The demographics of children being adopted, especially from abroad, is changing. The children available for adoption now tend to be older and have more special needs. Adopting older children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or institutional living is hard work—often wonderful and immensely rewarding, but always hard. It is the type of parenting that requires much preparation pre adoption, continued education post adoption, and lots and lots of support for the family and the child throughout the process. In short, it is not for everyone. Let me repeat. Not every loving, caring, well-meaning, and spiritually strong family should adopt these children from hard places. Period.
Weeding out the loving, caring, and well-meaning families who should not adopt is not easy, even when adoption agencies are trying their best. And, my friends, not all adoption agencies are trying their best. Preparing families for all the possibilities when adopting abused and neglected kids is also hard work, and not all agencies are up to the task. As a result we are seeing a rise in adoptions that are falling apart. The correct term is “adoption dissolution”, but it is more often called “adoption disruption” or a “failed adoption”.
NBC News, Reuters, and the Today Show are beginning a series on adoption this week. I’ve heard some grumblings in the adoption world of “more negative press about adoption”, but I think we need to embrace the scrutiny, while at the same time dissecting what is media hyperbole. We can only improve if we are open to learning. Playing ostrich is not an option. We have a problem folks.
Problems with the Reuter and NBC News Investigation on The Child Exchange
The Today Show and Reuters both ran stories on “an underground world of ‘re-homing,’ where parents give their children to new caretakers, sometimes people they have met only over the internet, with little or no government oversight.” They focused primarily on two cases–one child adopted as a teen from Liberia and the other adopted at almost 13 from China. In both cases desperate adoptive parents posted online to find a new family for their daughter, no agency was involved, no home study was completed, and no pre-adoption education took place. The children were simply dropped off with the new family presumably with a power of attorney transferring guardianship. The new homes in both cases were a disaster. One family had a record for child abuse, and the other should have.
However, when you dig through the actual 261 cases Reuters list at the bottom of the report, many, perhaps most, of these cases involved an adoption agency, or family working with an adoption agency, seeking a home for a child from an adoption disruption. A home study, with background checks, and adoption education would be required just as with all adoptions. In other words, if there is “an underground world of “re-homing,” where parents give their children to new caretakers, sometimes people they have met only over the internet, with little or no government oversight”, it may not be a very large world, and clearly not as large as is being reported.
Of the 17 postings for children between the ages of 0-4 listed in the Reuters report, only 5 did not clearly state that an agency was involved and a home study would be required. And even in those 5 cases, it is not clear that the families were seeking to re-home on their own without a completed home study. I found the same in a quick sampling of the postings for the other age groups. Here’s a sampling of what I found in the postings for 0-4 year olds:
- An agency looking for a home for a 3 and 5 year old sibling group adopted less than a year ago from Ethiopia. They were up front with the challenges the children face and what type of family would be best. It was clear that a home study and new adoption would be completed.
- Two cases where a family posted asking for advice on what agency or attorney to use to help them find a new family for their child.
- An agency looking for families for two separate kids from disrupted adoption. Stated up front that any family responding must have a home study.
- A mom who adopted from foster care posted seeking advice about how to handle behaviors and her own lack of attachment, not looking for a new family. I would assume this case was included because the word “disruption” was used when she mentioned that he came from an adoption disruption.
I see nothing wrong with looking for families online to adopt harder to place children, as long as no identifying and sensitive information is shared online. (For the record, in some of these postings, far too much sensitive information was shared publicly, in my opinion.) This practice is not new, in fact, it is used by every state in the US to find adoptive homes for children in foster care. I am not familiar with the specific Yahoo and Facebook groups mentioned, but in theory, a group where people understand that these will be harder to parent children with special challenges is a good starting place to find competent families. The next step, of course, is to complete a home study and start preparing them to be successful parents to these children. I wonder if the investigative reporters simply didn’t understand how families are usually found for these children.
The Danger of Defensiveness
It is so easy for those of us who care about adoption to slip into defensive mode. There are all these flaws with the reporting; the problem is not as bad as they state; and on and on. But the reality is that even one case of dumping a child with no home study or preparation is too many. The other reality is that far too many adoptive families are ill prepared for the realities of parenting children who have experienced abuse and neglect. Reading through the postings listed by Reuters on their report were heart-wrenching. While this is not the focus on the Reuters and NBC News investigation, perhaps it should be. They would not have needed to inflate their numbers for that report.
Parents who adopt abused, neglected, and institutionalized kids sometimes feel like they are drowning once they get home. While this feeling is not unexpected in the first months post adoption, with support most families move past it. Others do not. When the situation become unbearable, parents have few options. Residential treatment is expensive and most often not covered by insurance. Relinquishing custody to the state foster care system may require that the parents receive a record of neglect or child abandonment. Some states require parents to remain financially responsible for the child, including the cost of residential treatment.
