Dissolution: Committed Parents

It happened again this week.  As it does every week.  A little girl was left in China.  In this case, the girl might not live long enough to find a new set of parents.  I’ll be brutally honest–that happens.  It also happens that older kids who are brought back to the orphanage age out before they find a new set of parents.  Or that orphanages decide not to list a rejected child for adoption again.  This is why adoption advocates argue so strongly against dissolution ever being considered a possibility.

Before this week’s topic of discussion occurred Hannah’s Story was published on the Red Thread blog, telling of the trauma one girl endured after she was rejected on adoption day.  Becky of The Full Plate wrote a moving post called I Was Yours, And You Were Mine–The Day We Met.  Faced with a screaming and delayed baby, contemplating whether she would die or have lifelong delays, Becky made the commitment to bring her home, no matter what.  In response to this week’s disruption, Andrea wrote this passionate post on Facebook, remembering how she was presented with a daughter who was near death and chose to bring her home anyway, actually fighting China to be able to complete the adoption.  Her daughter is alive today because of that choice.  Finally, from NHBO An Uncertain Journey With A Certain Guide which is written from a faith based perspective on why you should continue on when your adoption seems harder than expected. IMG_1391

Everyone wants the number of in country disruptions to come down.  It’s true that a small amount of these disruptions are because parents are presented with a child whose medical condition is completely different from what was included in the file.  However, for the majority of in country disruptions the cause is that the parents have unreasonable expectations in two areas.  Many parents are uneducated about the medical need that they signed up for.  Parents have returned a child with albinism because they were surprised at the extent of her visual impairment, a child with dwarfism because his legs were bowed, a child with cleft palate because food came out of his nose, and a child with cerebral palsy affecting her legs because she walked with a limp.  While these examples might be difficult to believe, they serve as an illustration of how many people can put on rose-colored glasses or listen selectively when given medical information.

The other area of unreasonable expectation is that the parents were panicked by the child’s immediate response to the trauma of adoption.  They might be completely unprepared for the behaviors that an older child can come with.  This is the sort of thing that should have been well covered in pre-adoptive training but is so easy for parents to forget when it is staring them in the face in the form of a child who is screaming for hours or is almost catatonic in reaction to being taken from everything they’ve known and handed to total strangers.  Here are some good posts which address this topic:

One comment I hear a lot is “If this child was born into your family with special needs you wouldn’t have the option to disrupt.  You would learn to deal with it because they’re your child.”  I don’t think that’s exactly accurate. Americans abort 50% of pregnancies with major birth defects and 90% of pregnancies with Down Syndrome.  Many people are scared when confronted with the possibility that their child is less than perfect and reach for abortion as a solution to this fear.  Even when the child is born, parents can choose to not parent them.  The National Down Syndrome Adoption Network matches adoptive parents with birth parents who have chosen to make an adoption plan for their child.  Adopt American Network does the same work for children with any special need.   IMG_0057_2

Disruption is the adoption equivalent.  You might point out that if someone is adopting from the China special needs program then they should be open to parenting a child with special needs.  However, I have seen countless parents ask “What are the most minor needs you have seen listed in China?” or “What are the easiest special needs?”  Many people who adopt are clearly uncomfortable with parenting a child with special needs and have decided they can accept a limited range of possibilities.  If they meet a child in China who falls outside of that range, they panic.

What we all hope will happen here is that when the panic wears off, things calm down, and the child starts receiving necessary medical care, therapies, and love, then the parents will bond with the child and feel that fierce love that makes a parent do anything they can to save their child when their child is in danger.  This is the exact feeling that Andrea and Becky felt about their daughters when they penned the passionate posts that I linked to earlier.  However, have we considered the range of outcomes if the parents adopt the child and don’t bond to the child over time?

Parenting a child with special needs can bring a lot of stress.  While extensive studies haven’t been done on the various special needs, some have found that parents of children with autism have a higher divorce rate.  When you add adoption to the special needs mix, we are creating a high stress situation for these parents.  I know, you’re saying But what about the children, this isn’t about the parents!  Bear with me.  What I am saying is, I think that high stress parents with no attachment to the adopted child can be a lethal mix.  How many times have you seen headlines about a child who died of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of a babysitter?  Statistics show a clear correlation about abuse at the hands of a cohabiting partner, usually a man.  When you do not feel a bond to a child, you are less patient and more frustrated with the challenges of parenting.  I wrote in my first article on Adoption Dissolution that the biggest difference between the adoption stories of Katie and Shecki is that Katie feels a bond with her daughter that Shecki never felt with her son.

