It Must Seem Like There’s No Alternative
It’s not easy to understand why a parent would give their child to a stranger they find on the Internet. It is without qualification a terrible decision. Still, it begs the question, what could leave a parent so careless to their child’s safety and well-being?
With November being National Adoption Month, beautiful stories about forever families are circulating—stories that are at once heartwarming and heart-wrenching. It’s never easy to hear the circumstances that necessitate actions to find safety and permanency for a child, but it’s such a comforting conclusion when the loving intervention of adoption follows.
Some onlookers would say at this point, “She has a new family and all of her problems are over. She has a happy ending. She has a good life now.” But for [an adopted] child, even after getting taken out of their bad situation they still have a lot to go through. Some will go through it for the rest of their life. It defines them. –Angela
While finalization may conclude their adoption legalization, it is really just the beginning of a child’s healing. We must recognize that even the most providential adoption is still rooted in loss. By definition, children and youth leave a connection with birth family and caregivers to be adopted.
One of the hardest things to reconcile in my heart is the fact that my greatest gift was your greatest heartbreak. To me, adoption is a miracle, fate solidified, an act of God. To you, adoption is separation, differentness, a missing piece. –Elise
In the worst situations, adopted children not only leave all they have known, but all they have known was abuse, neglect and/or deprivation. This is why the core issues of adoption are grief and trauma and why finding a permanent family is a start, but not by itself a solution. Cultural differences, attachment and bonding challenges, and special needs add to the complexity of new families forming in the wake of that grief and trauma. With this in mind, it’s not hard to understand why families need support to ensure that adopted children can focus on healing and never again experience the loss of family. There is not an exact count of the number of completed adoptions that fail under these pressures but it is estimated to be between one and ten percent.
To be sure, “re-homing” is not the same as a dissolved adoption. It is an unregulated, private transfer of custody to an un-vetted stranger. It leaves already vulnerable children at serious risk of maltreatment and exploitation. It is a sad reality that sometimes adoptions don’t work, but “re-homing” is a deviant and dangerous way to dissolve an adoption. So long as any parent feels there is no alternative but “re-homing,” then we must do more to help families succeed, and when they cannot, we must be sure they have access to safe and appropriate ways for meeting the child’s need for a loving family.
Pre-adoption preparation and post-adoption supports such as respite care, counseling, therapy, support groups and parent education and training help parents meet the specific needs of their adopted children and can be the key to preserving adoptive families. Trauma-informed, attachment-focused, and adoption-competent services should be readily available for all adoptive families. A coalition of national organizations including CWLA have specified how we can make this happen. This is one way the federal government can act to stop “re-homing.”
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