Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Other Families' "Disrupted Adoptions" Hurt Mine

Note made on 12/11/14: 
Since I'm getting a lot of traffic and some anticipated backlash from my mention in this Yahoo article: "Giving Away 'Anatoly Z'" I'd like to take a moment to defend myself.

With it being such a long article with so much information about the specific families involved in this one child's life, the author clearly didn't have space to share more that she and I spoke about on the phone. I realize in the article I do come across as a little harsh and insensitive and I would like to assure you my anger comes from a place of hurt. I know plenty of foster and adoptive families that struggle with difficult placements, some even making the heart wrenching decision to place their children in Residential Treatment Centers but never considering un-adopting them. The one family that I knew that did decide to disrupt their adoption had, as far as I and our mutual friends could tell, no problems that weren't to be expected and did not reach out at all to us, their local adoptive family community, for assistance. I struggle all the time with my feelings about what happened and my compassion and understanding ebbs and flows but I keep coming back around to feeling that my adopted children are hurt by this. Is it illogical? It might be, it might not be. But I know that I continue to grieve and struggle with this constantly.

Lastly, my "normal" people quote was taken out of context. If you read my original essay below, you will see I meant "normal" as regular people as opposed to diplomats or celebrities.


The first time I had heard about it, it was about a rich diplomat in a foreign country. It was a sensationalized news story that happened far away. It was an anomaly, for sure: normal people don’t just “un-adopt” their children.

Then came similar stories featuring regular people in my own country. Next came the exposé on a major new source reporting on the growing trend of “rehoming*” adopted children, particularly internationally adopted ones. Perhaps the most troubling part was the lack of oversight in the securing of the new homes: some parents had taken to looking online to find a new family for their adopted children. Stories emerged of children already twice traumatized being sent to pedophiles and abusers.

Each time my heart ached for these children and then I’d be filled with outrage at their parents. How dare they? How could they give up these children they said they were dedicated to for life? A few of my friends tried to help me find sympathy for the families, to save my disgust for those adoption agencies that saw dollar signs before warning signs. They encouraged me to direct my anger at those organizations that did not provide adequate screening of families before placing children with them or proper follow-up and support afterwards. I tried.

Then last fall it happened in my local adoption community.

This time my outrage came coupled with anger and pain. Again and again I tried to find sympathy for the family that made this decision; again and again I failed. I had countless conversations with friends about it: improper screening. Poor decision-making. Lack of familial support. Repeatedly I dipped into my wells of compassion and came up dry. I asked myself how could I, a woman who could find a way to forgive the stranger that held a knife to my throat and raped me, not find compassion for this family?

And when I was asked the question: “What are you going to tell your kids about it?” I realized why--because ultimately this isn’t about hurting me. This affects what I hold most sacred: this hurts my children. This harms my family.

As an adoptive parent, I fight against the notion that I’m not my adopted children’s “real” mother or they’re not my “real” children. I see more and more stories online about families deciding to keep their biological children and “rehome” the adopted ones. There is outrage, yes, but there are also growing numbers of commenters pledging understanding and support for the family’s “brave” decision. As this acceptance becomes more commonplace, it chips away at the public’s perceived validity of my family. It promotes an idea that when it gets too hard, we can give them away—but just the adopted ones, of course. Never would there be such widespread acceptance of the giving away of the “real” children.

Each time we went to court to finalize our adoptions, I found it odd how many times the Judge asked us, “Do you understand that from now on, it will be just as if you had given birth to this child?” Of course we understood! When we adopted them, yes, we meant they would be our children for life, just like when we gave birth to the others.

It’s true our adopted children each came to us as infants and none of them have had any atypical behaviors for us to deal with so far. They’ve never acted out in any ways that have physically or emotionally hurt anyone else in our family. They’ve never needed any specialized therapy nor have we due to parenting them.  But they are young yet; those challenges may be coming in the future.

Guess what else is true? The same exact statements could be made about our biological children. Who’s to say which of these five children will ever cause us heartache and strife? If there comes a point when raising any of them becomes insanely difficult, we will find the resources needed to stay together. This is our family. Adoption Having children is forever, no matter how they come.

So what are we going to tell the children? We’ve decided that, for as long as possible, we’re not going to tell them anything about it. Just like we protect them from stories of murder or kidnapping, we will shield them from this until they are older. We don’t want to worry their young minds with this. For as long as we can, we won’t let them know that “un-adopting” is a possibility.

Because in our family, it isn’t.


*"Rehoming" and "Disrupted Adoptions" have become the euphemisms for voluntarily relinquishing one’s adopted child.


