Thursday, July 1, 2010

Adoption Disruptions

In case you haven't seen it already, Dawn from This Woman's Work has written a fabulous article for Brain Child magazine about Adoption Disruption. This is a topic that is rarely talked about - and is often full of finger pointing once it has been brought up. I had tons to say about the article, but Jan Ran from Harlow's Monkey summed up my sentiments exactly,

"...while working in a county public child welfare agency most of the children and youth on my case load had experienced multiple adoption disruptions, and a few had experienced complete dissolutions (one after 6 years with their "forever family"). The subject, as Dawn writes, is adoptions "dirty little secret." It's something that as a child welfare professional, I struggle with. How do we both encourage adoption as a form of care for children in need of placement while at the same time be honest, real, and transparent about the needs of the children without scaring away prospective adoptive parents? What kind of "marketing" are we doing in terms of soliciting the public to consider adoption?

Adoption is not just "a way to build a family." Adoption is much more complex. I sometimes think about how the military markets and advertises for recruits and the television ads they create compared to how it is in real life. In the ads on television, it's all about looking for the best, the brightest, the ones who want action and have a lot of initiative - "Be the best you can be." In reality, it appears to be more about filling the seats with warm bodies, as the recruiters to go to the high schools and talk to all the students who don't have college plans.

Okay, so neither of these scenarios tells the whole story - just like the way the public thinks about and the way adoption agencies solicit prospective adoptive parents. In reality, the military recruits and enlists both. And in adoption it is the same. We market and accept both as well. We tell adoptive parents "You don't have to be perfect" and then we expect adoptive parents to be mental health specialists, parenting specialists, educational specialists, experts on child development and oh yeah, make sure you love them like your own too. But if you can't be all those things, oh well - the kid just needs a family, because "families are better than institutions."

On the one hand what we really would like is "the best" (and by the best I totally do NOT consider how much money prospective parents have in the bank, what their house looks like or that they are a white, heterosexual married couple. To me, the "best" is a parent that can understand and provide for the needs of a child that has likely been traumatized, hurt, neglected in some (or multiple) ways). Not parents who expect an adopted chlid to behave like a child "born to them" (whatever that means) nor a parent who is just a temporary station, i.e. a warm body, for the child. Yet, agencies are often so desperate that they're willing to take the warm bodies. Because, as we've said, over and over again, "families are better than institutions" - and that leaves us with little choice in the end when we've set ourselves up for placing children in unprepared families just because we have this idea that "families are better than institutions" and then totally blame the families when it doesn't work out."
Disruptions, dissolutions, placement changes, removal ... they all happen too frequently and are so traumatic for ALL involved. We ALL need to look at our practices and figure out how to drastically reduce the number of times a child has to change families. Our kids deserve it.

Read the article here: Brain, Child: The Myth of the Forever Family


  1. So very true. In our case the sharing of case history was defintely slanted in a way to make us believe that the problems were both minimal and manageable. I was angry and sad for years over the way things were presented because what eventually shook out is that the daughter of my heart (the adoption was never finalized) has such severe mental health and trauma issues that she can only be safe in a residential facility. She is in a terrific school now that has helped greatly but major major issues (one resulting in an arrest) still exist. If I had not tried to adopt her as well, I would not have my son who I also love and i would have missed out on parenting him. We are still very much active in his sisters life, in fact have consistantly been so despite the removal from our home. But it remains a hurt within me that doesn't totally heal. I so felt that I failed her and failed our family.

  2. Loved that article. I so want to foster again. But we are so poor at this point I do not think we could provide for another child or children.
    We do have one we adopted through foster care. He has plenty of issues, and I have had to advocate for him time and time again. I will continue to do so. He is worth it.

  3. Very good article. Never really thought about the "recruitment/enlistment" way of getting families. But that is a great analogy.

    I have thought about this some lately because our county is beyond desperate for foster homes. To tell you how desperate they are they were to the point of calling me for two little girls 1 and 2 this past weekend. (I already have 9 children including 2 babies...that's desperate).

    I would really like to help with recruitment and mentoring when we finalize and things settle down some. I struggle with this though in knowing the best way to go about it.

    You tell the truth about how incredibly hard this is and no one will sign up. You tell them what a joy and blessing it is and then they aren't prepared for reality and end up running for the hills when the children aren't like they expected. You tell them both and you are still not going to get many people to sign up.

    This is not for everyone. Even I, who knows this is my calling, thought last night (after a day from h*ll) that I don't know if I can do this anymore. Tough times around here but I won't give up. It really does take just the right person/family for this.

    Very good article.

  4. I read the article yesterday. My heart breaks for the people that have been put in the position of disrupting and dissolution. I certainly pray that these families find healing.

  5. You leave out the fact that they push a lot of these kids into adoptive families in an effort to fluff the numbers, increase the revenues from the feds to the states, seal the records and hide all of the FRAUD that got the kids there in the first place.

    Adoption is promoted in the media like a fairy tale where they all live happily ever after, so potential adoptive parents are preached the wrong message, they are also lied to by the workers, made false promises of aid in the future and whatever else it takes to get them to bite. There have even been cases where they have overlooked potential dangers to the children just to get them adopted out and call it a happy ending, just to make it all appear to be good.

    Now, I realize that you won't publish this comment, so it will go on LK, but I honestly believe that deep down you are a good person who means well. Please start telling the truth to your readers. They deserve to hear it.

  6. That parent who looks like they are best able to handle the problem of today may not be ready for tomorrow's. And there does seem to be any way to tell that.

  7. Some families are definitely not better than a good institution, few exist but they could.What is being done to adoptees is criminal.

  8. Great article. We are working on adopting from foster & I will definitely be more alert & may try to get things in writing after this article.


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