Italian National training process in the field of intercountry adoption


Giorgio Macario1

1 Trainer and  psychosociologist, (ITALY)

 Pubblicato sulla rivista “TODAY’S CHILDREN TOMORROW’S PARENTS – An Interdisciplinary Journal”

edited at West University in Timisoara / Romania – June-September 2014  Vol. 37-38




This report will consider the crossroad between two virtuous factors. On one hand, the multi-factorial and interdisciplinary approach that increasingly characterizes the concept of resilience today.

On the other hand the contributions of autobiographical method that enhances the history of the individual in the family and in different contexts where they belong, contributing to the spread of the ‘turning narrative’ in society and emphasizing the value of writing.

The area is referring to the training for intercountry adoptions in Italy, continuously active since 2001, and we will try to find a shared area between resilient lives and autobiographical suggestions, that tell us about the person but at the same time helps us to understand the society that surrounds it.


Keywords: autobiography, resilience, writing, international adoptions, narratives.


“A scarecrow tries not to think about. It’s too painful to build an inner world full of atrocious performances. You will suffer less when you have wood in place of the heart and straw under the hat.

Is enough, however, that a scarecrow encounters a man alive that infuse a soul, because it is, again, tempted by the pain of living. (…) Then, the scarecrow begins to speak again and sometimes even write his own autobiographical chimera. “[1][1]

The identification of a plural category defined by Boris Cyrulnik of ‘hidden children’, which opens in-depth analysis of the world of adoption as non-traumatic factor, represents the starting point of a interdisciplinary reflection.

The subject of resilience, or better the resilient lives, is extremely important for the world of adoptions and, particularly, for intercountry adoptions. Cyrulnik confirms this approach when he says: “The adoption is not a trauma: indeed, it is a meeting that allows evolution resilient.”[1]

On the other hand, the autobiographical suggestions, always present in the adoptive paths, are spreading in a growing number of contexts, which apply an autobiographical approach[2],  [2] oriented to the construction of a autobiographical method. The confirmation of the possibility that adoptive experience could usefully contribute to implementation of the autobiographical method comes from the most national expert autobiography and a leading expert at the European level, Duccio Demetrio. Demetrio, in his speech at the European Conference in 2010,[3] identifies the adoption as autobiographical transition and, in this regard specific that: “…the representation of the adoptive event, can better be defined thanks to narrative attentions, or better, narrative, since adoption, and not only that, it is a story generating life stories to meet, re-examine, re-organize and forget too.”[3]


Comparison with our own adoptive history begins in the early days, of course, but it does not end with the attainment of adulthood. Adulthood involves, as also indicates Marco Chistolini, a re-signification of its own adoptive history gaining greater self-awareness, particularly with respect to their origins[4].

The search for information on the origins, has became during last years the center of the attention in Italy[4] [5], and the subject of recent significant legal pronouncements[5], makes possible to take action on the part of the adopted person inquiring about his past and possibly establish a contact with the biological parents. In Italy, there are very few people active in this kind of search but the possibility of being able to start has to be consider a factor of resilience.

The autobiography, on the other hand, is considered as an experience of re-identification, and Demetrio tells us “The autobiographical writing is nothing more than the re-writing of our history; it goes back into the scene, we again becomes, somehow, protagonists and characters of our life, we are back into the game as if you go up on a stage.”[6]

The autobiographical writing is considered a useful tool to be used in the field of adoption, however, not only with adults.[7] The autobiographical writing is also considered a clinical tool in an autobiographical perspective but different from clinical therapeutic perspective.[8]

Adoption generates multiple autobiographical stories, but they are just the different possibilities of writing that Demetrio enhances when he says: “There is always something more in a script.”[3]. Firstly, writing is a valuable opportunity for the author to find himself considering explicit and implicit areas influenced by the unconscious. Second, are those who have responsibilities for education, parenting, guidance or treatment that can identify more signs of comfort or discomfort of the narrator: the motivation to writing, or running away from this, allow a better understanding of the levels of self-consideration expressed by the adopted person.