Once parents have reached the edge of their coping abilities, in my experience they are often hard to help. The key is to be there with support and education as soon as they get home. Once at the edge, they want the child removed, and they want it done immediately.
It is easy to judge from the outside, but you won’t hear that from me. These parents are not evil people; in fact, in my experience they are very often good people who went into adoption with the highest of hopes and best of intents. They are almost always scared and confused. They feel like a failure. Interestingly this mirror the exact feelings the child is experiencing. Failed adoptions are a tragedy for all concerned.
When Adoption Disruption Becomes Inevitable
However, once this point of no return has been reached, there are ways to protect the child. We had a terrific Creating a Family show on How to Disrupt or Dissolve an Adoption When it Become Inevitable. Please share the link to this blog with any groups to which you belong so others can hear this show and use these resources.
Friends, we need to take a serious look at why so many adoptions are failing. Adoption disruptions increase when more children from hard places are placed. (Children “from hard places” is a wonderful phrase by Dr. Karyn Purvis–check out our interview with her.) This is to be expected, but can’t we do better? Let’s start a dialog right now about how to help these kids and help their families.
- Why are the children involved with the “re-homing” described in the report overwhelmingly adopted from abroad? (Reported to be at least 70%)
- How can we better prepare pre-adoptive families for the reality of adopting children who have experienced abuse, neglect, and institutional living?
- Why are parents turning to the Internet to find families to take their troubled children rather than going to their adoption agency?
P.S. This week’s Creating a Family show will be at interview with Dr. Ira Chasnoff on Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposure. Prenatal exposures are one of the risk factors for adoption disruption. Send us any questions you may have to info at CreatingaFamily.org.
Image credit: NBC Today Show
Add Your Comment
why most rehomed older children are from overseas 1) If you adopt from foster care you have education that is relevant to the needs of the child 2) When a child is placed from foster care he is not adopted right away. The parents/child have 6 months or more before legalization,the child can disrupt, reenter care with no rehoming on the web International children are usually adopted in their native country. Post adoption services are local and more accesible when adopting from foster care.
Regina Kupecky LSW
co-author of Adopting The Hurt Child, Parenting the Hurt Child, A Foster-Adoption Story :Angela and Michael’s Journey, and a cozy mystery Mystery of the Multiple Mothers: A Cub County Caper
I spoke with an NBC researcher yesterday. She asked what legislation I though should be passed to prevent the problem of what they call “re-homing”. Out talk left me unsettled. We don’t know how common it is for adoptive parents to find homes on their own without any child protective services or adoption agency involved and no home study required, so it seem premature to be talking about legislation. Also, I wonder if this problem is exclusive to adoptive families. How common is it for biological parents to kick their troubled teen out of the house, or ship them off to live with someone else because they have reached the end of their rope? If fairly common, perhaps we need to be addressing this issue in the context of how to help struggling parents in general.
It seems to me that one of the issues to consider is how this situation is handled legally with biological kids. Each of us likely knows of a family with a teen they can’t handle or are fed up trying to handle. Our homeless shelters and street corners see their share of children “thrown away” or given up on by their parents. What legal recourse does any parent have when they feel that they can no longer be a parent to this child. And does this happen proportionally more often in adopted families than biological families?
Dawn you are so right that families need more help available to them! In my state there are only 2 therapist who understand what the traumatized child is going through. They are life savers to the child and parents!! We in the adoption world have a lot of work ahead of us!
As rough as this article is to read and the negative it brings to the adoption world,,it is positive that it was brought to people’s knowledge,,how else will anything change? And change for the better. I have been telling people about this underground world for years,,the unsafe homes such as the Eason’s,,,,,no family should ever have to endure a situation to the point of desperation, such as these families have in the article. I feel like us who are trying to make a difference in the adoption world are falling short. Thank you for all the education you offer!!
would you like me to try to find out who the producers are, if the shows are live or haven’t been taped yet?
dawn, do you have a publicist? you should really get yourself on these shows to point out the discrepancy here!
I don’t think newer agencies have the experience to start in Eastern Europe with adoptions. I called about one particular child and asked about several guidelines that I know our agency has. They discounted all of them and said that they feel it’s the families’ choice which child they can handle. That seems naïve to me, since a picture can really lie and people often fall in love with an image that a picture gives.
You mirrored my thoughts on the 2 articles I read. I don’t think it’s fair to make the families that feel they have no other choice into villains. I know someone who went through it and it was heart-wrenching. One of the 2 stories featured involved a child that was legally adopted by the 2nd family. In that case, there had to be a homestudy. I do see many agencies that are placing older children from Eastern Europe without the guidelines that used to be present. I also think it’s dangerous that discounts are offered if you adopt 2 children instead of 1 in several of those countries. Having adopted 3 children at 3 different times, I know the adjustment and bonding are grueling. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it would be to bond with 2 children with an institutional background at once.
