- Disruption: When an adoption fails prior to finalization of the adoption.
- Dissolution: When an adoption fails after the adoption has been finalized.
On Wednesday, Today Moms discussed the issue of adoption disruptions and dissolutions in an article entitled It takes more than love: What happens when adoption fails. It seems that the goal of the article was to address the negative public opinion surrounding adoptive parents whose adoptions have failed by highlighting the challenges that adoptive parents face when adopting older, traumatized children from foster care or internationally. This article reminds us that one cannot expect these children to leave their trauma at their previous home or their birth country's borders:
"'She'd sit on my lap when the nannies were around, but the minute they'd walk away, she'd spit in my face,' Sage says. 'And whenever I'd get in the shower, she'd tear the room apart. She even ripped up the documents that I had to give to INS. I came home with PTSD.'"
Sage sought therapy for her daughter and eventually discovered the little girl suffered from reactive attachment disorder, a condition where children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers and display a host of symptoms such as aggression towards peers, withdrawal or attention-seeking behavior."
The article cites disruption statistics from a literature review that was conducted by our Center in 2010 concerning adoption disruptions and dissolutions:
- Between 6 and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted.
- For kids over the age of 3, that rate ranges from 10 to 16 percent.
- For teens, it can be as high as 24 percent, nearly 1 out of every 4 adoptions.
According to this article, adoption disruptions and dissolutions occur more frequently among older children, especially those who have had adverse childhood experiences (a given for children in foster care) and/or who have developed challenging behaviors, and those children with special needs, especially those with emotional difficulties and sexual acting out. Additionally, the article states that
"younger adoptive parents, inexperienced parents, and parents who both work outside the home are linked with higher levels of disruption. Wealthier parents and more educated mothers, in particular, are also more likely to disrupt an adoption."
So what happens to the kids?
When adoptions disrupt or dissolve, the child is likely to enter foster care. When international adoptions fail, the adoption agency also often informs the birth country of what has happened, but (according to the article) never sends the child back home. For dissolutions, the parents must go to court to end the parent-child relationship.
In any case, the experience of adoption disruption or dissolution is likely to hurt the child's emotional wellbeing. An adoption counselor in the article mentioned depression, distrust, control issues, and rigid behavior as some possible lifelong issues the child may face. Additionally, the child's ability to attach to caregivers is reduced when placements disrupt.
Preparation, preparation, preparation... And post-adoption services!
The article concludes with recommendations for adoptive parents to be fully prepared prior to adopting, and to remove the "rose-colored glasses" surrounding the act of adoption. One adoptive parent states that it is important to let go of the notion of an "ideal child" and to allow the child to adapt to the family structure and expectations.
Another important aspect of the adoption process is to continue with support services after the adoption takes place, through post-adoption support services. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced a bill during this legislative session to enhance both pre- and post-adoption support services and provide for funding for such services: S. 1318 Supporting Adoptive Families Act.
Remember, our Center offers a certificate for mental health and child welfare professionals who help children achieve permanency. Check out the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate here.
Did you read the article? What did you think? Any experiences with adoption disruption or dissolution? Comment below!