Adoption Dissolution – Facing the Unimaginable

Today we would like to introduce you to Lucy Armistead, the Executive Director at All Blessings Inc. While everything Lucy writes in this Part One piece is accurate, it is important to know that not all families disrupt or dissolute their adoptions because of the following information. Again, as always, we ask that you read and learn rather than read and judge. You can never fully understand someone’s decision until you’ve been in their shoes.

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Part One.

You may have heard the terms adoption disruption and dissolution.  A disruption occurs when a prospective adoptive family decides they cannot parent an adoptive child BEFORE the adoption has finalized in court.  A dissolution is when an adoptive placement ends AFTER court finalization.   Both take a considerable toll on both the adoptive child(ren) and the adoptive family. Adoption disruptions are more common with domestic non infant adoptions; whereas international adoptions that end are almost exclusively dissolutions because the adoptions are typically finalized overseas, often before an adoptive family has even met their adoptive child(ren).  This factor cannot be overstated and can be likened to marrying someone without having met them, which would certainly present considerable challenges. (For the sake of brevity, I am using the term dissolution in this article to speak to both situations, although the legal requirements do differ.)

Families entering into an adoption are filled with great expectations for the life that they will soon be welcoming into their family.  Although they may have heard stories of adoptions gone wrong, these worries seem far away when in the midst of paperwork, planning and dreaming about their expanding family.  Although families adopting internationally receive a minimum of 10 hours of education on adoption issues, in reality many educational curriculums gloss over the hardships that can be faced by families adopting children from hard places.  Very rarely is it pointed out that the resources for adoptive families are exorbitantly expensive and often simply unavailable in many parts of the country.

The most common reason for dissolutions is because of problematic sexual behaviors on the part of the adoptive child.  Some children adopted from overseas have inevitably been exposed to sexual behaviors, possibly in their family of origin and frequently within an orphanage setting.  Children in orphanages are often supervised minimally, making sexual play and/or predatory behavior quite common.  In addition, in most orphanages at night large groups of children are bunking together with no adult supervision.  Children who have not been exposed to sexual behaviors prior to arriving at an orphanage are easily exposed by older children, most often of the same gender.

Adoptive parents rarely consider this same gender sexual play when planning bedrooms for newly adopted children and unwittingly expose the children already in the home to sexually reactive behaviors that may or may not be predatory in nature.  Evaluating whether sexual behaviors are predatory or not is difficult with children and must be assessed not only by the age of the child, but also by the nature and characteristics of the sexual acting out.   Years ago, our agency conducted post adoption services for a family who had adopted a sibling group from Eastern Europe.  The oldest, age 7, was discovered to be threatening the other children and pushing objects into their sexual orifices, as well as other sexually abusive behaviors. This child was clearly acting in a predatory manner and the family ultimately decided that they could not keep all the children in their home safe while parenting him.

Keeping birth order in tact is one safeguard that prospective adoptive families would be wise to consider.  Families considering dissolution often have adopted a child older than one or more children already in the home.  This places the younger child(ren) at increased risk.  An adoptive family independently adopted two sisters from Latin America after knowing the children for approximately four years through multiple overseas trips.  Eventually they learned that the adoptive children were sexually assaulting their biological daughter who was several years younger.  After obtaining residential therapy for their adoptive daughters, counseling for the entire family and extensive efforts they ultimately chose to dissolve their adoption because they could not keep all the children safe in their home.

Another reason cited for adoption dissolutions is reactive attachment disorder.

Check back tomorrow for the completion of Armistead’s article.

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