Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

Lenore Resick

Committee Member

Richard Zoucha

Committee Member

Katharine Kersey


Adoption, Institutionalization, International adoption, Nursing, Parenting, Phenomenology


This study sought to explore the lived experience of parenting a child adopted from an institution in Eastern Europe. A hermeneutic, phenomenologic method following the Utrecht School was used. The setting for this study was a southern state on the east coast of the United States. The sample consisted of 11 participants, nine mothers and two fathers, self- identified as adoptive parents to children from institutions in Eastern Europe. Semi-structured interviews, with thematic analysis of transcriptions were conducted. Five major themes were identified: choosing-being chosen, weaving the fabric, the importance of doing, remaining mindful, and looking-in, looking out. Conclusions were that parents in this study value the importance of history and the moment in time that they chose to adopt their child, build the family by establishing their identity as mother/father, protectors and authority figures, actively seek out resources and information for their children, possess heightened awareness of their children's need for security and safety, and measure normalcy of their experiences through comparison of adoptive parenting to biologic parenting. Implications for nursing practice include the need for on-going assessment of family health and functioning, as well as coordination of multiple resources, services and support. Implications for nursing education include enhanced content related to assessment and care of the family with internationally adopted children, effects of institutionalization, alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder and reactive attachment disorder. Given the complex picture of the internationally adopted child and family, an inter-professional educational approach to these topics may be beneficial. Future research recommendations include replication with parents of children adopted from other geographic regions, quality of life studies, self-efficacy of healthcare providers in caring for internationally adopted children, and measures of stress augmented with biologic markers.