An adoption disruption is an adoption process that ends after the child is placed in an adoptive home, but before the adoption has been legally finalized; resulting in the child returning to, or entering foster care, or placement with new adoptive parents.
The term dissolution is used to describe an adoption that ends after it has been legally finalized; resulting in the child’s return or entry into foster care, or placement with a new adoptive family.
Families whom are struggling with exact or similar issues to the ones below may be in danger of facing adoption disruption:
- Misinformed about the child’s special needs
- The child sufferes from severe abuse, neglect, drug exposure, and/ or mental health issues
- Having unrealistic expectations
- Using the child’s response to you as a parent to gage parenting abilities, rather than having compassion for their pain and allowing time to grieve and adjust
- Poor or lack of education and training from the adoption agency
- Failing to access resources for the child
- Believing that love alone will fix things
- Unresolved infertility Issues
- Adopting for selfish motivations, and being disappointed when the child ?doesn't appreciate what's been done ‘for them.’
- Lack of a strong support system
- Conflict with other children in the home
- Having rigid and numerous “rules”
- Both parents are not equally committed to, or parenting the child
- One or both parents are not willing to compromise the lifestyle they had before the new child came home
- Lacking a sense of entitlement to the child.
- Financial strain brought on either by the adding the child to the home or by sudden change in the household such as loss of employment, or moving to a new home, just after the child arrived
- Marital problems arising from difference in opinions on how to handle the child’s special needs
- Family lacks communication and coping skills
- Failure to develop roles, attach, and integrate as a family.
The decision to disrupt or dissolve an adoption is not an easy one, nor is it one to be taken lightly, or made rashly out of anger. Before reaching any decisions about the child’s future be sure to ask yourself the following and examine if you have truly done everything possible on your end to make this placement work:
- What interventions have I put in place specifically for my child?
- What interventions have I put in place for the rest of the family?
- Have I done enough to educate myself about the needs of my child?
- What have I done to support the needs of the adoptive child as well as the family?
- Have I done everything possible to attach and bond with my child even after feeling rejected?
- Have I allowed the child a chance to attach and bond with me? (A minimum of one month for each year of life before any slight change is expected)
- Am I taking the child’s bad behaviors personally instead of looking objectively at the past my child must overcome?
- What support systems have I put in place for my family?
- Am I being realistic with my expectations?
- Is this a temporary crisis or permanent problem?
- Have I attempted to modify my lifestyle and/or parent approaches to meet the child’s needs?
- Is there anything that I haven’t yet tried that could help?
- What is best for my adoptive child as well as for the family?
- Have I put my child’s needs before my own?
If you have already thought of and tried all of the above without elicting any changes within the situation, then an adoption dissolution may be in the best interest of you and your family. While it will pain the family immensely, sometimes the best thing that you can do for a child, is to let a family who is better equipt at handling the special needs of the child do the parenting.
How do you disrupt or dissolve an adoption?
You will need to contact the agency that is handling your adoption if it is not yet finalized, or another agency which handles adoption dissolutions, which is sometimes called ‘replacement,’ or ‘re-homing’, and speak with them about your plans to re-home your child. An adoption dissolution is not the time to hire a lawyer to do a private adoption, trained adoption professionals need to be involved for the sake of the child! Although it is an extremely emotionally charged time, it is important that you be as factual and level headed with your adoption worker as possible so that a valid assessment of the child and his or her special needs can be conducted. Positive or negative exagerations of the child’s behavior will not help to paint an accurate picture of what type of home will best suit the child’s needs. The complete assessment of the child will be made through a series of documents and reports, which will give your adoption worker a global understanding of your child and what he or she needs in order to thrive.
The assessment will include:
- Interviews with the family
- Interviews with any professional regularly seen by the child
- Any psychological testing or reports
- Background information received by parents at the time of the child’s placement
- Child’s health records
- Child’s educational transcripts
This assessment ensures that your child’s new adoptive family will know what behaviors and issues they are signing on for, allowing them the benefit of planning in advance for whatever interventions and safety plans are needed in the home before the child arrives, as well as deciding ahead of time if they can suitably meet the specific demands of parenting the child; both of which greatly increase the chances of a successful new adoptive placement for the child.
Potential adoptive families will be extensively interviewed, to ensure their complete understanding of the child’s needs, as well as to assess both their experience and ability to meet those needs.
The child should have the opportunity to continue any positive attachments that he or she has, both during, and after transitioning into their new adoptive placement. Determine the attachment level your child has to the individuals currently in his or her life, as well as the level of openness, if any, would be most appropriate in order to sustain them. if biological siblings are to be separated during the transitioning process, some level of openness should occur for the sake of the sibling bond. Suffering broken attachments will only serve in further emotional damage to the child and make forming attachments in the new home that more difficult.
Once the adoptive family who is best suited to meet the needs of the child has been chosen, you will have the opportunity to view pictures, speak with them over the phone, or even meet with them in person. This will help you to feel more at ease with the actual replacement, giving you the comfort of knowing first hand that all your child’s need’s will be met. Additional information about the new family can also be shared with your child when it comes time to speak about the re-homing, which can help to ease some of his or her concerns and fears about their new family.
While all of this is going on the legal aspect of the process, will begin. Either the adoption agency or an attorney will help you with terminating your parental rights. Some states require a court appearance for this, while others allow for the signing of the surrender papers to happen in front of a notary, attorney, or an adoption agency representative.
You will need the following for termination:
- Original birth certificate
- Original social security card
- Original adoption decrees
- Medicaid card (if applicable)
- Adoption subsidy information, if applicable
Intercountry adoption also require:
- Original passport
- Citizenship certificate
Some children will require more time to transition to their new adoptive home than others will. Extra counseling for the child may be necessary during this emotionally confusing and painful time.
As soon as your parental rights have been legally terminated, it is important to notify the child’s:
- Health insurance company/ Medicaid
- State, Federal, or other Subsidies
- Previous agency for internationally adopted child
Telling your child
Even though it will be painful for all involved, honesty is always the best policy, especially when dealing with the highly emotional process of telling the child about his or her upcoming transition into a new adoptive home. Do not make promises that you cannot keep, or give excuses that are untrue in order to make what is happening seem easier on either one of you.
It is important that the child understand:
- This is not their fault
- They are worthy of love
- They are worthy of acceptance
- Their needs are important and deserve to be met
- They are allowed to be sad about leaving the family
- They are allowed to love their new family
- They are allowed to be happy in their new family
Placing blame on the child for the disruption will not only result in him or her carrying that blame with them into their next placement making the adjustment, attachment, and bonding process even more difficult there, but in every relationship that the child has from that point forward as well. The complexities of an adoption disruption or dissolution are simply too much for a child to carry on his or her shoulders alone.
- Why Do Some Adoptions Fail?
- Plan, Prepare, and Support to Prevent Disruptions
- Adoption Disruptions and Dissolutions: Numbers and Trends