If we consider the writing a sort of additional adoptive parent, we can define an experience in itself potentially ‘resilient’, which helps us to resist the wounds of life.

Recognizing the central importance of the contribution of Cyrulnik about adoption as a possibility of a resilient evolution, Demetrio underlines that writing can facilitate the emergence in the adoptee of an ‘internal biographer’. The internal biographer, in fact, may be central for the mental health of the adoptive person because places himself at the center as a major character of the story, a ‘clerk’ at the service of its author. This specific factor,-characterized at the same time by storytelling and writing- is not resilient only because it makes the person self-sufficient. It becomes central because it amplifies the role of the ‘facilitator of storytelling’ (which could be defined as ‘external biographer’), both for the parent that attend togheter with the adoptee at his everyday life, and for the operator that assists and supports its growth path.



However, the author who has been adopted and who writes about himself trying to observe better, provides the best narrative synthesis that can help to understand the close interconnection between the stated various factors. Here is what Daniele Callini tells us in his book entitled “44 steps”[9]:

“The rigor and method I’ve learned from Dad Franco. (…) The speed and instinct decision-making are a resource of Mamma Cristina (adoptive parents). (…) I have no doubt saying that I have assimilated the courage of my mother. Moreover it requires an enormous courage to give birth to a child that you do not want or you are not able to keep. The tenacity, strength and endurance, I think I have received them from my blood father. Even if I do not know who he is, I feel that these resources are a gift from him.”[10] A summary ‘masterful’, certainly resilient.


“A good education for resilience requires the establishment of programs and projects that facilitate the child, in his family and in the community, building solidarity networks and the opening of a space capable of facilitating a positive development. The prospect of integration between the various professionals underlies the assumption that considers the person as a whole not parceled depending on the context or on the historical moment in which it appears.”[11]

This passage, taken from the introduction to the cited volume, edited by Cyrulnik and Malaguti, can significantly represent at least two of the milestones of the training activities for intercountry adoptions, made ​​in the last 15 years in Italy by the Commission for Intercountry Adoptions in collaboration with the Istituto degli Innocenti in Florence.[6]

The formation activities organized for the operators involved in international adoptions in Italy (200 to 300 for each year) has always sought to combine the best reading of the changing environment and tools that can be used for an enhancement of the ‘natural powers’ of adoptive couples, adoptive parents and adopted children of the same time.

As it says Franca Olivetti Manoukian: “Everyone who lives and coexists in a social context is asked to share the guidelines which this discomfort should be addressed with. Operators are more competent than others simply because they have available elements of knowledge and experience for identifying and for guiding how to treat the discomfort.”[12]

The perspective of empowerment, not only connected to the professional aspects but also to educational parenting, has in a cross concern a lot of topics discussed during many years. Between this topics: intercultural aspects, specificity of adolescence, scholastic inclusion in the post-adoption – where ample space is given to the possible interpretations of the ‘new resilient development ‘ theorized by Cyrulnik[13] –  adoptive sibships, professional and self-help groups to the assessment of the couple and special needs. Regarding the assessment of the couples -to give just one example, very significant and in line with other European studies-[14] it was possible to deepen the evolution from a predominantly evaluative approach to an accompanying perspective during the entire adoption process.


On the other hand, the integration between the different professional knowledge has always been a leitmotif of in-depth training, characterized as interprofessional training (psychologists, social workers, judges, the three most consistent professionalism), but also interdisciplinary (psychological, social, anthropological and legal) and interorganizational (teams adoptions of public services, the authorized agencies, the juvenile courts and prosecutor’s offices, the organizations).

The effort for empathize with the problems of the adoptive couples and of the adopted children, and the subsequent identification of additional factors to promote resilience was then even more significant during the training experiences made ​​in Eastern Europe in 2004-2005[15], and during joint training Brazil-Italy in 2009-2010.[16]

A further authoritative confirmation of the central interprofessional aspects in the world of adoptions comes also from two Authors inspired to the systemic approach who state: “… the more you support the training for all those people (judges, social workers, counselors) who approach the families ‘dare to take’, the more it contributes to social welfare.”[17]

The European Conference of 2010 on adoptions and resilience, mentioned above, has led to synthetize many other elements considered during the subsequent years. Along with the autobiographical suggestions more often we would like to understand the centrality of the resilient lives in order to better support the different contexts of growth of the adopted children.

