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Adoption Dissolution: What the media didn’t tell you

October 10, 2013

15096091_s_cardboard_familyLast month Reuters posted an investigative piece on the side of adoption no one wants to acknowledge: disruption or dissolution. The pain of a disrupted or dissolved adoption lasts a lifetime and it’s the side of adoption no one really wants to discuss. But it’s an important topic we know we must address.

Let’s talk about the terms first. Adoption disruption typically means the adoption process ends after a child is placed in an adoptive home but before that adoption is finalized. Adoption dissolution happens after an adoption has been finalized and for whatever reason the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and adoptive child is severed.

How does it happen?

Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with special needs or who has been abused or neglected is even harder. The good news is rates for adoption disruption are actually very low. They range from 10% for children from 3 to 10 years old to 25% for adoption of teens. Adoption disruption for infant adoptions is even lower, less than 1%.

Often the child and parents weren’t a good match in the first place, either because of special needs that weren’t fully disclosed prior to the adoption or because of the stress of additional children in the home. Some dissolutions happen because home studies were not as in-depth as they needed to be. Other dissolutions occur because the adoptive parents aren’t fully prepared for the difficulty of parenting a special needs child.

In the end, most dissolutions happen because a parent is afraid the adopted child will hurt themselves, the parents or other children in the home.

How can we make sure we’re not in that 10%?

Start with the agency you use for adoption and home study. Do your homework and make sure they do theirs on you. Ask about post-adoption support and resources the agency offers. Take advantage of any classes about adoption—especially those aimed at adopting older children. Read everything you find about your child’s special needs.

On our end, we work diligently to make sure you are matched with a child who will thrive in your home situation—which is why your home study is critical to the adoption process. We intentionally do not place children out of birth order (that means you won’t adopt a child that is older than any of your other children). We also give full disclosure about any previous abuse, neglect or special needs of the child.

In addition to the placement procedure, we make sure all our adoptive parents complete training specific to their adoption. We’re available after the adoption is completed to offer support, resources and more training if necessary.

For adoptive parents who choose to parent one of these “children from hard places”, we suggest they have a strong support team in place, family members who may be willing to care for the child for a few hours while the adoptive parents recharge or spend time with their other children. Adoptive parents should find someone they can confide in, like a counselor who specializes in working with neglected or abused children.

If you are parenting in a difficult situation, call our social workers or the social workers from the agency where you adopted for information on the resources available to you and your family.