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April 20, 2010
Thinking out loud about adoption disruption and dissolution
Content removed by author.
It is extremely complicated and not all disruptions are about putting kids on planes to other countries. One counselor who used to do adoption preservation work told me that most disruptions that happen with the help of permanency workers (ironic, I know) are more like open adoptions. The family works to save the adoption, realizes they can't and then seek out a safe placement where they will have ongoing contact. In some ways, this is similar to families who retain custody but place the child in a halfway house or group home or residential treatment center. The difference is that the new family has the rights/responsibilities and often this makes legal sense because those children need the protection and privileges (i.e., services) that come with the "new" family's adoption.
So that piece of adoption termination needs to be part of the discussion, too. Because what we're condemning is child abandonment, which sometimes happens in adoption terminations and sometimes doesn't. We should always be against child abandonment but that does not necessarily mean we should be against all adoption terminations.
There is lousy screening and lousy support. There are parents approved to adopt who have no business adopting; there are children placed in homes where they are doomed to "fail" when they could be successful someplace else; there are families placed with children whose needs they cannot meet when they might be great parents to other kids; and there is very very very little post-adoption support. One family I know has spent $10,000 so far (in the past four months) working to maintain their family and she is grateful she has the means. Her state will also provide those same services for free if families fit the financial bill. Other states offer NOTHING.
There are families near psychiatric treatment centers, therapists with an understanding of attachment and adoption issues and there are other families who live far away from help. Which is to say, again, some families can do things that other families cannot not just because they don't have the heart for it but because they don't have the means.
I want children to live in families where they will THRIVE and where any limitations they might have will be accepted and where they will be LOVED. So I want better screening, better placement matching and better post-adoption support. If those three things don't happen, kids will be adopted and some of them will die, some will be abused and some will be abandoned all because the adoption industry sees them as commodities before they see them as kids.
(My disruption article is scheduled for the summer Brain Child issue)
April 20, 2010 at 11:02 AM
"I want children to live in families where they will THRIVE and where any limitations they might have will be accepted and where they will be LOVED. So I want better screening, better placement matching and better post-adoption support. If those three things don't happen, kids will be adopted and some of them will die, some will be abused and some will be abandoned all because the adoption industry sees them as commodities before they see them as kids."
Repeating the whole paragraph, Dawn, because this is exactly what I mean. I'm really looking forward to your article.
I would add one thing, though. I personally feel we need to take a less-than-magnanimous view of disruption. I understand that there may be terminations that are truly the last resort for family and child - the same as the removal of a child from any family would be.
But I'm worried about the rash of "Gee I didn't love my adopted child" stories in the media, which I personally think are there because the adoptive parents are trying to justify their actions more than to prevent similar cases in the future. And I'm disturbed by some of the reactions from the public, which seem to agree that it's OK.
I don't want it to be OK, because I don't want the gravity of the decision to be lost, and it sure seems to have been with the Artyom case and the follow-on confessions.
April 20, 2010 at 12:20 PM
I certainly did consider disruption and dissolution - more than a few times. I did get plenty of information before adopting an adolescent but I didn't really understand how difficult it would be or how ill equipped I was to parent an emotionally unhealthy child. My memories of those days (1970's!) consist of me with parenting books, phone books, calling every agency I could find - searching desperately for help. There wasn't any help out there it seemed or at least I wasn't able to find it. Initially right after the adoption there was support but things were fine then - that was the "honeymoon" phase.
I was a terrible mom! I figured almost anybody else would be doing a much better job than i was. Both my daughter and I were terribly unhappy and seemed unable to get along on any level. I did consider disruption but was surprised to learn that being with me was her best option. There wasn't a plan B at all so we kept at it. The teen years were rough - harder than anything I have ever done.
Anyway we survived - she is mid-forties now (yikes) and I am still her mom. She has turned into a remarkable, wonderful woman and I wouldn't have missed parenting her for the world. But yes indeed - I was certainly one of those horrible parents who did consider disruption/dissolution as well as many other solutions. I can't find it in my heart to judge parents who can't do it. I do however condemn doing it the way it was done recently - that was outrageous and there can be no excuse.