We adopted two children from Poland in 2011. One is now 13 (girl) and the other 12 (boy). We specifically asked if our son was violent BEFORE we adopted. We were told “No.” He has since admitted that he was violent in the orphanage. They LIED. I’ve been depressed for 3 years. We’re constantly in financial hardship and a LOT of it is because of our violent, destructive RAD son. He has caused PTSD in our daughter and myself. We thought we did the right thing in having him booked for assault back in March but it’s blowing up in our faces. The state chose to put him in a boys’ home after he broke his probation several times. There he gets all the privileges he’s denied at home. He gets points and can trade those points for money. Paying children to behave as they should is a bad idea for ANY kid. Terrible for a RAD kid. So now, he doesn’t want to come home. Of course, the state doesn’t take into consideration his manipulation, triangulation, lack of conscience. They take anything he says as truth. The judge at HIS trial called our attachment therapy “borderline” abusive because we took all his privileges, didn’t let him trick or treat at Halloween and didn’t buy him toys for Christmas. And made him sit for “long periods” which in reality are usually less than 5 minutes long and it’s a yoga pose. My son has hit us, bit, us, scratched us, spat at us, kicked us, thrown things at us, broken my daughter’s door, broke a lock on the door between our rooms, kicked a hole in our wall, lit matches and held them to my comforter on my bed…. The judge pushed us to decide right there in the court room to disrupt our adoption. We aren’t ready for that. But I’m running out of will to fight the state to do what’s right for our son, especially with him working against us. This is way too much stress for anyone to be in and stay healthy.
Gabrielle, I am so sorry for what you, your son, and your family are going through. You need professional help from an adoption competent therapist immediately. Are you seeing a therapist as a family that is knowledgeable about adoption and attachment?
Problems, problems, problems. My wife & I are raising 5 children of our own. I work outside the home, and she works very hard home-schooling 4 of them and running a ballet/dance studio. All of us are active in our church & in the community (sports, dance, theatre). Our oldest child is a Junior in college – she earned a “full ride” via a good ACT score. We are adopting a teenage girl from the Ukraine. I know it will be a hard thing – even though we have love for her,……. but from all I read and hear about adoption – it seems to me the “pro” might as well say, “It so rarely ‘works’, let’s just pull the plug on the whole thing and build “nut houses” for them all to go crazy in”. It’s seems to be all talk about an endless streak of failures – with no hope. We are good friends with 4 families that have successful adoptions of mulitiple kids. All 4 of them have lasted for years and all 4 are successful. Apparently, you all do not know of such cases. I hope you are not offended at success cases. We are committed to succeding in this, even if it takes our whole lives long and all the love we have.
Barry, we do know of these success stories. Many of us are living these success stories. I think most of us are trying to strike a balance between recognizing the likelihood of success and supporting those who are struggling and trying to prevent adoption dissolutions. What we do know is that all adoptive families need education and support before they adopt and AFTER they adopt.
I didn’t personally click every single one of those stories, but the 30 or so I did, dind’t include an agency and weren’t posted by an agency. There was one posted by a third party who was trying to help a family they knew. And the Reuters report is 5 segments and included a lot more than the story of 1 child. You kind of misrepresent that in this treatment of the article. I don’t think the article says anything about dissolutions that are done through legal channels. And I don’t see the benefit in trying to dilute what has happened to many of these children. Instead why don’t we use the report to shock people into pressuring their legislatures for better laws, better support, better training and consequences for violating ICPC.
I found your post because someone called it “more balanced” I don’t see it as balanced. I see it as trying to protect adoptive parents who do stupid things. We should all as adoptive parents be outraged that this has happened to any family. We should be demanding that our lawmakers do something. Not trying to act like the problem isn’t bad.
dmdezigns, I couldn’t agree with you more that we should (and are) outraged that this happened to any family. If only we could snap our fingers, push for a law, and completely solve the problem. I’d be totally on board with that. I fear, however, that the problem if far more complex. I certainly don’t want to diminish what is happening, but before we start trying to solve a problem, don’t we first need to understand its scope. I think this report is a first step, and for that I’m glad, but I don’t think they’ve done much to focus on the scope. Next week’s Creating a Family show will be an attempt to do just that. We will have one of the leading researchers on adoption dissolution on to help us understand scope and causes. We will also have one of the leading legal experts on adoption dissolution. Should be good.
Note that I am NOT blaming the APs in the report. I am just pointing out that sometimes well meaning parents who plan to spank and use other discipline methods might have the opposite reaction to what they planned and they may inadvertantly make things work.
Other scenarios may be where they try to force attachment and they turn to “attachment therapies” – again making things worse.
Better education and evaluation beforehand may help these parents understand the intricacies and difficulties of adopting an older child so that they are able to deal with issues better.
Putting some teeth into ICPC violations then educating child welfare professionals and law enforcement on those issues would be at least a start. Creating some sort of legitimate avenue that is not so punitive to these parents for them to transfer the care of a child to someone else would be another. But, with child welfare being governed primarily at the state level, nothing is going to be legislated that is going to be nationally comprehensive.