  1. Thank you for writing this. When I here about "rehoming" which is sadly often used in people placing ads for "free" animals--that there will be a "rehoming" fee associated--it brings tears to my eyes, and the recent letter to the editor from an adoptive mother who did just that and was looking for understanding and mercy brought tears and anger. The gall to make it public and look for understanding actually infuriated me. And I wish I had written a letter back and now I think just simply said "No, I don't understand." As you said, it is something one would never do with a biological child--or is the world coming to that?

  2. Cheryl Mancine-SaltzmanMarch 26, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    Wow. This made me cry. Eloquent and beautiful and thoughtful and thought-provoking. You are so spot on you should be the spokesperson for this abomination that is "re-homing." I admire you, and am so happy that all of your children have you for a mother.

  3. Very nicely written!! As a stepmom of 1, biological mom of 4 and adoptive mom of 2 (so far), I would like to say that I have seen this firsthand and it is incredibly painful for all involved. We had a foster boy transitioning to a pre-adopt home and after 2 overnights, they changed their mind and we were left to deal with a 7 year who had no idea what had happened. He asked countless questions and thought it was his fault. It was tough but we got him through it

  4. My heart is filled for you and also aches for you. Parenthood is a lifelong commitment. period. I can't imagine how someone can just "rehome" (which is a word I detest) a human being. People are not pets or furniture you don't want anymore. You are so right that you don't know which of your children will cause you heartache and really all of them will at some point. If you can't fully love another human being regardless of where they came from then please don't adopt. I have 4 step-children but I HATE that word because it seems like they are less than my biological children. I often say I have 6 kids, 2 I gave birth to and 4 I didn't. Because for me that is the only differentiation. They are all my kids. Now and forever.

  5. Really???!!!! My kid knows about disruption every day. She lives it! My niece had to move to a home with no younger children because she tried to assault sexually, physically and emotionally. Went after my animals and told lies to the school about it all. Really? And you judge me for keeping my adopted daughter away from her? And you judge other families. When there are no resources. Get over your jugemental self. Parent your own kids and tell them that sometimes, other people mess kids up so badly they have no filter to stop harming OTHER kids and they need to be in situations that will heal them. See why families are too ashamed to ask for help? It's people like you.

    1. It's families that DISRUPT that make adoptive families have to feel the way the writer does. Her point of view is valid. We don't all have to agree in life. Get over yourself.

    2. Agreed. Listen, no one is saying that having a child with severe issues is easy. Or that being afraid of your kid or terrorized by your kid or any of those things is okay. All we are saying is that BIOLOGICAL children can act this way as well and if someone were to give their bio kid to some other family because they couldn't deal with them, those parents would be flayed alive. Why is it okay to give up a child you adopted? It completely INVALIDATES the point of adoption by showing the world that it ISN'T permanent and that we can treat kids like stray puppies. Yes, parents need our compassion too, but if you are so messed up that you can't deal with your adopted child, you are too messed up to deal with your biological child too. Parent everyone or parent no one. There are LOTS of resources for families in crisis.

    3. Did you read the article? What you are describing does not sound like disruption from your end. Maybe I am misunderstanding?

  6. I love this perspective. I haven't heard this discussion include the impact on children who are adopted in homes that will remain intact. What do we tell our children, who are already feeling so insecure about the permanency of family, when they may see or hear about these heartbreaking stories. This piece isn't about those families, but about the rest of us and how we frame this issue in a way that doesn't do harm to our adopted children.

  7. It's complicated. The only way for me to look at the world is to try and use eyes filled with love, kindness and understanding. I have heard some heart wrenching stories of families not prepared for violent behavior toward their other kids, both biological AND adopted. If a child is physically or sexually abusing other kids, I would feel the need to change the situation no matter how the child came into my life. But if families work to find a better placement for a child, it think disruption can be the right choice.

  8. To me, it seems that placing a child in another home (for safety reasons) could make sense in some situations. However, to "give back" a child...this is extremely troublesome. A child (birth OR adopted) might need to live apart from his/her legal family...but IMO he/she should still be a PART of the family. Perhaps come home for holidays, birthdays, etc. Still be in the family portraits. Receive/send letters, emails, etc. (unless this TOO became too dangerous). But give back a child? "You aren't part of our family anymore?"

  9. Thank you so much for this article. The discussion of rehoming and sympathy granted to rehomers shocks me. Children are not a commodity that we get to return if we think they are "defective."

  10. I'm sure the author of this website has read the following article, since it's how I got to this one, but I strongly encourage others to read it.
    Of course people who are adopting other children would not give up their biological kids - but they also likely did not abuse their biological children since birth the way many kids up for adoption were. I'm sure there are families who easily gave up their adopted kids once it got a little inconvenient, but there are also many families who fought hard to keep their kids. But, sometimes, to quote the Yahoo article "...there comes a point where being that family isn’t good for anyone, not the parents, not the other siblings, and definitely not the child."

