International Adoption Researcher Honored at NPU

Post a Comment » Written on October 7th, 2008     
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CHICAGO, IL (October 7, 2008) – Families who adopt children from orphanages internationally often face extra challenges due to the lack of nurture the children suffer. They may also experience multiple health problems and learning delays.

However, the pioneering work of Dana Johnson, a member of Bethlehem Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is helping adoptive families significantly improve the future for such children.

Johnson, a 1970 graduate of North Park University, is a professor in the Division of Neonatology at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his medical degree. He also is director of orphan medicine. Recently North Park honored Johnson with its Distinguished Alumnus Award during Homecoming week.

Johnson has focused his research on the effects of early institutionalization on the growth and development of internationally adopted children. He also works with families considering adoption or who already have adopted internationally. Johnson, whose son was adopted from India, is highly regarded in the international adoption community

In the 1980s, Johnson became interested in the effects of nurture after seeing how the lack of it had affected some of his friends in their personal lives. As a result, he co-founded the International Adoption Clinic in 1986.

Today, guided by Johnson’s work, researchers and centers around the world are working to better understand the costs of deprivation and the rewards of nurture.

Johnson has been awarded the prestigious Harry Holt Award (Holt International Family Services), Friend of Children Award (North American Council on Adoptable Children) and Service Award (Joint Council on International Children’s Services). He also has been published widely and sought out by the media for articles and programs. During the Homecoming banquet, however, he told the audience that the North Park award was the most meaningful award he had received.

Johnson almost did not make it into North Park, he says. He was not the most dedicated student. Professors saw something in him, however.

“They looked at me and were interested in me as a person,” Johnson said when he accepted his award. “They changed my life.”

They could not have known how the interest they showed in him would change the lives of children and families around the world. Children adopted internationally often suffer terrible deprivation while in an orphanage, Johnson says.

A relatively small percentage of children in orphanages are true orphans, Johnson says. Most are left to the orphanage by parents who do not want or cannot afford to care for them. They receive little attention while in the orphanage.

Families that are able to nurture the adoptees can make a dramatic difference in the children’s lives, Johnson says. Those findings are impacting how we understand the role of nurture in all people.

Johnson says he has been excited to watch the research field grow, but he derives special satisfaction from watching families and the adopted children thrive. He expresses admiration for those families.

“They have expended all their wealth and time to make sure these kids do well,” he says.

Support for such families is crucial. Parents have told Johnson that they were willing to adopt internationally because they knew there would be someone to help them.

At the Homecoming dinner, Johnson took note of how his family had nurtured him and Covenant congregations had supported him. He also expressed appreciation that people from every Covenant church he attended were at the dinner.

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