Some great comments and a nice balance to the coverage. I would say to the first question that international and transracial adoption has its own particular set of grief-loss issues and racial/cultural/language complexities that both make the struggles of these children especially hard for some of these families. Families can be ill prepared to take on these issues. There’s a belief by some that “love is all you need” and that “colorblind” treatment of these children is the best way to raise them. By downplaying/devaluing their new child’s history and culture, parents of this ilk may be creating identity issues that fuel resentment and anger; the children act out and a cycle begins.
Steve, I have yet to determine if in fact there are more disruptions from international adoption than from US foster care. I have found some research that found that the disruption rate for older child adoption is as high as 25%. (I am trying to get one of the leading researchers in adoption disruption for the Creating a Family show next week to answer some of these questions.) If indeed there are more disruptions from international adoption, I wonder one reason is the really good and honest adoption education provided by most states. Of course, as an adoption educator, I’m going to think that, but it is something to consider.
I think it’s far too easy to blame the problem on lack of preparation or education on the part of the adoptive parents. It takes more than just education of the parents– everyone involved in the child’s life, extended family members, doctors, teachers, etc. also need to be educated on the needs and care of a severely traumatized child. Oftentimes, a parent is educated but is undermined at every turn by the very people who are supposed to be helping them.
Also, there are ethics at play. Especially in adoptions of children abroad, many times crucial information is withheld. Whether it is because of cultural differences, lack of education, or pure lack of ethics, it is simply not okay to hide significant issues (i.e. sexual deviance, seizures, lack of speech, etc.). These issues can be indicative of a much greater issues and while “Not every loving, caring, well-meaning, and spiritually strong family should adopt these children from hard places” even fewer should adopt those with special needs.
I cited this post in my piece that was just published on the Huffington Post.
I’m an adoption worker – let me put that out there first – and there are 3 issues that I see that need to be addressed. First, post-placement reporting is sporadic and somewhat superficial. Workers see the family for maybe an hour and rely largely on family reports, especially with young children. We meet with the children when they are old enough to talk and best practice is to meet 1 on 1 with the child. But often in international adoption the children are not able to communicate well in English. Or, they are too afraid of being sent back to their country (or threatened by AP’s?) that they aren’t honest. More time needs to be allocated for post-placement visits – more frequently and for a longer period of time. We as workers need to be willing to invest the time to establish good relationships with the children so that they will tell us if things aren’t going well.
The other problem is with the adoptive parents. They have to be willing to be honest with the worker if they are struggling. Many families are afraid to admit that they have problems until those problems have escalated beyond control. These families worked with the agency to show them they were qualified and capable of parenting these children. Suddenly they have to be able to say that maybe they need help and it’s hard for most people to put aside their pride and ask for it. (It also helps when the worker makes suggestions and referrals that they follow through.)
The third issue, and this was mentioned above, is that there are not enough qualified, knowledgeable professionals trained in attachment and adoption issues. In graduate school and my first jobs in mental health, I was trained to do diagnoses based on the DSM (and attachment disorder was not truly recognized by the psychiatrists I worked with) and create a treatment plan for those diagnoses. My knowledge of trauma, adoption and attachment was woefully lacking at that time. A study was just released showing that most mental health professionals know little to nothing about adoption issues. Families often can’t afford therapy long-term like it is needed, even with insurance.
I’m in a state that offers adoption preservation services free to families and that is a godsend for many. Therapists go to the home and work with children and parents to improve relationships. Even with that service, there is often a wait list to get in.
We need better trained workers, more time allotted to workers, for families to feel comfortable asking for help earlier rather than later, and more free or very low-cost options for treamtent for families. I think we all in the adoption community need to use these stories, even sensationalized, as a wake-up to work harder and better for these children and families.
Diane, you raise some great points and I agree with all of them. I’d like to throw a couple more into the mix. as was pointed out by The Gang’s Momma, with adoption agencies often placing children in other states, the post adoption support and reports are prepared by a separate agencies. Two agencies, two different standards and expectations may increase the odds of a families and kids falling through the cracks. I also question the consistency of pre-adoption home studies. Some are truly excellent and others…not so much.
I agree with everyone that better post-adoption help needs to be available.
Prevention of course is the best option and thus one needs to make sure that those adopting older children are well educated and prepared for parenting an older adopted child in general. Discipline methods need to be discussed and it needs to made clear to the prospective adoptive parents that discipline that might have “the desired effect” on children raised from birth may not have the same “desired effect” on older children adopted from overseas.
