As Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyers, adoptions tend to be the most uplifting area of our practice. It really is a joy to bring families together, especially when much of our work involves families that are drifting apart. But one thing that may surprise is the rate at which adoptions fail or “break.” “Broken adoptions” occur for a variety of reasons – the death of an adoptive parent, another adult filing for guardianship, abuse or neglect by an adoptive parent, or an adoptive parent electing to place a child back in foster care. Although there aren’t statistics to track the number of children who end up back in the family court, their birth parents’ home or foster care after adoption, it is clear that “broken adoptions” are common across the country.
Although once hidden in the shadows, “broken adoptions” have been making headline news recently. Specifically, stories of “re-homing” – where parents send their problematic adoptees to live with strangers found on the internet – have made a significant impact. There’s the story of a Tennessee nurse who sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to his native Russia on a plane, alone. Then there’s the story of another adoptive mother who admitted to giving her two adopted daughters away to another family.
Adoption experts argue that the problem is twofold. First, many adoptive parents are ill-prepared for the challenges that come with raising a child who has lived in an orphanage or been bounced around in the foster care system. Second, when the families start to encounter trouble, there are very few post-adoption resources to turn to for help. As a result, many families struggle with horrific behavioral and psychological problems on the part of adopted children who have been abused or neglected prior to their adoption. These children are in need of special help and the parents are in need of training to cope with their child’s needs.
While there are some supports in place for parents who have adopted from the foster care system in the US, the programs are limited to domestic adoptions and are woefully inadequate. Experts argue that adoption agencies, which typically get paid handsomely by parents completing overseas adoptions, have a moral responsibility to provide post-adoption services to families. After-all, shouldn’t the agency that brought the family together have an interest in keeping the family from falling apart?