Friday, August 3, 2012

It Takes More Than Love

From the Today Show, a story about adoption disruption:
Famous moms like Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Charlize Theron have brought adoption into the limelight, and perhaps even made it look easy. But what happens, and who's to blame, when an adoption doesn’t work?

In as many as a quarter of adoptions of teens, and a significant number of younger child adoptions, the parents ultimately decide they don’t want to keep the child, experts say.

* * *

In the adoption world, failed adoptions are called “disruptions.” But while a disruption may seem stone-hearted from the outside, these final anguished acts are complex, soul-crushing for all concerned and perhaps more common than you'd think.

"It's heartbreaking when disruption occurs and I want to prevent it as much as possible," says Zia Freeman, a Seattle-area adoption counselor who in her 20 years in the field has dealt with at least two dozen disruptions. "We [give parents] a huge list of behaviors to expect and they're not fun. But I'll have parents come back and say to me, 'I sat through those classes and heard you say that, but I still believed it wouldn't happen to me. That I wouldn't get a kid that wouldn't respond to my love.'"

* * *

Although statistics on disruption vary, a 2010 study of U.S. adoption practices conducted by the University of Minnesota and Hennepin County, Minn., found that between 6 percent and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted before they are finalized. For children older than 3, disruption rates range between 10 percent to 16 percent; for teens, it may be as high as 24 percent, or one in four adoptions.

Adoptions can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to become final – and that window is when most disruptions occur, experts say. While some families do choose to end an adoption after that, those cases are rarer (ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent, according to the study).

"Disruption rarely occurs with infants," says Freeman, the Seattle-area adoption counselor. "But if you're talking about older children, it can be anywhere from 5 to 20 percent. It's significantly higher because of the complexities of parenting a child who already has life experiences and certain behaviors. When we're rejected and traumatized early in our development, it changes the way we function and respond to people."

* * *

According to the study, the older the child, the more likely the adoption is to fail. Children with special needs also face greater risk of disruption, particularly those who demonstrate emotional difficulties and sexual acting out.
Certain types of parents are more likely to end up giving up adopted children, as well. 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.

"I understand where that might seem odd, but I think there's a potential for less tolerance if someone's more educated or they make more money," says Brooke Randolph, director of adoption preparation and support services at an Indianapolis adoption agency.


Sharon said...

I really don't like the "blame the child" tone of this piece. Sometimes disruptions happen because parents didn't prepare themselves, aren't patient, didn't have realistic expectations etc. Sometimes it's the parents who can't attach. Ugh.

Momma C said...

Truthfully, I think use Maynard as the intro to this piece is offensive to parents who have had to disrupt for legitimate reasons. Based on her own writing, her adoption was more of a social experiment- a chance to see life through the eyes of an "other"- in order to provide fodder for her writing. IMO- viewing her disruption in the same light as most others is misleading and minimizes the very deep struggles that some parents go through to keep their children in the home. And to use the girls picture, in conjunction with this story is exploitative. I hope, but seriously doubt, the girls parents consented to the photo use- but like everything else, it appears as if Maynard thought about how it would benefit her and never considered the girls in the decision.

wm said...

I encourage everyone to read the actual article. When you read about some of the behaviors the children were displaying, it becomes clearer why the child could not stay in the family. Please don't take this the wrong way. I am not blaming the child but I am also not blaming the parents. It is a horrible situation to be in. As the saying goes, "don't judge another person unless you've walked in their shoes."

Anonymous said...

This business of parents who heard and understood the behaviors a traumatized kid might display... but believed it wouldn't happen to them scare the heck out of me. Magical thinking. GrOwnups who really, truly were informed but figured they'd be immune. Folks like these people who against all reason simultaneously adopted 2 unrelated kids with severe special needs from a bad ukrainian internat and were **GASP** shocked when the traumatized girls displayed institutional behaviors:

Someone please explain to me how ANYBODY is well-served by this placement? My heart goes out to those sad, scared, traumatized and very beautiful little Ukrainian girls...

Sharon said...

WM, I did go read the complete article, and while the story of that particular child is sad, the piece still bothers me. I know of far too many cases of disruptions which were NOT about any extreme attachment disordered behavior or sexual acting out from the child, but about the parents change of heart. There's an Ethiopian-Amer woman who disrupted the adoption of two Ethiopian girls in my community because they weren't behaving sufficiently respectfully in her eyes. That same woman is all over message boards telling white parents how to parent adopted kids of color, and doesn't reveal to anyone she disrupted. Or the families that divorce and neither wants to keep the child -- I've run across a few of those. It's time for adoptive parents to hold themselves and their peers accountable. I know it's incredibly hard to adopt an older child -- I'm the mother of a child who lived more than 3 years in an institution. At the same time, the well-publicized narrative of the damaged adoptee inappropriately absolves parents from responsibility. We need to treat adoptive parents with compassion, but the kids deserve the same. said...

"Children with special needs also face greater risk of disruption, particularly those who demonstrate emotional difficulties and sexual acting out." Maybe I am not reading this incorrectly but how does having special needs cause a child to demontrate "sexual acting out"?

This article reinforced in my mind the need to place the need of the child above the needs of the parent(s) - children should not have to wait to be adopted.

Momma C said...

regarding behavior/acting out- I think the mean the special need IS the behavior issue- not that special needs cause the acting out.
And there is no evidence that Maynard's children were engaging in any of those behaviors. In fact that Maynard herself reports they were looking at families with other children in the home is pretty conclusive evidence that there were not acting out/dangerous/violent/sexual behaviors. For the other families mentioned absolutely the children were not able to stay in the family- I just don't think that applies to Maynard's situation.