One thing I do notice on adoptive parent forums and blogs is that there is often seems to be an automatic assumption that a “rehomed” child must have had RAD. Now, there definitely are cases when there are major issues because the child was deeply disturbed long before they came to the US and where they may need a new home. However, it seems to be also that there are other cases where the child is basically capable of attachment but where they are feeling bewildered and traumatised after coming to a country which is totally foreign to them in every way. Now, I know that the APs on this blog acknowledge and understand that their child will feel this way and will do everything to help the child acclimatise. However, for other APs who may use stricter discipline, they may try to discipline their older adoptee the same way they do their other children and may find that the result is very different. Please note that I know that no-one on here would use corporal punishment. However, I’ve read blogs and forum posts by many people in adoption about their “right” to use corporal punishment on their adopted children and who plan to use it whether other people like it or not and they may not understand that results might be different than they wish.
I just thought I’d throw that out there as a possible scenario. There have been many discussions of the NBC investigation on rehoming on many other blogs and forums and one thing that I find worrying is that often there is an automatic assumption that the teenagers on the show who were rehomed must have had RAD and subsequently there seems to be automatic sympathy for the adoptive parents. Then there is often a long discussion about the horrors of RAD. However, there is no evidence either way that all or even if any of the girls had RAD.
Also, as a bye the bye, what’s with people adopting older children out of birth order?
C, as to your last point–adopting out of birth order can definitely complicate things for families. I believe it is possible to be done successfully, but it does take special preparation and a lot of thought.
Dawn, YOu have written so much of what I was thinking as I looked at that article yesterday. While there are problems with the system, as a former journalist, I do feel the article was very skewed. I also believe that those who are not out in the adoption community who do see posts from those who want to help with valid adoption situations do not understand it. I too looked at the individual posts–interesting they were not readily listed for people to see–you have to go to each individual “person” on the screen to see. I agree–we should be in constant motion to make all aspects of adoption better–especially for the children involved but I think this particular article will lead to more misunderstanding by the general public, which will lead to no progress for anyone. Thank you for what you do, Dawn–I know you pinch pennies to do but what a great gift for those who are seeking real information!
Once again, you’ve handled the hot and sensitive topic at hand evenly and wisely. Thank you so much. One thing that I’ve always been concerned about and see as a point of potential failure (grand scale as these stories featured down to “slipping through the cracks” types of smaller failures equally) is the lack of consistency in the homestudy, placing, and post-study processes. For example, should a parent choose a NON-full service type of agency or an agency without licensing rights in one’s state, that parent then needs to find a home-study agency to be compliant for the process, correct? The placing agency must at that point relinquish some sense of control of the process, or oversight if you will. PLUS, that’s now two (or more?) viewpoints into the family’s homelife – thereby creating the potential for inconsistent enforcement of and interpretation of adoption standards and agency practices. THEN, the same can and often does happen for post-placement studies. Which, again, creates opportunity for more inconsistencies. In my limited experience, I’m thinking that those inconsistencies and additional viewpoints into the family life rarely work for a greater good when someone is choosing different agencies for the purposes of hiding or defrauding.
What concerns me even more is that those who are seeking to hide or de-fraud the system (lie on home study, lie on post placement, etc.) are often way more savvy and certainly LESS OVERWORKED AND OVER-CASE-LOADED than the “professionals” that they are working with and have the time to seek out those with a “less than excellent” standard of reporting. NOT that I’m saying any of those professionals are complicit but certainly not as intentional maybe as the de-frauder might be.
Does any of this make sense? I guess what I’m saying is that I’d love to see more agencies provide the full range of services as one (albeit fairly small) method of improvement – moving toward “self-regulation” within the industry via more consistent enforcement of standards and already written law.
It feels like it is probably pretty idealistic but it’s always an issue I’ve been concerned about and actually witnessed abuse of (tho not in criminal ways!), so it’s been brewing in my head since this story broke.
Typically the foster care system at least offers Medicaid and other assistance to adoptive families as well as assistance with alternative placements.
I agree that the article series is focusing on the worst cases, but it minimizes it a bit to say it involves only two families. Yes, they mostly talk about two receivers in the underground network — but look at the number of families placing that were involved! For the Easons, they took in at least 6 different kids from 6 different families. For the other family, weren’t 11 of the 17 kids in that home there with only guardianship, not adoption, paperwork? Seems to me the network is larger after all.
Malinda, that is true. I wasn’t saying only two kids. In fact, the Reuters series continued today and reported on others that ended up with the Easons, as you point out. I think there are likely more families and more kids. The series did a good job of pointing our how kids can fall through the cracks. I still think, however, that they are either confused or needed to boost the numbers, when they cite the large numbers on the yahoo and Facebook groups. I have no idea how common it is and even if it is only involving two abusive families, that is too many. And I doubt it involves only two, but is likely not as common as they portrayed it either.
Kimberly, You’re welcome.
Barbara – great point. If you cannot afford the costs of an adoption then you shouldn’t adopt as there are many costs after that pile up too. That is a requirement up here in Ontario Canada, to show that you can afford the kids as well. Pretty useless to adopt children to families that cannot handle the various responsibilities and costs that go along with children.