IMG_0227Would Lydia Schatz’s parents have spent hours methodically beating a biological child to death, or is that something that takes a feeling of detachment?  What about Hyunsu O’Callaghan whose father said he wasn’t bonding well with him and was charged with beating his son to death after caring him and his other son while his wife was away for the weekend?  Pound Pup Legacy has a full page of adopted children who died at the hands of their parents, if you have the stomach to read them.  Of course, these stories don’t always end in death.  The Harrises in Arkansas were recently in the news for keeping their two adopted girls locked in separate rooms before eventually passing them along to a friend who sexually abused them.  Amy Eldridge who founded Love Without Boundaries tells of a similar instance in her post Disruption: Three Things For Parents To Consider.

I think that when Becky and Andrea write that when you adopt you should be committed forever, it is because it is impossible for them to imagine not feeling that bond with your child.  Not having the fierce Mama Bear protective instinct kick in.  I think that in an ideal adoption world all but a few parents would bring their child home with them from China.  Take some time to see what your child is really like when the panic wears off.  Your panic and their panic.  Get their medical needs correctly assessed.  Try faking it until you make it in the attachment area.  But for some kids like Anatoly Z, dissolving the adoption and finding a family who is better equipped to meet his needs is the best course of action.  Am I saying that if we don’t let parents disrupt when they’re scared than all of the kids will end up abused or dead?  No, but when you say that disruption or dissolution should never be an option then you are condemning some of these children to a family where there is no love, and the entire point of adoption is to give them a loving family.  When you say that if you aren’t prepared to parent any child with any need or you shouldn’t adopt from China then you are limiting an already extremely small group of potential parents.

I am glad that we are discussing adoption disruption and dissolution more now.  I would like to see more people discussing the challenging aspects of adoption so that people are not so surprised when adoption day is not a blissful dream come true.  However, I think that it is unrealistic to think that adoption will have a 100% success rate when biological parenting does not have a 100% success rate.  Prepared prospective adoptive parents are the best way to create “forever families” and I think we need to keep working to help parents in the adoption process to be informed, have realistic expectations, and offer support when they are home deep in the trenches.

Do you want to join in the disruption conversation or get a view of adoption without the rose-colored glasses?  Here are some Facebook group resources.


4 thoughts on “Dissolution: Committed Parents

  1. Jamie

    This post boils my blood. As a mama who has dissolved an adoption in China I can tell you that so often, and almost entirely, the adoptive parents are to blame when it comes to blogs and social media. The finger can not always be pointed at the parents. Why are we not looking at China more, and their role in disruptions? For example: Our chid’s file was so inaccurate and had complete inaccuracies about his past. We were not told he grew up in a psych ward, prior to being moved to his new orphanage. Why was this information left out? How do you think a child who has seen such horrific sights and been subjected to torture would behave? How do you think they would be affected by that trauma? What about a child who tries to kill you on a pickup trip? What about a parent who is physically abused by an older child on the pickup trip? What about parents who arrive in China and their new child tries to sexually abuse their biological child and the adoptive father on the pickup trip? There are horrific stories. Horrific. Stories that the moms of disruptions and dissolutions only tell in private for fear of the backlash they will receive. I stand up for those mamas everyday. They need, we need, a voice. You can not simply blame parents for being unprepared. We must look at China, and their role as well. By blaming parents for being unprepared and making a rash decision, the adoption community is missing the point, completely! In many instances children are being abused in the orphanages and in foster care. Why is there not more over sight? When China realizes or sees a trend of disruptions, as in our sons orphanage, why are they not putting a halt on adoptions until they figure out what the systematic problem is in that orphanage? I have seen three disruptions and a dissolved adoption of a child after recently coming home from our dissolved sons orphanage. Why is no one taking notice? My advice to the adoption community stop blaming the adoptive parents. Stop it right now. We as a community, and mostly a Christian community, needs to stop throwing stones at one another. Let’s be more understanding. Let’s realize that no one else is there, but these parents. No one else is seeing or dealing with what they are dealing with. No one else truly know what is going on. NO ONE-no matter how much you read about a certain situiation. Let’s judge less, and offer more grace. A whole lot more!

    1. minefam Post author

      Hi Jamie, you’re absolutely right that there is no way for you to have been prepared for your situation. I have linked to both your and Shecki’s stories because I think that they are important. Many adoption advocates are saying that disruption and dissolution should never be an option, and if you weren’t prepared for any circumstance, even situations like yours, then you never should have adopted in the first place. What I am arguing is that there *is* a place for adoption disruption and dissolution in those circumstances where parents do not have the ability to provide for their child’s need, or choose not to. I’m sorry if that point didn’t come across, or maybe you focused on the part that you are most sensitive to.