Adoption is just complicated - the best and worst times, the happiest and saddest times of my life all involved adoption. But at least I was making choices and I did get wonderful kids - adoption worked for me just fine. I know that my kids can't say the same thing. Its just complicated.
I agree with you Margie - I am glad he is out of that family. I guess my surprise in your research is that as many families make it successfully with difficult adoptions. I would have thought, based on my experience with families like mine, that more failed.
April 20, 2010 at 1:41 PM
Maggie, I'm so glad you commented, I was really hoping you would. You are one of those families who walked the walk that I talked about.
Thinking about dissolution and disruption and doing it are two very different things, just as terminating adoption after exhausting all other possibilities is.
Throwing in the towel after a few months without even seeking support is something else entirely, and I think we really need to make sure that message gets out there. I'm very concerned at the comments I'm seeing online, which seem to say "the kid was damaged, they should get their money back."
April 20, 2010 at 1:51 PM
Dawn wrote:kids will be adopted and some of them will die, some will be abused and some will be abandoned all because the adoption industry sees them as commodities before they see them as kids."
Don't forget also because the people who adopted them saw them as commodities before they saw them as kids, and thought they had the right ro do anything they wanted with the product they purchased, including returning or getting rid of it if it did not "fit". There IS some personal responsibility here. Bad as the industry is, and as much in need of reform from the ground up, I do not like letting people who hurt kids off the hook with no responsibility at all.
Same as birthmothers who insist they had NO responsibility at all for surrendering, that just does not work in the real world. It is easy to blame the big anonymous evil industry, but there are evil individuals too, and a few of them put up a pretty good front to get a kid, then show their true colors later.
I am sure you interviewed plenty of people who terminated their adoptions and heard their side of the story which no doubt sounded very reasonable. Did you interview any adoptees that this happened to? If not, you only have one side of the story. Check out Orlando's story.
April 20, 2010 at 4:50 PM
Margie, I have to disagree with you on only one point here: that we adoptive parents have to be held to the same standards as birth families. I believe we should be held to HIGHER standards. Being born into a family is an accident of fate or biology, or an act of God, depending on your world view, but adoption is a deliberate act. The children who have lost at least one family already, and the families who are missing them, deserve nothing less than to know that the people trusted with their care will go at least one extra mile.
April 20, 2010 at 6:43 PM
No argument from me on that one, Deb - good point :)
April 20, 2010 at 6:52 PM
I have wondered about Artyom's birth mother. I have read that she
took care of him for the first six years of his life. She didn't
voluntarily give him up, a judge set aside her parental rights.
I too, was touched by Orlando Medeno's story.
April 21, 2010 at 2:02 PM
Margie - it is difficult to comment publicly about difficult adoptions - no matter how hard I try to stick to my own story it always intertwines with my daughter's. As you know, she is an advocate for older child adoption and feels strongly that it should be promoted. I don't know how to straddle that line between telling the raw truth and advocating for adoption. Potential parents really need to be prepared for the difficulty. Yet too much emphasis on the problems can be so discouraging. That leaves kids in foster care of facilities.
I tend to only be comfortable talking about adoption with other parents who have adopted kids with issues because there is a whole world of assumptions under it that people without that experience just don't get. I had a friend recently ask me "Do you wish you hadn't adopted her?" WTF? How do you even start trying to explain that she is MY DAUGHTER. How do I explain to people that if I tell an incident that I am not judging my daughter or criticizing her - I am just trying to tell the truth.
John Raible explained it so well - I want the world to understand but I end up telling people about our untidy lives and its really nobody else's business.
Anyway - I am glad I commented too but its such a risk. :)
April 21, 2010 at 2:53 PM
Maggie, you and John Raible are among the "good guys" because you know what it means to really be a parent.
It does not matter that you thought about disruption when times got tough. All parents think some pretty lousy things about their kids, and about the strain of raising them day in and day out, especially difficult or special needs kids. What matters is what you actually DID, which was to hang in there.
People like you restore my faith that most adoptive parents are real parents, and not just out for a test drive with option to return.
April 22, 2010 at 6:40 AM
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