In 2002, I began to chronicle my adoption journey and created Forever Parents, a supportive online community for adoptive and waiting parents. Over the next year, we grew our support forums to include an adoption shop and a blog. Forever Parents stayed active, helping thousands of people for over ten years. I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog, in the Forever Parents section. This post was originally published on August 29, 2011, and written by Linny for Forever Parents.
Editors note: This is not a “feel good” topic, but adoption dissolution is the reality for many families. Disrupting or dissolving an adoption is not an easy thing to share and it’s never an easy decision to make, but until things change, it will continue to become a reality for some families.
This post was written by Linny, a longtime admin at our adoption forums. If you have a story to share, you’re welcome to post a comment below. You are safe here.
If you keep an eye on adoption sites that feature children available for re-adoption, it would seem there are more and more children (adopted as older children), whose adoptions are being dissolved. (By older child adoption, I’m referring to children 3 years old and up).
Having lived, and parented children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD), children whose adoptions all failed in some way over time, I can fully understand a family’s plight. Living with children who must be watched 24/7 for fear of harming/killing other children is beyond exhaustive.
How it affects the family
Over time, it can change a parents’ mindset of ‘what’s normal and what’s not’. It can also make a parent doubt any and all decisions they make. Further, it’s not uncommon for parents of children with RAD to end up divorced; or at least suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
There is seldom any respite for a family raising an emotionally damaged child from the foster care system. Very often, there are a lot of suggestions to help; but no real solid help for the families.
The family then lives an isolated and lonely life where even ‘normal’ siblings suffer from the isolation at having a sister or brother who steals everything in sight, lies in the face of reality, or can’t be trusted to be around young children for fear of sexual inappropriateness.
However, some of our adoption forum members have had great experiences with older child adoptions. I’m not making light of the difficulty they’ve had in raising these children to become great kids, and certainly, there’s a huge difference in those children vs other children whose adoptions are being dissolved or disrupted.
If you considering older child adoption, take heed. There are miracles and there are disasters.
Education is key, but there’s more to it as well. I don’t think it’s ‘the gamble that just turned out well’, but more, the successful parents knew or sensed something ‘successful’ when they sought out and found their older children.
Our experience with adoption dissolution
Call it an internal sixth sense if you will, but something made the parents see a child as being able to bond and grow up successfully, and they did.
When we first saw/met our first-older child for adoption, IMMEDIATELY I felt something was very wrong. I really did. I couldn’t put my finger on it; he was such a funny and cute kid, but I didn’t feel good about fully adopting him, and my husband and I talked often about ‘whether we should or shouldn’t’. I felt like I loved him; I wanted to love him more, but there was something that just wasn’t ‘right’ here, a type of distance in our relationship I’d never felt or seen before.
That doesn’t speak well for my character, does it, but it’s true. I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were very torn as to whether we should proceed with the adoption or not. Yet, we and some other family members thought we should, and I agreed, having moments where I thought, “This is going to be just fine; this is great.”.
He turned out to have severe RAD and eventually, wasn‘t able to stay in a traditional home environment. The state foster/adopt department literally lied to us about his past. (We found/have the paperwork to prove incredible fraud.)
No support for families
This type of thing is common, meaning, state foster to adopt departments are often NOT honest about disclosing full information with their ‘more difficult children to place’. It would seem, as some believe, the state adoption departments are more than anxious to put the burden of raising these children on someone else’s shoulders.
Even for the most experienced parent, there are many illnesses that require a lot of outside support. Sadly, most states are reluctant or refuse to give any support other than telling the parents they need to put monitors in place and ‘live with it’. (Very disturbing news for those who live with the threat of sexual abuse or assault.)
(Oddly enough, the state departments would quickly remove any biological child from a family who created the threat of harm, sexual assault, or death to any family members. But, when the child is ‘one of theirs’ however, it seems the mindset changes?)
Advice from experience
I personally feel no one should adopt out of birth order; and, I would caution anyone who wants to adopt from the system when they’ve already adopted infants, and plan to adopt *more* infants in the future.
It should be a serious consideration, because when you adopt an older child from the system, it may also mean you’ll never be able to adopt again if the child’s behaviors are so bad that bringing in a baby would be a dangerous action to do.
