There are days when parents, even biological parents, may have that fleeting thought of wishing they could give their child back. When a child is born to you, he’s yours for life. When you legally adopt a child, it’s pretty much the same. However, there is a slight difference. With your birth child there’s no one to give the child back to — you created him. With an adopted child there may be certain situations where this may be a necessity, depending on the circumstances of the adoption.
Broken Adoptions are Not Uncommon
A report in Time magazine stated, “. . . broken adoptions are far more common than one might imagine. According to statistics from the federal Children’s Bureau, as many as 10 percent of adoptions are ‘dissolved,’ meaning the parent-child relationship is severed after the adoption is finalized. As countries such as Guatemala and China close their international adoption programs or implement strict new rules, the pool of adoptable babies has shrunk dramatically in recent years, leading to a rise in more challenging types of adoption of older or disabled children that are more likely to end in dissolution.”
Support and Education are Essential for Adoptive Parents
The Time report continues: “The problem is twofold, experts say. First, adoptive parents are often underprepared for the challenges of raising a child who has been in an orphanage or the foster care system. Second, once adoptive families encounter trouble, there are woefully few resources to help.”
It is essential that adoptive families arm themselves with the tools and support they need in order to be able to address the special needs of a child coming into their home.
Couples need to know that if the child they adopt isn’t right for their family, after doing all in their power to make it work, there may be a way out. If this is you, you know you tried your best. You sought counseling. You gave it time. You did everything humanly possible and finally realized that this adoption just wasn’t right for your family after all. What then?
First, let’s consider what behavior makes this an option. Every child is going to misbehave at some point. Some far more than others. Some grow out of it. In some it grows worse. When that worse behavior puts your life or members of your family’s lives in jeopardy, in spite of medical and psychological help, then action needs to be taken.
The Remboldt Case
This was the case with Beth and Tom Remboldt, who, three years earlier, had adopted Galina, a 5 year-old girl and her 2-year-old brother Teddy, from Russia. The Remboldts had one daughter born to them earlier, and they wanted more children. After years of trying, they were unable to have another child, and decided that adoption was the solution. Bringing Galina and Teddy into their home seemed like the answer. Little did they realize what was about to happen.
“Abused as a child, 9-year-old [Galina] was nearly impossible to handle. She screamed, she hit, she would stand stone-still and refuse to move when things didn’t go her way. If we just love her a little more, Beth thought, we’ll survive this.
“Then one day, Beth was unpacking the dishwasher with Galina. She left the room for a moment and when she returned, there were feces on the clean dishes. Beth asked her daughter why she’d done that. ‘I want you to eat my poop and die,’ she said.”
After all their efforts to love Galina, they realized, love was not enough.
“At this point I started fearing for my safety and for my family’s safety,” Beth said. “Did she really want us to die?”
Things escalated from that point and the Remboldts were forced to consider “the unthinkable, something that went against all they believed in as adoptive parents. They would have to give Galina up.” Teddy was more receptive to their love. He and Galina had never bonded, having been separated in the orphanage.
One of the problems with international adoptions is that parents “are rarely warned about what they’re getting into — and provided no support afterward.” The Remboldts knew little concerning the background of these children. Galina had been severely abused. The children had been taken from a “filthy, feces-infected house with no heat and no food. Galina would eventually tell therapists her birth mother, in a fit of anger, poured a pot of boiling water on her.” When the children were handed over to the Remboldts, they saw the scars from skin grafts on her back. They had no idea, at that point, how it happened or the emotional damage that had been done to their child. They later discovered their daughter had a history of abusing other children.
Many behavior problems began to surface. The Remboldts did everything they could to help this child before they knew they had to terminate the adoption. They eventually found another home for her, with parents whose children were grown and not at risk in the home. She was adopted by them and moved away, now living on a ranch where she rides horses. Everyone concerned knew this was the best solution for Galina and the Remboldts’ other children.
(Source: New York Post. “Who Would Give Up an Adopted Child?“)
A Failed Foster Care Adoption
Another couple, Kate and Ted (not their real names) were faced with a similar dilemma, though different. They had taken in foster children for a few years, always on a temporary basis until the parents could resume their care. One of these children, Julie, a 14-year old who had been in several different foster homes that did not work out, wanted to be adopted. She had major behavior problems, but since Ted was a social worker trained to work with troubled families, they allowed her to stay. Her behavior improved and they were hopeful that it would continue. The biological parents, who had other children in the foster care system, were willing to have the children be adopted.
Julie was constantly begging Kate and Ted to adopt her. After a year they finally conceded, thinking that with enough love, patience, and Ted’s professional experience, they could provide a permanent home for her. After the adoption her behavior worsened. She began sneaking out to smoke and drink with her brother and less desirable friends. She became sexually promiscuous. She would not live the family rules and began treating Kate and Ted disrespectfully. They had an older married son who was appalled at the way she was treating them and he called her out on it. She lashed out at him with equal verbal venom. She became more and more incorrigible. They tried everything to help her. No amount of counseling or loving care on their part made a difference. She only became worse.
At one point she said, “I don’t want to be your child. I want out of this adoption. I want to live with people who will let me do whatever I want.” Kate and Ted knew they could no longer help Julie, and that her behavior was ruining their lives. They felt that the only answer was to terminate the adoption.
Kate and Ted counseled with the social workers and it was decided that they would take the case before a judge. After hearing the facts, the judge declared the adoption to be abrogated and nullified. They found a woman who was willing to take Julie in. Kate said, “Julie’s social worker told us, at the time of the abrogation, that Julie’s younger brother also been adopted by a family in Washington, but that it hadn’t worked out and that family had gone through court to also abrogate his adoption.”
At the end of our interview with Kate, she said, “Although we still feel hurt for not providing Julie with everything good that we could have, we now realize that she was just too mentally/emotionally sick and damaged to know what a good thing she had by being with our family. Because she had already known so much degradation and perversity in her birth family in her growing-up years, it was nearly impossible for a family like ours to ‘fix’ her and make her appreciate living with and being part of a normal family.”
Getting the Right Help is Vital
Being aware of the risks and getting all the information you can when you adopt a child can be a great advantage in helping the adoption be successful. Even some of the most difficult and damaged children can be helped.
Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said, “Unless we support the new family and provide them with services and resources and support and mental health facilities, we’re just setting them up for failure. . . .
“Adoptions are far more likely to be broken when the child is adopted at an older age or has special needs. And since the number of infants available for adoption has fallen steadily over the years, thanks to legalized abortion and a reduction of stigma against unwed mothers, many prospective adoptive families are adopting from a pool of children likelier to have preexisting problems.
“It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t adopt these kids, it means they need training and education and support to make it successful,” Pertman says. “If you think love conquers all, you’re not paying attention.” (Ibid., Time)
Adopt with Your Eyes Wide Open
Knowing that problems may exist when an older child or abused child is adopted will be essential. If adoptive parents go into adoption with the knowledge that there may be problems, they can be prepared to deal with them. If they feel this is beyond their capacity, then they can choose otherwise. Knowing what might happen and being willing to make that leap of faith is crucial. Even though no parent can really know what the future holds for their adopted child, being as well-prepared as possible can ensure a happier ending.