‘We Stopped the Adoption after the Child Lashed Out’

A mother we talked to last month, Corey Waters, told us she was forced to disrupt the adoption of her son because he assaulted her daughters. She says: “He has suffered extensive abuse in his life — in the orphanage for sure. He has hurt some of our kids; it is not safe for them to be around him, and he has been in a residential treatment center for a long time now. It has been very painful process to get to the point of deciding to disrupt the adoption.” She has found another loving home to take him in — but the process has been gut-wrenching for all involved. What is Adoption Disruption? To find out, we turned to Dr. Michelle Golland.

Dr. Michelle Golland: Adoption Disruption is a term used when adoptive parents end the adoption process of a child, but technically if the adoption is terminated after the legal procedures, it is referred to as adoption dissolution. The parents, via a court petition, initiate it. The dissolution of adoptions has increased in recent years, mostly due to the trend of adopting children from Eastern European countries such as Russia and Romania.

The emotional challenges these children face due to their institutionalization have made some of these parents feel the need to dissolve these adoptions for a variety of reasons, which include Reactive Attachment Disorder and other emotional issues that the parents were either not informed of or unable to handle — or both.

It appears from the most recent studies that the between 10 to 25 percent of adoptions are disrupted or dissolved and that the rate tends to rise with the age of the child at the time of adoption. The dissolution of an infant is extremely rare, at less than 1 percent. Also, children that have already have had multiple placements are at risk of dissolution, often because they have already been experiencing behavioral challenges in the other placements and the lack of stability has increased the negative behaviors in the child. Another challenge for adoptive parents struggling with developmental or behavioral issues with their children is that there is a lack of therapeutic services provided to these families.

There is such a strong negative social stigma for the parents who have made the painful decision to dissolve their adoption. The parents describe it like experiencing a death in the family and feel they have failed the child and themselves. This decision is not done lightly, and often is initiated when the child has become a danger to themselves or other family members. There have been cases where adoptive children have molested or abused other children within the family.

The families that dissolve the adoption are required to help find a new placement for their child. If the child can’t be placed, some families are required to pay support for the care of the child until they reach the age of 18. It is a sad fact that some adoptions do reach a point of dissolution or disruption and the lack of social services, procedures and guidance can send families already stressed to the breaking point.

With the disaster in Haiti and the many children left without parents, it is going to be imperative to help make as many of these adoptions successful. One essential way is to increase support and mental health services for the children and the families who will be generously opening their homes. It is not simply enough to want to help, but there must besystems set up to assist families when things are not running smoothly — which will be inevitable with the amount of physical and emotional trauma the children of Haiti have experienced.

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Copyright 2013, Dr. Michelle Golland. All Rights Reserved.