Please be careful when wanting to adopt older children. Educate yourself beyond the general classes each state provides for foster to adopt certification. Those classes are usually quite mild, definitely biased, and don’t present a full scope of what living with an older adopted child with moderate to severe issues can be like.
Usually, the parent takes the role of a caretaker and counselor more than the role of ‘just being able to enjoy parenting an older child’.
Is this true for every older child adoption?
But it would be wise to carefully consider each older child on a case by case basis and not rush into any adoption finalization until the child has lived within your home for a very extended amount of time.
Kathryn Koogler says
My adopted son has rad along with bipolar, adhe, odd, and now my husband and I are getting a divorce can someone please tell me what I can do with this boy, I can’t take care of him anymore and I’m really not liking him to much, he has the whole household in an uproar every day and he lies, steals, makes weapons and has been in counseling for years even before we adopted him, please help!
I recently disrupted an adoption that had barely begun. I successfully adopted my daughter 15 yrs ago from China, as an infant. I am a single mom. I so much wanted to adopt again, but life being messy, it did not happen. Finally, this year I entered into an adoption of a 12 yr old girl from within the U.S. I realized by the end of our first weeks, that much of what had been revealed to me via paperwork was wrong, even after questioning her caregivers at length – an IEP was left out, she was developmentally delayed by at least 3 yrs. She still needed meds which she was currently off. She refused to eat at the table, refused to be touched, and argued. She hoarded food, and took items and hid them. Already, my older daughter had locked herself in her room, refused to come out during several long days, and depression filled my heart and mind. I had had such rainbow hopes. My family would, at last, be a larger family. Behaviors aside, I realized that it was the developmental issues that concerned me the most, because as a single mom I did not have the resources to give her the level of supervision she would really need – afterschool supervision, weekend supervision, rides to and from school. There would be no joining my daughter on the bus. There would be constant meetings with school officials and spec ed teachers. She would need afterschool care, skills training, and ongoing support into adulthood. I was already asking my teen to “help,” to be that extra set of eyes and really, a parenting figure. I know this sounds like a short saga, but I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I talked for hours with her social worker, asking why her IEP had not been shared, why she was not still on meds, why her writing was so simple. I was trying to understand. She had been presented as a kid who liked to read, who was misunderstood. I also did not believe some of the cluse on paper. She liked to play internet games by the hour. She had lived with her foster family for 8 yrs prior to coming to me. Her social worker had blamed her foster mother for her lack of nurture, and I had believed the social worker. Now I know that social workers enhance the positives on paperwork, stretch the truths, and often leave out important info that any future parent should know. I should have asked for the IEP, I should have talked to the foster mother. And social workers do it for well intentioned reasons. They want those older kids to be adopted, to find forever families. I finally made the tough decision, the only one I could make if I was going to be able to continue as a caring mom to my teenager. I disrupted the adoption – I decided it would be easier earlier than later. I cried and ranted and I am still crying. My social worker says I didn’t try hard enough, I have experienced judgment from my agency, and I may have to give up the dream of adoption. In the same breath, she recognizes that my teen would not have done well in the circumstances, that another child’s life would have been impacted. I am not Mother Theresa. I faced what I could not do. I hope she is placed in another family with more truth, the family who can and will be the parents she needs.
This was an excellant article and we need more of them. People cannot relate to the distant feeling you describe above unless they have tried to parent a child with attachment issues. The awful feelings of resentment toward a child beacuse of all the stress, chaos and constant annoying behaviors and the manipulation that a RAD child brings to a family. These children behave when it suits them.If it doesn’t then they will Light fires, harm animals, harm themselves or others.its very difficult.
Ellen Thomas says
Oh how I wish I’d read this before we brought our child home! The case worker and foster mom downplayed her issues tremendously. They also did not let us know that the meds she was on were 3 times what a child her age should have (our bad for lack of research I know). So, when our Dr adjusted her meds to a ‘normal’ level, all heck broke loose! Lying, acting out, tantrums, you name it! Now we are struggling horribly with the decision. 🙁
I think that it was either you, Linny, or maybe JoAnne that said, look at the issues your child initially come with. They may have them for the rest of their life and you need to decide if you can handle them exactly as they are without any romantic notions that they will fully heal and everything will be fine. Odds are that won’t happen.
I think that is really relevant here.