    My husband and I have no children right now, but when we do have them, we plan only to adopt. Of course it is not my plan to easily give up on my future children because they are not biological, but if I get to the point when I have done all I can do except to try and find a better home for my kid, then I will not pay any more attention to anyone judging me for "giving up" my child than any adoptive parent should pay to people who think that adoptive families aren't "real" families.

  11. I also read the "Giving away Anatoly" article, and totally agree with this blog, and my opinion has more validity to it then most of the people with their ridiculous "I know a friend, who knew a a couple" comments on the article. I grew up in foster care, and aged out of it (a completely different topic & just as important.) When I was a teenager, three families attempted to adopt me, fortunately I had lived in the system long enough, and with enough abusive foster parents, to smell whack-Os when I saw them and refused to be adopted. I stayed in foster care, survived it as best I could, aged out, worked my way through college, and am currently one of the youngest/old ladies attending a top ten University. My point is, demands for better screening needs to work both ways. I won't list the horrible abuse I received from my real parents, but some of my foster homes weren't any better, and I know not all people who want to adopt are fit to be parents. Unfortunately, there is such a large demand for adoptive & foster parents, that the system will accept pretty much anyone. Stop making saints out of adoptive & foster parents, and stop stereo typing children from the system as being uncontrollable violent nutcases. Sad truth is, most people who adopt or become foster parents, do it for very selfish reasons-be they emotional of financial.

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  13. I am the mother of a child whose first adoption failed. I am angry with her first adoptive parents for many reasons but deciding that they could not parent her is not one of them. They should never have been approved as adoptive parents and there is no way they could ever have been satisfactory parents. I just wish they had realised this sooner. To be honest, it is really not about your kids, they are doing fine in their family, Every day is a confirmation of your commitment to them. The wellbeing of children who are not so well placed should not be sacrificed so that the adoption fairy story can be maintained. Think of the kids who suffer, think of the change that can occur when a child gets the care they need. Our daughter is doing fabulously! I am hopeful for her future. The one good thing that has happened in her life was her first adoptive parents relinquishing her.

    1. well said - I am also a mother to a child whose adoption was dissolved (I will not call them parents, or that place a home)
      We have kept contact with extended members of that family and they confirmed our thoughts - they should have never adopted. They lied to make themselves look better and faultless, and basically bought dx like anxiety, depression, RAD, and more
      The only good thing they ever did was finally allow him to join a family that would love him as they were basically incapable of that

  14. Actually, biological parent-child relationships are dissolved in quite a large number of cases, and for many of the same reasons as adoptive parent-child relationships can end: Abuse, neglect, substance problems, inability to care for the child.

    The only difference is who caused the problem: When a biological parent abandons their biological child or is forced to give up the child, it's usually the biological parent who is the problem. In the kind of problem adoptions we're talking about, the adoptive parent has usually inherited the problems caused by one or more biological parents, or by the care that followed a child's abandonment or orphaning.

    Because this is getting kind of complicated, let's use names as heuristics. Amanda gives birth to a son, Anthony, and adopts a daughter, Anita. A different woman, Beth, also gave birth to a son, Bert. Beth severely neglected Bert, leaving Bert with a host of behavioral problems down the line. Bert is taken away from Beth and placed in foster care, then adopted by Amanda. Amanda does her best to help Bert's behavioral problems, but Bert attacks Anthony and Anita and makes the home all but unlivable. Amanda finally decides to dissolve the adoption of Bert and gets help to place him with adoptive parents Carl and Cara.

    The fair comparison IMO isn't between the way Amanda kept Anthony and Anita but dissolved the adoptive relationship with Bert. Rather the appropriate comparison is between the biological parent-child relationship of Beth and Bert on the one hand, and the adoptive parent-child relationship of Amanda and Bert on the other. Both these parent-child relationships were dissolved due to problem situations that were endangering one or more child. It doesn't make sense to compare Bert to Anthony (biological child) and Anita (adoptive child), neither of whom had the family-destroying problems Bert was saddled with.

    Compare problem situations with problem situations, rather than problem situations with non-problem situations, and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that BOTH biological and adoptive relationships can be dissolved due to neglect, abuse, unfitness etc., whether the problems are caused or inherited by the parents involved.

    In other words, saying "any dissolution of an adoption hurts adopted children by invalidating adoptive parenthood" makes no more sense than saying "any dissolution of a biological parent-child relationship hurts biological children by invalidating biological parenthood." I think it's a good thing that unfit biological parents can have their parental rights curtailed, just as adoptive parents who are abusive or unfit can have their rights curtailed. Similarly, loving adoptive parents who are otherwise fit may be unfit for their particular children, and it helps no one to say dissolution is never an option. Dissolution in situations where no other solution is feasible doesn't hurt the institution of adoption, since the reason for the dissolution has little to do with being adopted and a lot to do with problems incompatible with family life.

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