When Adoption Doesn’t Work

MendedNobody goes into adoption with the thought “What if this doesn’t work”. Nobody. I have been quiet here because I have been busy thinking. There was a minor brouhaha at another adoption blog. The blogger is in a tough spot and I would not personally have the gonads or the presumption to tell her what the right thing to do was. Apparently, there were enough people who put their opinions out there. There were the “protect your *real* children” crowd, which were inevitably followed by the “all the children are *real*  children crowd. Last I looked, the *real* issue is safety– no more, no less.

Her situation really wasn’t out of the ordinary. She had adopted an older child, a teenager. The child had mental health and behavior issues. When you adopt an older child, that is what you have to deal with. This lady, in particular, had the added weight of being days away from delivering a child and having her husband walk out on her. She was physically unable to keep her teen, younger child, herself, or a new born safe. Families do not work when the parent(s) can not keep everybody safe. It is not a matter of choosing one child over another because of their *realness*.

Serious mental illness is more common  in adopted children, but biological children are not immune either. The mental health resources in this country are scarce and insufficient to meet the needs of the people, including children, who need them. Families who are fortunate enough to have their own resources to use can keep their families together by such over the top measures  as renting two apartments or buying a second house. For most people, that kind of solution is out of reach.

I have more than a few friends who have had to disrupt an adoption. Like the vast majority of adoption that don’t work, mental illness and traumatic experiences were part of the child’s experience before they were adopted.

The parents have used every resource they found- social workers, therapists, medication- read every book, tried every method and hit the same wall- nothing they do keeps their child safe. Disruption or dissolution of an adoption is never easy or pain free. These people have poured more of themselves into their child to make the adoption work then any outsider could imagine. They freely give of their resources; emotional, financial and physical. When their adoption fails, the pain and guilt stays around for a long time- sometimes forever.

The real solution to the disruption/dissolution dilemma is to fix the underlying problem. This country has outstanding medical services. It is time we had mental health services to match.


9 thoughts on “When Adoption Doesn’t Work

  1. Nobody comments on this. Those of us who’ve been there know the pain and judgement, and everyone else thinks we’re just bad parents who didn’t love our kids enough. We loved them. All of them. And we couldn’t keep anyone safe after our new kids came home. Lost one of my best friends of 20+ years when we had to disrupt a placement.
    Hugs, best wishes, and all the luck in the world. We all need it.

  2. I believe that there defiantly times when a living situation has deteriorated to the point that it is no longer healthy for the child to remain in a home. I do however believe that can (and should when possible) be done with out formally re-relinquishing an already traumatized child…(In my humble opinion.)

    • I agree that keeping the child as part of your family, even if they can’t safely live with you, is ideal. Sometimes, funding and/or the RTC do not give the family that option.

      • I can’t think of anything more distasteful than, than re-relinquishing and re-adopting out an adopted child to another family for financial gain and or savings! YUCK!!!!

  3. Hi. I found your blog a few months ago, but I’ve never posted a comment. My parents adopted my brothers 30 years ago (I’m their biological child) and I know that only those who adopted children know how hard it is, and that ‘all they need is love’ is soo not true. My brothers (who were abandoned by their bio parents but weren’t special need children) needed soo much more than just love. Our parents dedicated tons of time, money and were both physically and mentally exhausted with all the issues my brohers had at school, with the neighbourhood kids, with themselves, and basically everywhere. My aunt had the same amount of kids of the same age, and she was far from suffering all these issues with her bio children.
    30 years ago, when my parents adopted my brothers, our neighbours adopted a baby girl too. When the little girl was only 3, they decided to disrupt the adoption. Yes, a 3 year old girl, and they gave her back because she was stealing and lying and behaved like a little teenager and they couldn’t control her. Many people criticised them. But of course, those people did nothing to get that girl into their families and try to raise her by themselves. I mean, it’s SOOO easy to judge! My parents are the opposite: despite all the issues, they kept raising my brothers. and even today, no one still is sure if that was ok.Because nowadays my brothers are adults, and keep on behaving badly (in more criminal ways now that they are older), and still think their bio parents, who abandoned them when they were very young, are somewhere waiting for them with a welcoming smile. They’ve always had that fantasy and we thought they would realize and accept the (awful but real) truth when they grew up, but no.
    We know soooo many cases of adoptions who ended up pretty bad.. It’s not for all, It takes brave people to adopt and raise a child.. Any child I’d say, wherether it’s a special needs one or not. I still believe there’s a reason for everything (I loved, love and will always be thankful for having my brothers in my life, I learned a lot from them and they made me a better person, despite everything), and that’s why I know there’s no right choice, just to trust God, live the present and hope, no matter what, for the future.

  4. We need to fix the foster care and the adoption system, so that children are matched with parents who have the appropriate time, education, training, finances, life situation, and energy, etc. to care for children with traumatic pasts or mental health issues.

    It should be about what is best for the child…. not what is best for the want-to-be parent.
    Until the foster care system and adoption system fix themselves, there will continue to be problems way beyond the pathetic mental health system.

    Fix the foundation, otherwise everything crumbles.

  5. How are the little ones doing? We haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope that’s not because things aren’t going well.

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