Well to start, the agencies need to stop approving parents who can’t afford international adoption. If you don’t have the money to pay the minimal cost of a homestudy ( compared to the total fees for any international adoption) without fundraising, go home, get 50k in savings and come back after you’ve Etsy’d, car washed, raffled and SF your baked goods. Then we’ll talk. And have a plan for respite, have kick ass medical insurance and spend some time when you’re not hand crafting your starfish jewelry to educate yourself
Kids are expensive . Mine came with a cleft lip and palate and the amounts spent on surgeries and therapy co-pays are significant. My other one has CP and her shoes alone!!! $60 plus $50 for a lift and the fact that she drags her foot means replaced every $ix week$
The reason the series focused on underground channels for re-homing adopted kids is because it’s clearly the wild, wild west out there. Finding a new family for the adopted kid you no longer want through an adoption agency or ICPC-compliant channel? Not so many problems, given there is a legitimate homestudy and *some* oversight, thus no story.
The fact that folks merrily post “free to a good home” ads for their unwanted adopted kids is appalling – relinquishing the kid to CPS might involve charges of neglect and paying child support until that kid (the kid they are LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR) is an adult, yes, but dropping said child off at the home of a stranger you met over the internet is better?? Really??
It sounds as if some shady internet “rehoming” groups have been shut down… but there are still tons of them out there. Heck, there are adoptive mommies like Christine who regularly posts “free to a good home” adverts for kids on her blog. She merrily provides “guardianship respite” for other people’s troubled children, without a homestudy or a security check… and that’s on top of her brood of SEVENTEEN (!) adopted kids, mostly high-needs, special needs adopted kids.
(17+ kids in a single family? It’s basically an unofficial group home. There’s an excellent change a medically complex kid would receive more individual one on one attention in a group home than chez Christine).
Lisa ____ is a self-proclaimed expert on parenting kids from “hard places”, yet merrily shipped her severely mentally ill adopted daughter “Dimples” off to a ghastly, unlicensed Ranch for Kids in Montana. A place where there are no on-site licensed professionals (teachers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, etc) – thus no treatment for a very, very brain-sick kid:
(Let’s pretend “Dimples” has fallen on her leg and is in a ton of pain. Lisa elects NOT to seek treatment from a doctor… that’s straight-up medical neglect of a physical problem! Sending a mentally ill kid to a place with no doctors is medical neglect too! Period).
Lisa shipped her severely mentally ill so off to a Bible-based wilderness camp – where there are no licensed professionals to treat her boy J. She thinks he’s gonna be healed by the Bible alone. It’s theoretically possible, but it’s the equivalent of praying over your kid’s badly broken leg. It’s neglect. What kind of person does this??
Each and every one of the adoptive families who didn’t go through appropriate channels to ensure their unwanted adopted kid found a new family better suited to their needs ought to be 1) prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (i.e. handing your kid over to a sex offender with a fake homestudy is SURELY a crime) and 2) have ALL their kids (including their biological ones, who presumably did not get shipped off to the sex offender) removed. Any parent with judgement bad enough to hand an adopted kid over to a stranger at truck stop CLEARLY should not be responsible for minors.
Carlee, you’re probably right that the reason they highlighted the stories that they did was because they were more sensational and the more common story of a family in over their head trying to find a new family working through an agency is not news worthy. My complaint is that they didn’t make this distinction; rather, they counted them all as if they were all dumping the kids with heaven-only-knows-whom at truck stops. In no way, however, am I trying to suggest that it is ever excusable to do not work through proper channels, simply that the data they used to support there investigation suggests it is not as common as they suggest.
Kristina, publicist?!? We’re an adoption education nonprofit who counts pennies very closely–too closely for a publicist. 🙂 Someone else has suggested that we try to reach out to either NBC or Reuters. Yes, I’d love the help in finding out who the producers are. Or how to contact the reporter. I’d love to give her a chance to enter into the dialog as well.
Yes!! Loved this article. I wanted to respond to the question, “Why are the children involved with the “re-homing” described in the report overwhelmingly adopted from abroad?” 5 years ago we fostered an 11 year old boy (6th grade) for a year. We were given “temporary guardianship” during that time. His care order was through the State. Unfortunately, our family was not the right fit for him. My oldest at the time was 6 years old and we had 2 babies at home. To make a long story short, a year lady he had to be rehomed. He was taken from our home and moved 2 streets over into another home with an older couple and he’s thriving all under a temporary guardianship order. Perhaps the reason the statistics are overwhelmingly high internationally is because there are so many temporary guardianships domestically and it doesn’t paint an accurate picture. The “Hard cases” domestically stay under a temporary guardianship order and not an adoption.
Sheila, that’s a good point and one I hadn’t thought of as to why there seem to be more disruptions from international adoptions. Although, that begs the real question: are there more disruptions/dissolutions of adoptions from foster care or is the rate about the same for all adoptions of older children who have experienced abuse and neglect?