The multifactorial and interdisciplinary approach that characterizes resilience is becoming even more important inside the considerations of Elena Malaguti, who has analyzed the process of resilience not only in reference to the individual but also to groups (family, community. .), that, in particular difficult moments, must be able to put in place resources for reorganizing in a positive way his own path and life plan, according to an evolutionary approach.

Resilience is  spontaneous, but it implies stress to be activated, becoming an opportunity for personal and social evolution. There can be several theoretical models: cognitive-behavioral, medical, eco-systemic and clinical. It remains “a complex object that is by its nature not predictable, chaotic and does not meet the natural laws” that “does not work according to linear patterns but in a systemic and dynamic way,” “as a function of the interactions and transitions occurring stable between a person in  permanent development and its environment.”[7]

The Lectio Magistralis of Beràstegui Pedro-Viejo,[18] finally, starting from the studies and research on intercountry adoption in the european context, has made a significant contribution to deepening the three fundamental concepts of risk, resilience and recovery. Some authors have questioned whether the adoption itself may represent a ‘risk factor’ for the problems of adaptation for a child already vulnerable to abandonment.[8] [19] [20]

The research, however, –Berastegui stated- shows that adopted children often exhibit behavioral problems, cognitive, social and educational, to a greater extent than their peers not adopted, but if you compare them with their peers institutionalized or other living situations of hardship the comparison is reversed into opposite parameters.[9] [21]

Facing the risks and trauma in childhood, we can highlight the significant differences between protection (when there is no harm in situations of risk), reversibility or recovery (recovers the normal path), resilience (with the resumption of development path that keeps track of the suffered pain) and executive functions (despite the problems, the child reaches a certain functionality in everyday life).

As specific insights, the three themes explored in the national training during the previous year – the school integration in the post-adoption, the adoption of sibling groups and the specificity of adolescents in adoption- were developed with a specific focus on resilience and autobiographical approach.


In conclusion, I would use a methodological cue usefully applied in the analysis of educational models to verify the assonance or the dissonance between ‘education’ and ‘therapy’. There is no doubt, in fact, that there are characteristics of the specific educational and there are others definitely attributable to the therapeutic area.

It is also true that there is a common area where the identified characteristics apply both to education and therapy. And yet, some other features and tools that have a priority in the educational effectiveness, sometimes facilitate therapeutic outcomes, while the countrary is true even when therapeutic interventions mainly involve non-negligible changes in education.

The intent is not so much to make long lists, but to keep in mind, on a qualitative level, that there is a resilient approach (section 3rd) and autobiographical approach (section 2nd). Both of these fields of study and research have led to a particularly close relationship with the practice and to identify  specific target -in this case the adoptive context- that can help to operate in a limited area, and then to compare those different fields of intervention.

Alongside the adoptive area, for example, it’s possible to cite the hospitality of residential boys and girls. An interesting reflection is the one developed by Andrea Canevaro on educating the resilience that weaves in various ways also autobiographical references.[22]

These are some references to the elements necessarily unsaturated and deepened, located in the shared area:

  • The EMPOWERMENT, like exploitation the potential of the individuals, certainly within their contexts;
  • The SELF-EMPOWERMENT, which allows the expression of new desires, opinions and possibilities;
  • The NARRATION, as a tool that gives meaning to personal paths (for the construction of their own path in life, to the search for origins, for overcoming traumatic experiences, etc.).
  • The CENTRALITY OF INDIVIDUALS, such as re-centering on the individual (both the adopted child as well as the adoptive parent) in the network of relationships and social context (current membership and, possibly, of origin);
  • The SELF-TRAINING, like equidistant perspective between self-referentiality and dependency, ‘vitality’ factor, the ability to capture the support and advice they need.[10]


I’ll entrust the closing, in line with the spirit of this contribution, to an adoptive parent a bit special, Leo Ortolani, creator of Ratman, a well-known Italian comic book character, which describes a path adopted that last nearly a decade.

