with a lot of love and financial resources are taking in this lovely child. I personally wouldn’t change the child’s name, but I also think it would be dangerous to judge someone else who makes that decision. Anyone who has adopted knows that a tremendous amount of contemplation goes into each and every decision you make as a parent. We agonize over what is “right” for a new addition in our family. I believe this family has a reason for changing the child’s name — and who are we to second guess? As with all parenting decisions, either you guessed right or you guessed wrong! If you guessed right, hurray! If you guessed wrong, you get to work on fixing it. Either way, the intentions are the same — to take in a child, love that child, and give that child a wonderful new life while honoring their culture and origins.

March 20, 2007 at 11:43 am
(5) adoption says:

I know what you mean about just doing your best and guessing when it comes to some parenting decisions. I think it’s smart to know what the concerns are in regards to different parenting choices so that if things don’t work out we know how to fix it.

I know someone who is adopting a 3-year-old and she is struggling with the fact that she is going to have to change the child’s name for safety reasons. I think she is doing it in a very smart way and I encouraged her to write about it in her child’s lifebook. I think communication will and can only help in these matters.

As for a 3 1/2-year-old being considered an older child. Yep. Unfortunately. I help a lot of prospective foster/adoptive parents in making choices on the age of a child that would fit into their home and family, so many only want 0-1 or 0-3. An almost 4-year-old is considered older and compared to what Jolie-Pitts have adopted in the past, that is an older child to them.

We adopted pre-teens, so to me a 3-year-old is a baby. :)

March 31, 2007 at 8:41 am
(6) Stacey says:

“Regarding your other comment about remaining in an orphanage – please – I donít think anyone would suggest such a thing!”

Dear “Adoption”,
While you are right, no one would suggest such a thing, sadly, that is the fate for most children over the age of three that are living in an orphanage. As the workers at the two orphanages we adopted from in Kaz said, “For an older child to be adopted, it is like winning the lottery!”

I applaud their decision to adopt an older child and wish Jolie/Pitt the best.

March 31, 2007 at 5:44 pm
(7) adoption says:

I think we all wish them the best. I happen to be a a fan of Angelina Jolie. She doesn’t just talk about helping others, she gets in there and actually does something.

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