Monday, June 18, 2012

When Adoptions Fail

From the Boston Globe, an opinion piece on adoption disruption that starts with the recent case of Joyce Maynard (which I posted about here), and then broadens into a more general discussion:
Madonna and Angelina Jolie may be the glamorous public faces of successful international adoptions, but in her recent silence, Maynard speaks for the minority, the devastated families for whom a new addition doesn’t work out.

“Families are embarrassed when there’s dissolution,” says Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption.

Around 15 percent of all adoptions fail, and the older the child, the more likely the failure. Of course, compared with the 50 percent of marriages that dissolve, 15 percent for adoptions doesn’t seem so bad.

Still, adoptions fail frequently enough that Johnson’s group held a seminar on the topic at its annual convention last week in Maryland. The goal is to construct a strong web of support not just for the children, but for the families they join; to avoid catastrophic failure, such as the Tennessee woman who, two years ago, put her adopted son alone on a plane back to Moscow. Public failure like that costs children homes, and international adoptions are already declining. Last year, Americans adopted just 9,320 children from foreign lands, compared with 22,000 in 2004. Throw a few horror stories into the ether, and they may stop altogether.

Maynard self-censors wisely. Intelligent people can disagree on whether she violated author J.D. Salinger’s privacy by disclosing their affair and auctioning his letters, but no one needs to know the specifics of why she could no longer care for two motherless Ethiopian girls.

Even without the gory details of Maynard’s case, the challenges of her situation should be evident. Children who come traumatized to this country don’t leave their trauma at the border. Sometimes — as in one case I know of — they assimilate beautifully, and then, months later, spread feces on the walls of their room. That’s too much information for most of us, yes. But it’s a possibility that people about to spend $20,000 to $40,000 to adopt a foreign child might at least consider.

To unappointed judges who say Maynard re-homed the children much like a troublesome cat, there’s news out of Tennessee.

Last month, a judge ruled that Torry Hansen, the woman who put her adopted son on the plane, must pay $1,000 a month in child support until the boy is 18, even though he is back in a Russian orphanage. It is, perhaps, the most expensive re-homing fee ever. For Maynard and other parents in the 15 percent of adoptions that fail, the cost is emotional only, but no easier to pay.


Molly W. said...

Wow. I really don't like this part: "That’s too much information for most of us, yes. But it’s a possibility that people about to spend $20,000 to $40,000 to adopt a foreign child might at least consider."

I can't speak for Maynard, but if I had to disrupt the international adoption of my daughter, the very LAST thing I'd be thinking is, "And I wasted all that money!"

Plus I guess people adopting an older child from foster care shouldn't worry about trauma, etc., because if the adoption disrupts at least they won't be out a lot of money?

(In case my tone isn't coming through: I think that last notion is ridiculous, but it's the logical other side to the statement I quoted from the article.)

-J.D. Humenay said...

As a future adoptive parent, I just don't see the money as being the main issue.

I recently discussed with an adoptive parent who tried international adoption, and was encouraged to go with a more local option, because their was a waiting baby of mixed ethnicity (and not many people were willing to raise a mixed race child).

That adoption fell threw...

After the end of their long story, they ended up doing a private adoption through a private attorney in Fl. They were able to bring their son home at 5 days old and he's been there for good.

The pain of an adoption falling through weighs FAR more on my mind than the money.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear that fewer failed adoptions would be a good thing -- for all members of the triad.  A good place to start would be better education for PAPs on the issues that they're VERY likely to face adopting a kid with trauma -- exponentionally so if they're adopting an older child from abroad.

I'd also suggest significantly increasing post-adoption services to at least TRY to keep these families together... agencies tend to provide little/to none and families desperately need help.

There are so so so many adoptive families out there desperately looking for help, doing all the right things and slamming into the fact that there are no services to be found for their attachment disordered kids with mental illnesses like these:

On the other hand, there are an awful lot of APs who proudly declare themselves "trauma mamas", espouse bizarre "therapeutic parenting techniques", pull their kids out of school (fewer mandated reporters to deal with!!) and complain vociferously that no one understands them and basically isolate themselves and their kids from the world since no one, let alone any medical professional, could POSSIBLY understand the hardships they face:

Truama mama who insists that her 13 yr old adopted son refusing to smile and mimic the silly pose of a statue on a family vacation is totally RAD ( and constantly compares him unfavorably to her adopted daughter -- his biosister -- almost daily on her blog, which is a very respectful way to encourage one's traumatized, adopted kid to improve his behavior ... NOT!!):

Gotta love a trams mama who withdraws her 6 yr kid from school because she suckered her teacher into giving her an extra snack. And avoid mandated reporters!!! And who complains that neighbors invite her family to join the local Easter egg hunt (bc obviously they invited her RADishes specifically to upset mama vs because it's a fun activity and they thought her might enjoy):

The same trauma mama also writes charming "open letters" begging neighbors and passersby to give her the benefit of doubt when she starts WW3 for the billionth time over some teeny-tiny thing, like a particular kid wanting to hand out (identically sized) ice creams to his siblings:

This trauma mama writes that the appropriate thing to do if your 13 yr old adopted daughter has a run in with mean girls is to pull her from public school. And church. And youth group. Because keeping a girl isolated at home is a truly excellent way to teach her coping skills:

My personal fave trauma mama is this -- who writes why it's OK for her adopted 18 yr old daughter to beat her (yup, hits mom hard enough to lose big bruises), destroy her 18 yr old (not adopted) 18 yr old daughter's things and suffer ZERO consequences for her her violent reign of terror. Oh, and mommy let's the violent girl babysit her younger (adopted and not adopted) siblings regularly. So responsible, non?

Kris said...

I never heard the term "trauma mama". How creepy.