If the process of “re-homing” is not done through the proper legal means then it is not “re-homing” or a “disruption” it is child trafficking.
I wonder if laws stipulating custody of adopted children may not be relinquished without the involvement of the placing agency or state and adoptive parents had to sign acknowledgement of that law would be a useful starting point.
How many children out of the quarter million adopted since 1999 have been “re-homed.”
I wonder how the numbers compare with non-adopted children? If the numbers are similar then this is NOT just an adoption issue and really changes this conversation.
Certainly we need to examine each case to identify what might have helped prevent this from happening but I’m wary of a previous comment that this sort of thing happens all the time. If it happened all the time it would not likely be in the news.
Other adoption horror stories do tend to demonstrate that perhaps certain states and adoption agencies do a lack luster job of parent education and support for families. Our agency did such a great job of preparing us including showing us a shocking video from a child’s perspective to drive home the types of abuse they may have experienced and the difficult challenges we might face as a result. As an early childhood professional I’m very comfortable seeking supportive services for our family and our agency and adoption clinic have been great, but I know one of the biggest barriers is parents willingness and comfort with reaching out whether or not there child was adopted.
I seem to recall though I couldn’t say where I read this that adopted children had lower rates of abuse then the standard population and that the theory was that often parents were older, more educated and had better resources, which seems plausible. Dawn, do you know if this is factual? Conversely adopted children are at an increased risk for abuse because they may have experienced abuse or neglect and may have challenging behaviors as a result.
I have read research both ways–adopted kids are less likely to be abused and that they are more likely to be abused. I’ll try to look into that.
There are both private and government based training, both have the same requirements but the ‘free’ one (govt) takes forever to get in so many pay the cost to do private. We had, if I recall correctly, 28 hours of in-class time which included some heart breaking videos and had a birth mom and adoptees and adopt parents come in for talks. There was talk about private, public, and foreign adoptions. Homework too of course. Lots of books and support provided. You are expected to come with your partner if you have one but they do allow just one to do the program if needed (work reasons and the like). It is called PRIDE training (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education).
Barbara, I hear your point both about the quality of some home studies and the financial incentives of adoption agencies to approve families. I personally would love to see much greater adoption education requirements and specified topics that must be covered. More than what is currently required under the Hague Treaty. 10 hours is not enough. I’d also like to see every agency be required to provide ongoing education/ support once the child is home.
John, is the required adoption education in Canada the same regardless of the type of adoption and who gives the training. Private agencies? The government?
It happens ALL THE TIME. There’s a pretty heavy movement thru some very evangelical churches to “rescue” orphans. I know of several placements of older and troubled kids with families who really have no idea what they’re doing, only a confused idea of why they’re doing it.
Suzy, great point about the fact that there had to be a homestudy done for the second adoption. Of course, you have to really question how involved that home study was if they missed the abuse that was actually occurring. And I shudder when I hear of agencies placing older kids from abroad without extensive preparation pre-adoption and support post-adoption.
Excellent article, Dawn! Thank you!
Kim, thank you for pointing out that with support these kids can and do thrive. They are not all permanently damaged goods.
Barbara – that is horrible that the social worker will pass anyone who belongs to her church. She should be doing all of the follow through and checks that are needed to ensure these people are A) capable of raising a child and B) not getting in over their head. Last time I checked criminals can belong to churches, as can bad parents as well as good parents and law abiding citizens. To just go by ‘I know you’ or ‘you belong to my church’ as a method of deciding if someone is appropriate to adopt is lazy at best and criminal at worst.
As a mom to a now 11 yr old Russian-born daughter, adopted by my husband and I at the age of 5 years after she was re-homed to us when her first adoptive family felt they could no longer meet her needs one year into their placement–I’m grateful that this information is being made more public in the hopes that agencies will be able to better prepare and provide post- adopt support to ALL adoptive families regardless of the path their choose to bring their children home. Our daughter’s first adoptive family was fortunately able to outreach to their placing agency for assistance in locating a new family for her AND my husband and I obtained our foster-to-adopt license from the state with addt’l training in theraputic parenting. As a result, we felt well prepared to meet our daughter’s needs and after 7 months of post-placement visits, we were able to finalize her 2nd adoption- this time with us. This extra layer of loss has certainly complicated her healing…and comes up frequently in our weekly therapy sessions. 6 years in…and she’s a different child. So much happier, better able to express her feelings. I really think this comes down to realistic expectations, preparedness, and intervening EARLY when problems are identifiied.