Ortolani says, describing the flight to Colombia to get to know the two girls Lucy and Johanna:

“And then I feel that I still do a lot of things that I did not just in time, I had to prepare myself better, that everything is going well suddenly, that 2001 was yesterday and you cannot do things so fast, I still need a bit ‘of time, a month, a few days, it cannot happen now, not me, not so, do not ….

Passengers are requested to fasten their seat belts (…) We are landing at the airport in Cali.”[24]

The effectiveness autobiographical-narrative interpreted in an ironic-resilient way.


[1] Cyrulnik, B. (2009). Autobiografia di uno spaventapasseri. Raffaello Cortina Editore, p. 211.

[1] Cyrulnik, B. (2009), op. cit., p. 193.

[2] Regione Piemonte-ARAI (2009), I quaderni del genitore adottivo n. 1,  “Vite da raccontarsi”.

[3] Demetrio, D. (2013), Scrivere l’adozione: resilienza e transizioni esistenziali. in Macario. G. (2013) (a cura di), I percorsi formativi nelle adozioni internazionali. Collana Studi e Ricerche della Commissione per le adozioni internazionali n. 20, Istituto degli Innocenti, pp. 240-249.

[4] Chistolini, M., (2010), L’età adulta e la ri-significazione della propria storia adottiva. In CIAI (2010) (a cura di Chistolini M. e Raymondi M.), Figli adottivi crescono, Franco Angeli Editore, pp. 104-115.

[5] Pregliasco, R. (2013) (a cura di), Alla ricerca delle proprie origini. Carocci Editore.

[6] Demetrio, D., (2010), La rielaborazione della propria storia in età adulta: la scrittura autobiografica. in CIAI (2010), op. cit., pp. 195-206.

[7] Mazzonis, G., Il confronto con la propria storia in adolescenza. in CIAI (2010), op. cit., pp. 85-103.

[8] Demetrio, D. (2008), La scrittura clinica. Raffaello Cortina Editore.

[3] Demetrio, D. (2013), op. cit., p. 242.

[9] Callini, D., (2006), 44 passi. Tempo al Libro, pp. 125-126.

[10] Macario, G., I tempi dell’attesa: una sfida formativa per la qualità. in Macario. G. (2010) (a cura di), La qualità dell’attesa nell’adozione internazionale. Collana Studi e Ricerche della Commissione per le adozioni internazionali n. 10, Istituto degli Innocenti, pp. 3-18.

[11] Cyrulnik B., Malaguti E.(2005) (a cura di), Costruire la resilienza. Erikson,, pp. 9-10.

[12] Olivetti Manoukian, F. (2011), Ma il lavoro sociale che lavoro è? in Animazione Sociale n. 255, pp. 23-35.

[13] Favaro, G., (2012), Con cura, competenza, amore. L’inserimento scolastico dei bambini adottati., in Macario. G. (2012) (a cura di), I percorsi formativi del 2009 nelle adozioni internazionali. Collana Studi e Ricerche della Commissione per le adozioni internazionali n. 17, Istituto degli Innocenti, pp. 27-44.

[14] Palacios, J., (2013), Manuale degli interventi professionali nell’adozione internazionale. Regione Emilia Romagna Quaderno n. 29.  Edizione originale spagnola – Gobierno de Espana, Ministerio de Education, politica social Y deporte, Palacios, J., (2007), Manual para intervenciones profesionales en adopcion internacional, MEPSYD.

[15] Macario. G. (2005) (a cura di), L’operatore oltre frontiera. Collana Studi e Ricerche della Commissione per le adozioni internazionali n. 4, Istituto degli Innocenti.

[16]  Macario. G. (2011) (a cura di), L’Italia e il Brasile per il benessere dell’infanzia nelle adozioni internazionali. Collana Studi e Ricerche della Commissione per le adozioni internazionali n. 15, Istituto degli Innocenti.

