Okay, I’m going to start off being blunt. When a person adopts a child and then disrupts or dissolves that adoption, they are re-traumatizing the child and they should accept full responsibility for that.
Now, I’m not saying that I always blame the parent for deciding to disrupt or dissolve an adoption.
Sometimes, overall, it is to the child’s best interest that the adoption is dissolved or disrupted. There certainly are instances when the child is a danger to himself or to others in the family and need to be removed from the home. And agencies sometimes lie or misrepresent children to prospective families and should be sanctioned for such unethical practice. But again, the child is the one who has no power and no choice in this whole matter and to be uprooted from a life and to have to adjust to a new home and new parents – much less new country and language in the case of international adoptions – only to be kicked out of said home and end up in foster care?
I was told that around 10-15% of children adopted internationally to my state dissolve and the child ends up in foster care. I’ve heard the stories and all I can say is, when one births a child biologically who ends up having major problems the child may end up in some out of home care (sometimes it’s foster homes or residential treatment centers or group homes) but it’s rare that a parent voluntarily terminates their parental rights to a biologically born child. Most of the youth I see in foster care are there because the courts have ordered a termination of parental rights.
Do I think a parent has the right to decide not to adopt a child who was misrepresented to them and has needs greater than what the parents think they can handle? Yes. Do it before the child is finalized. I absolutely think the parents have a right to accurate information. And I agree that it’s not in the child’s best interest to be placed in a home where the parents do not have the desire or ability to care for those needs. And that’s what I detest about this whole exchange.
Because we want to place children in good safe homes, we allow for disruptions. We have to. And that creates a practice that caters more to the needs of the secondary client (parents) over the needs of the primary client (the child).
Let me give you another example. Many prospective adoptive parents want to adopt infants. There is a high demand for *healthy infants.*
Agencies often make it known that there is no guarantee that any infant won’t develop medical, cognitive or developmental delays in the future, but who wants to hear that? Sure, we hear it and tuck that information in to the back of the mental file. At our agency, we tell parents that adopting an infant means that you know less about the child’s future. With older children, you tend to have more information. At least you likely have some history and some sense of potential risks for behaviors that the child may exhibit later on. With an infant, what you don’t know can be risky.
But as many other adoptees have said before, we’re not a tabula rasa and even as an infant with little or no information, there are risks. There are risks for children birthed biologically to parents too.
There is a high correlation between children in my state who end up using county or state mental health services and adoption status (note, correlation not causation). I’ve been told by several workers that “over half” of the cases involves children who have had at least one adoption disruption or dissolution and that includes children adopted internationally. It’s interesting to me, that many in the mental health field have negative feelings about adoption partly as a result of that.
I think a lot of adoptive parents “talk the talk” about how they love and treat their adopted children “the same as” a biological child. In terms of adoption disruptions and dissolutions, I would like to see more in terms of “walking the walk.” Once a parent adopts a child and it is legally finalized, they are the considered the same as a biological child in the eyes of the law. Adoptive parents who abandon their adopted child should be treated the same as any other parent who abandons their child.
Jae Ran Kim, MSW is a social worker, teacher and writer. She was born in Taegu, South Korea and was adopted to Minnesota in 1971. She has written numerous articles and essays and is most recently published in the anthology “Outsiders Within: Writings on Transracial Adoption” from South End Press. Jae Ran’s blog, Harlow’s Monkey, is at http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/