I don’t think legal disruption or dissolution should be covered in same breath as “underground networks finding homes for kids”. The vulnerable that passes out of the public eye could be in grave danger. We talk about that terminology for birth mothers all the time that abandonment and relinquishment are not the same thing. In a relinquishment the mother was looking after well being of her child. Child dumping/swapping/trafficking is not disruption/dissolution. Calling it so is sugarcoating the event and confuses topic possibly dangerously with a legal event. Its the same as calling kidnapping illegal adoption. Kidnapping is not illegal adoption. Its kidnapping. Child abandonment or swapping is not legal disruption or dissolution ensuring child is turned over to authorities to oversee their safety. Lastly, discussing what is wrong with the kids or their special needs that somehow explains the adults actions leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I cringe at the stigmatization of those without a voice. Maybe they did have issues that the parent couldn’t deal with. Or maybe in some of these cases the kid was a kid with kid issues and there is really nothing in the world wrong with them and the parents have issues. Maybe the child is being discredited to cover for an abuser. I’ve seen articles indicating a level of callousness and cunning of five year olds who are not cognitively capable of that which they are accused of and the adult is the hapless victim. Thats as crazy as adults being seduced by children. Or unconscious teenagers making people rape them. Or spouses making the other spouse beat them. Some of society is just messed up in the head. Explaining actions of adults involved with kids moving around with no oversight gives it legitimacy and can be used to cover for some really foul events. I can see where people who went through a legal dissolution are pained enough on the topic that they don’t want it confused with this. Its the same as adoptive parents not wanting kidnapping or child trafficking to be called illegal adoption. Seriously, how do we know whether these kids are buried under a porch somewhere? We don’t. When noone can account for whereabouts of a child or there is no clear guardianship its not “re-homing” and shouldn’t be called such.
Lisa, [Child dumping/swapping/trafficking is not disruption/dissolution.] Exactly, the greatest flaw in the Reuters and NBC News reporting is that they failed to recognize this distinction.
It’s a well written article. I think one of the biggest issues is money. Intl adoptions are expensive and agencies are pretty likely to turn a blind eye to subtle warning signs if someone is able to show up with $40 k in cash. If they pass all the background checks, and a social worker passes them in a homestudy… I know of at least one social worker who belongs to a very pro-adoption evangelical church and she’ll pass any church member who applies to adopt.
What is most needed is support right after an adoption. For our first year or so after adopting the supports were pathetic. I understand why – children support services are grossly underfunded as the people affected don’t have the money or time to lobby government for support or to beg businesses to step in and help (nor are there good advertising possibilities thus another prevention from getting business involved). We now have good supports but it needed two community groups after we moved to a new town to get solid support (the ones in the old area and the ones in the new one plus ones from where the kids were adopted from). And this was for a domestic adoption. I cannot picture how many more hurdles you get when it is a foreign adoption. This is in Canada where we at least have public health care and far better supports and laws than in the US (from what I can see).
So what should happen? When someone wants to adopt they must take classes (mandatory here in Ontario) regardless of domestic, private or foreign adoption. They must have a homestudy completed. They must have a criminal check done. Regardless of adoption or ‘re-homing’. Otherwise you are NOT looking out for the best interests of the child. Ideally you also have a test to see what types of issues you are most likely to be able (and not able) to deal with (some companies do this for new employees in order to see if they can handle phone calls or doing sales visits, etc). Once that is done you find a child (or children) and do visits etc. to ensure all appears good to start with a few visits ideally first before moving in full-time. Now, with the children at the new home, you arrange for therapy so the children can learn to cope with the many issues that come from being adopted (feelings of loss, confusion, etc.) and the therapy needs to continue for years as different issues come up at different ages. Continuing education for the parents, or at least support groups where others who have adopted will be so they can see certain problems are common and learn how to best deal with it so the children have as good a chance at a good life as possible.
Or we can continue down the path of ‘screw it’ and just let kids fall by the wayside and often (not always of course) end up having trouble getting anywhere in life – ending up with a poor job or jobless, homeless, in prison, or even dead at a young age. If supports are not there for the families then that is the direction a lot will end up in. You can spend govt money today and get most to be good citizens (work hard, raise families, contribute to society) or pocket it today and spend 10 times as much when those kids who were ignored and forgotten come back angry and bitter then wonder why they are that way.
Well, I don’t think fundraising has anything to do with anything. It’s the same thing as saying that only the rich should adopt. And what does that have to do with the support one gets after adoption? Nothing.
I know in the US, foster care SWs are so overworked, some can’t even manage to call parents back. How are they going to provide support for families who are struggling?
When it comes to kids from overseas, some of the kids who were adopted many years ago, those agencies may no longer be operating. My understanding is that many have closed, or merged with other agencies, due to countries closing, the Hague Treaty, ethical concerns, and so on.
But all of this underscores the need for Federal-level adoption laws and reforms. If all states played by the same rules, and those rules were known by all authorities, it would be more difficult for parents who shouldn’t be adopting to adopt and more difficult for kids to be “re-homed” improperly.
Dawn-great article! I have the contact info for a Dateline producer. Maybe she can put you in touch with someone. Email me if you are interested.