[17] Scabini, E., Cigoli, V., Il legame adottivo: una forma radicale di genitorialità, in Rosnati, R., (2010) (a cura di), Il legame adottivo. Contributi internazionali per la ricerca e l’intervento., Unicopli, pp. 17-34.

[18] Beràstegui Pedro-Viejo, A., (2013), Il rischio, la ripresa e la resilienza nell’adozione internazionale: le lezioni della ricerca europea., in Macario. G. (2013) (a cura di), I percorsi formativi nelle adozioni internazionali. Collana Studi e Ricerche della Commissione per le adozioni internazionali n. 20, Istituto degli Innocenti, pp. 250-264.

[19] Beràstegui Pedro-Viejo, A., Gomez-Bengoechea, B., (2006), Los retos de la postadopcion: balance y perspectivas., Universidad Pontificia Comillas.

[20] Schofield, G., Beek, M., (2013) Adozione affido accoglienza. Raffaello Cortina Editore (Edizione originale: Schofield, G., Beek, M., (2006), Attachment Handbook for Foster Care and Adoption. BAAF.

[21] Brodzinsky, D.M., Palacios, J.(2011), Lavorare nell’adozione. Franco Angeli. (Edizione originale – Brodzinsky, D.M., Palacios, J.(2005), Psychological issues in adoption. Research and practice, Praeger Publisher.)

[22] Canevaro, A., (2008), I diritti dei bambini e delle bambine e abitare l’apprendimento. in Macario, G.,(2008), Dall’istituto alla casa., Istituto degli Innocenti-Carocci Editore.

[23] ChildOnEurope (2008), Guidelines on Post-adoption Services, Istituto degli Innocenti.

[24] Ortolani, L., (2011), Due figlie e altri feroci animali. Diario di un’adozione internazionale. Sperling & Kupfer, pagg. 18-19.




[1] The review of the book of Boris Cyrulnik (2009), by the author, is available at:

[2] Among the various significant initiatives on this subject that have been made ​​throughout the country: -the project of Adoption Center of ASL Province Milan 1 on the value of the adoptive tell stories (“C’era una volta” – Seminar on 22 October 2008);

-the regional project of Regione Piemonte-ARAI “Racconto di me: il valore della narrazione fra genitori e figli adottivi”

[3] Commission for  intercountry adoption, Resilience and autobiographical approach in intercountry adoptions’, Florence, 8-9 june 2010.

[4] In addition to the recent specialized training conducted by the Commission for intercountry adoption in 2012, entitled “L’accesso alle informazioni sulle origini nelle adozioni internazionali: Aspetti giuridici, psicosociali, relazionali.”, deserves to be mentioned the most recent book of the Istituto degli Innocenti: Pregliasco, R. (2013) (a cura di), Alla ricerca delle proprie origini. Carocci Editore).

[5] See the recent pronouncement of the Constitutional Court, judgment of 22 November 18, 2013, n. 278 declaring the unconstitutionality of article 28, paragraph 7, of the Law of 4 May 1983, no. 184, in the part that does not allow the court to consult again the mother who has refused to recognize the child, even many years after.

[6] The author was responsible for scientific and training activities,  launched in 2001 and which continues until now. The documentation of the formative work carried out is contained in 8 volumes of the series Studies and Research (numbers 1, 4, 7, 10, 15, 17, 18, 20) for free download at the website of the CAI:

[7] Malaguti, E., Research on resilience and prospects for inclusive education. Adoption and beyond, Abstract intervention at European Conference – Florence 8-9 June 2010.

[8] For further information on post-adoption, cf. [19].  For further information on the theories of attachment applied to the field foster, of custody and residency, cf. [20].

[9] Very similar to the conclusions of two of the leading experts of adoptions worldwide (David Brodzinsky and Jesus Palacios) in their fundamental book on research and practices. Cf. [21]

[10] Some of the items shown are from a first systematization edited by the author in the section ‘The role of Training’ contained in the Guidelines on post-adoption services. Cf [23].