by Anonymous & Anonymous
In light of recent stories, should adoptive families receive more scrutiny post adoption?
Yes. Absolutely, yes.
A Denver couple adopted Edward and Austin Bryant in 2000. By 2003 the boys had disappeared. Conflicting accounts of their whereabouts place them with relatives, in institutions or as runaways. A missing persons report was never filed. Other adopted children in the home have recently come forward, concerned about the brothers’ disappearance. There have been accounts that the brothers were often locked in trunks for days, deprived of food and rolled into blankets like burritos as a restraint mechanism. The boys were often seen covered in bruises and welts and the younger Bryant was found scavenging for food in a garbage can. Despite the boys’ disappearance, the adoptive parents continued filing the paperwork necessary to receive a $1,700 monthly subsidy from the state. Nearly a decade after their disappearance, the boys are now actively being searched for.
Nubia Barahona was beaten to death by her adoptive father. Four days later her body was found in the back of her adoptive father’s pick up truck parked in West Palm Beach; her brother was chemically burned, but still alive, in the front seat of the truck. The arrest warrant stated that the children were “repeatedly beaten, willfully tortured, maliciously punished and unlawfully caged.” In this case, abuse was reported, however the caseworker failed to adequately investigate. She stopped by the house four days before Nubia’s death, knocked on the door, asked the adoptive mom if everything was OK and then left without ever seeing the children. Her position was terminated.
So…how does this happen?
Unfortunately, once children have been adopted, the adoptive families are treated just as any other naturally occurring family. The state only intervenes if there are reports of abuse or neglect and it is up to the adoptive parents to seek out resources. This seems especially problematic because families who adopt out of foster care, especially older children and children with special needs or a history of abuse face very particularized problems. These are considered “high-risk” adoptions and even the most stable, loving and well meaning adoptive parents struggle as they encounter problems such as difficulty communicating, bonding, and trusting. Children can be defiant, angry, and even abusive to other children or pets. Adoption disruption and dissolution has become a growing trend.
Where is the breakdown?
Professionals have expressed concern that recent public and private initiatives to increase adoptions and decrease time to adoption might lead to inadequate selection and preparation of adoptive homes. All adoptive families are put through a fairly rigorous pre-screening process, but how effective is it? One component of the screening process is a home study and according to the Texas DFPS, “the purpose of the home study is to discuss your personal history, family interests and lifestyle, childcare experiences, the types of children you feel would best fit in your home, and your strengths and skills in meeting the children's needs.” Certainly adoptive families are putting their best foot forward at this time, so how well can parenting techniques actually be determined? The information gathered during this pre-screening process is imperative to the success of the adoption and the health and safety of the children and yet it seems as though children are often being placed for the sake of placement regardless of “fit”. A negative adoptive placement negates the state’s policy of providing permanency for foster children through a stable family environment.
The importance of post-adoption scrutiny
Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. As in the case of the Bryants and Barahonas, adoption was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to those children. And the most distressing part is that the state absolutely could have intervened. The detective investigating the Bryant brothers’ disappearance said to the press, “I can’t even receive laptops for my department from the state without annual reports and reviews and being able to lay eyes on every single computer.” So why are high-risk adoptions that involve the distribution of state subsidies not being monitored as closely as state issued computers? Not all parents are created equal, and not all adoptive families have good and pure intentions. When children are in foster care, the state is their parent and it’s the state’s duty to ensure these children are well cared for and placed in safe, supportive environments. Pre-screening adoptive families is just not enough, there has to be post-adoption accountability.