November 24th, 2007
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I spent a fair amount of time on the phone yesterday, talking to a mom who was soon embarking on a road trip across several states to meet a potential new family member. This mom and her husband had one bio daughter who was a couple of years older than the child they were traveling to meet. The child in question arrived in the USA six months ago and was disrupting from the first placement. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this … this mom’s family is potentially the next placement for this child.

At the end of the 45 minute conversation, this mom said, “I didn’t like you at first and I didn’t like what you were saying, but now I am glad I talked to you. I know I needed to hear what you had to say.” Admittedly, I am tired and had family here today and I started out the conversation by saying I was probably going to be even more “to the point” than normal. Considering I am often the bearer of information folks don’t want to hear even when it is softened, it goes without saying that blunter is not better!


This family has the impression that the placing mom is a large part of the problem. Gee, we have all heard that before, haven’t we? I told her that even if the mom was a large part of the problem, there was no way this child has escaped trauma or would arrive in a new family without some very real baggage. I talked about what that might look like. I talked about the impact that might have on their daughter and their marriage and their “normal” family dynamics.

I told her how Dora still slept on a mattress next to my bed, and how that arrangement was likely to continue for quite some time. I shared with her how Dora missed few opportunities to anger or aggravate Beth, often due to jealousy over Beth’s relationship with us and her successful life. I asked her how she would respond when, a mere month into the placement, this new child asked if the mom loved the new child as much as mom loved the bio daughter?

I assured this mom that I was very pro-adoption and would love for this child to find a wonderful home where they were loved and given the opportunity to heal from past traumas. However, I am equally (or perhaps more so) pro-family, because I have learned the hard way that imploding an entire family benefits no one. A previously healthy family that disintegrates is of no value to an already-wounded child. I deplore being the rain-maker on such an exciting event in the life of a family … but I’d rather see the family be adequately prepared and able to succeed. They need to know where to find big umbrellas …

At one point this family was in the works for an international adoption on their own. It didn’t happen, and this mom felt this opportunity was meant to be. However, she did realize at the end of our conversation that had she asked me these questions about a potential direct placement, I would have given her the same answers. The fact that the child is disrupting merely adds one more layer, one more dimension to the scenario.

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12 Responses to “Adopting a child from a disruption”

  1. pat johnston says:

    Well at least she had a long talk with you,Nancy, but I’m going to sound like a broken record with my
    (pretty much rhetorical) questions.
    I worry mightily for this family, for their typically developing children, and about this disrupting child about much really good advance preparation has or has not gone on here.

    Is the original placing agency for this internationally adopted child in any way involved (or even informed) of this pending disruption?

    Has there been any mental health work (by licensed professionals) done at the other end to prepare this child for his or her move? to prepare the siblings and parents for his or her departure?

    Except for her call to you, has this prospective mom had any pre-adopt screening and preparation and her kids had any preparation by professionals in their home community to help with transition?

    Has this family thoroughly sought out and lined up in their home community the educational and mental health and medical professionals near to them that they are going to need?

  2. Part of our long talk included having resources ready and available. They are working with an attorney. The receiving family does have an agency that they were working with to complete an international adoption on their own.

    It absolutely isn’t perfect, Pat. I have limited time and opportunity to say what I need to say in a short time, so I focus more on what it looks like to bring one of these kiddos into the home. I have tried long and hard in the past to convince folks to do it differently than they are–to no avail. So now I assume they are going to do it and tell them what I think they most need to know.

  3. Chromesthesia says:

    It might have been stated before, I might have read it in this blog dozens of times, but it’s worth repeating as it is so important.
    What blunt advice would you give to a couple or a single person considering adopting-
    a child from a distrupted adoption
    a child older than infant age.
    or any traumatized child for that matter?
    What it seems like to me is, the best approach is to prepare for the very, very worse case scenerio, to, if in a couple, have a strong united front and be on the same page at least in front of the child, to cocoon and limit how much stimulous a child needs for the first few months, to have a primary caretaker than can take off from their job for a good deal of time, to try to get schools and teachers on the same page, children a person already have would have to be prepared too, and the children themselves don’t seem to need too much television, electronic things at first as it gets in the way of bonding with their new family. And there will be a lot of grieving on the part of the child too. Good therapists, understanding parents in the same position seem to be very important to have.
    There’s a lot about this process that I don’t totally understand but I’d like to be ready for it.

  4. Cindy Bodie says:

    “It absolutely isn’t perfect…”

    No adoption ever is, no parenting can be so. Perfect is an area we’ll never reach and the best we can do is to continue trying. I hope and pray for that.

    I’m going to mangle an old cliche about throwing one’s heart over the bar and the rest of oneself will follow.

    If our heart is there, we’re on the way. I’m glad that you found a family to step up in a disruption.

  5. Anchulee says:

    As your daughter and an adult with rights, writing about my life when im no longer in your house and without talking to me first is for one hurtful and low. I understand how the experiences you went through with me are yours to share but everything after i left is not. my life is for me to live with out it spread all over the internet even if you are going to use it as a tool to “help”. saying stuff about me and who im with not to mention his family is wrong. you went against me and them…their life is none of your business and sharing it with the world wasnt yoru place…remember that next to you feel free to share and “help”. you have now put me and my boyfriend’s family in a tough spot…i am no longer that child who lived in your home…i make my own choices and mistakes..and do not need someone or anyone telling me what i should do or who i should be with…i have more to say..but am not able to share it at this time….

  6. veggie says:

    I understand everyones feeling on disruption. I have been on both ends. We recieved a sibling group 10 years ago of 3 boys that were from a disrupted adoption. These boys had been moved so many times that it was so sad. The longest in any place was a month. So needless to say when we got them it was horendous. We thought about giving up quite a bit. We were offered a chance to adopt the younger two but not the oldest. We chose to take all three. It was all or none for us. We couldn’t think of disrupting. I remember getting so mad at a couple that had had girl for three years and were disrupting the adoption. I even talked to my social worker about taking the girl myself but she was much wiser and more grounded and helped me see that wasn’t going to work right then. Well here we are 10 years later and the beautiful little boy that was so disturbed at the age of 5, so much that the state changed their policy of breaking sibling up to allow us not to have to take him, is so violent that he is in a residential for at least the next two years. They deem him unsafe for society and do not know if he will ever be safe to live in a family. We lived with this very behavior for 10 years, we are tired and burnt out. We have talked about walking away. I think that the biggest reason we haven’t is that we made a promise to be his forever family. That is not to say we don’t love him, we do with all our hearts. but are we doing more harm than good? Are we the right fit for him? Is there maybe a family out there better suited to deal with his issues , that could help him heal? We would ask to always be a part of his life, to visit and spend time with him. We would never walk out of his life completely. I feel that we have messed up so badly, there is so much that we could have done differently, we were totally unprepared for all of this. I know so are a lot of people. but is it right to say that all disruption are someones fault. Maybe it isn’t anyones fault. I am so undecided on this matter. However one thing I am sure about we can’t judge all these moms so harshly. From a voice of experience, I know what it feels like to feel like a complete failure, whether true or not. Each case should be decided individually.



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