      I have followed along many disruptions in my few years in the China adoption community and stories like yours and Shecki’s seem to be the minority to me. Unfortunately, we have no ability to change how files are prepared in China. But it seems clear to me that there are many parents out there who are underprepared for the child that they meet even when the file is correct. Actually, when we returned to the civil affairs office to finalize our son’s adoption we were told that a European couple who had waited 8 years for a referral in the NSN program had returned their 1 year old son an hour before we arrived.

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, Jamie. I appreciate your perspective and I wish you nothing but the best in your current adoption process.

      1. Jamie

        I agree that there are some parents that are not prepared, or committed. There are a lot of families that are truly in shock by the behaviors they see in country, or the condition of their child. I think more education should occur, especially on trauma, grieving, and attachment. Do agencies do enough to prepare? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think internet courses could possibly prepare you for a grieving child. I know after our most recent adoption of our daughter. (I promise I will start writing again soon!!!!) I don’t know if anything can truly prepare you for it, but more could be done. I do know that our agency did get something right that a lot of other agencies are failing at, which is major support in country on your pickup trip when you just need to talk to someone. They were with us the entire time. They called us and spoke with us, and helped calm our fears numerous times. More agencies need to support families during their adoption trips and post adoption when times are hard, because I think a lot of agencies get this part wrong. There is nothing worse than being in a foreign country with a grieving child, and second guessing your ability to parent this child. Or being home at the two or three month point and your child is still grieving heavily when others that adopted during the same timeframe are thriving. Adoption is not rainbows and unicorns. It is hard. It is trauma. It is loss. I wish people understood this above anything else.

        Thank you for writing about disruptions. More people need to have this conversation! I wish that the adoption community as a whole was more open to the truth behind disruptions, which I unfortunately don’t think they are.

  2. KT

    One of my daughters came to me via disruption for exactly the reason you mention: unrealistic expectation. I can understand disrupting a child who will cause harm to other children in the home and for a few other things, like SEVERELY misrepresenting the child’s medical condition. But in my daughter’s case, the first parents had completely unrealistic expectations and their agency should have spotted that a mile away. It was right there on their blog for all to read. For example, they expected to “twin” their new daughter, who would be just shy of 12 yrs. old, whose file said she was learning disabled, with their 11 yr. old bio son and put her into 5th grade with him right away. They also gave her free reign of choice at the breakfast buffet and restaurants when she’d never been given a choice of any kind every in her life. They let her order stuff she didn’t even know how to eat once it arrived, such as clams. They took her to Hong Kong Disneyland and pushed her around in a baby stroller (she was the size of an American 8 yr. old!) and put her on the rides and told me she loved it, but she has so many sensory integration issues that she could barely walk on sand or snow at first with me or admit she hated the rides because of her fear of being left out or behind in a strange place with strange people.

    I admit I’ve thought of disrupting the adoption of three of my kids during our hardest moments, but it just didn’t seem like a real option for me. These are MY daughters just as surely as if they’d been born to me, whether I feel it all the time or not. I made a commitment. I can’t blame them for my ignorance of what I thought it was going to be like to be their mom. I love them, even though sometimes I have to dig deep to feel it when they’ve been particularly rough on me about something. I will fight for them against anyone who doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Sometimes they themselves say to me, “Mommy we don’t deserve what you do for us. You should give up on us.” I tell them that I will never give up on them. They ask why. I tell them, “Because I love you.” They may not understand love, but they understand I’m not giving up on them.

    I don’t know what their future holds and how much I will have to take care of them into their adulthood. I’m doing all I can to get them as independent as possible in the most appropriate way and time I can, but they cannot think, reason or learn like most people. They still don’t understand that movie actors are doing a job and that movies are real life. They still don’t understand appropriate social boundaries have the ability to relate to their same-age peers (which they don’t even realize is a problem). They can’t imagine being an adult and still secretly believe that they are going to return to China when they are 18 and live happily ever after.

    Disruptions need to diminish. Honestly by all parties, preparation and guts and determination are needed. By far, honest profiles of the children would go the farthest in getting children placed in families that would be prepared to parent them. On the parents’ side, they need to prepare for the worst possible level of their child’s condition and pray for the least. They need to educated themselves, which, admittedly can be hard to do when you don’t know the right questions to ask. This is where adoption agencies come in. They should have the experience to know or at least where to guide the parents to so they can get the information they need to make an informed choice about what they can and cannot handle.

    All that said, there are many of us parents who ended up with children with special needs far exceeding what we thought we’d ever be able to handle had we been given the choice ahead of time and we are meeting the challenges head on and disruption is just not an option for us.


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