Picture this: You see a photograph of an adorable child in need of a loving and caring home. As you look into his eyes, you want nothing more than to see him happy and to be a part of making that happen. You take all of the necessary steps (home study, training, etc.) to become a foster adoptive parent and you gain access to more information. Once all of the proper steps have been taken, you finally meet him. You instantly fall in love and proceed with everything needed to begin the adoption process. The child is now in his new home, and after a few months you begin to notice things that were not as obvious as before. Not too long after that, you begin to realize that you may have made the wrong decision in bringing him into your home. It can be heartbreaking, to say the least. While it is a harsh reality, it’s a reality that more than a few homes have to face – and it is worth addressing.
When you open your heart and home to a child in need, there is an undeniable feeling of hope. There perhaps is nothing more gratifying than knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life. You have plans on how life will unfold in a marvelous journey of continually learning from one another and blossoming into a family that will grow for generations to come. There are times, however, when that dream of having a forever home with a child in care does not work out as planned. For reasons beyond your control, the adoption does not succeed. The first question that may come to mind is, “What causes this to happen?” It is a fair question and one worth exploring as we offer some perspective and dig a little deeper into some of the factors that can cause adoption dissolution.
Nationwide Statistics in Adoption
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway (the Children’s Bureau), there were approximately 136,000 children that were adopted in the United States in between 2007 and 2008. The trend has been steadily increasing for the last 24 years. In 1990, the number of adoptions was slightly under 120,000. There are three major categories of adoption types in the United States. The greatest numbers of children, over 46%, are adopted via a private agency. Adoptions from foster care or the public child welfare system account for another 41%. International adoptions are up to 13% of the total. The process to adopt in the United States is regulated by individual states.
The US Department of Health and Human Services reports, “Very few adopted children have parents who reported ever having considered dissolving the adoption. The number of children whose parents reported ever considering dissolution was too small to generate reliable estimates of its frequency.” According to the Children’s Bureau, “Studies consistently report that only a small percentage of completed adoptions dissolve—probably between 1 and 5 percent.”
Causes of Adoption Dissolution – The Unpleasant Truth
What are some factors that can cause adoption dissolution in the one to five percent of the adoption world? First, it is important to note that there is not one particular cause or person to blame for dissolution. There are many layers to this issue. While the causes have not been thoroughly researched, a report that was completed in 2002 by T. Festinger and posted on childwelfare.gov noted two reasons as to why dissolution can occur. The first is a lack of information on services that are needed and the second is the cost of those services. Miseducation or the lack of education can leave families ill prepared to address any possible issues the children adopted from foster care may be facing. The fact is that a child who is available for adoption has most likely been exposed to an unhealthy environment or has had a traumatic experience that is going to take time and therapy to set him on a path to healing. Unfortunately, he may be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, or may have issues with behavioral conduct. Depending on how severe his past has been he may even receive a diagnosis of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). This very serious condition alone can be overwhelming to face with the proper training – and much more so without it.
Every child, whether coming from a private agency, the public welfare system or from another country has one thing in common – a need for a stable and loving environment with a parent or parents that are dedicated to educating themselves to give their children what they need for a successful life.
There is Help – Available Resources
There are resources available nationwide that provide helpful information on the myriad of services for families adopting children from foster care. In New Jersey specifically, one state funded agency that offers assistance is the New Jersey Adoption Resources Clearing House (NJ ARCH), a statewide one-stop adoption information and resource service for those touched by adoption. NJ ARCH provides adoption advocacy, support, education, information and referral services to adoptees, adoptive and pre-adoptive families. Additionally, the state administers the New Jersey Subsidized Adoption Program. About 98% of children adopted through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) receive adoption subsidies. These subsidies can help adoptive families by providing a regular monthly payment including a clothing allowance and Medicaid coverage for the child to assist with any physical or psychological condition that is not covered by the family’s own insurance. Children with disabilities may be able to receive special services for a specific medical, health or equipment need, which may be approved on a case-by-case basis. Post-Adoption Counseling Services (PACS) are available for adoptive families.
In addition, New Jersey’s Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) plays an integral part in the adoption from foster care process. The FAFS team provides basic information and responds to inquiries from prospective adoptive parents. The DCP&P Family Recruiter then contacts the prospective parent to arrange a meeting, where detailed information about adoption is provided. This information includes the formal criteria and the types of children needing adoptive homes. Adoption home studies are completed only for families that qualify for having children placed in their home. FAFS also offers services specifically to Licensed Resource Parents in New Jersey with web-based training, home correspondence courses as well as face-to-face and online support.
To learn more about services in your area, click here.
Stay Educated Throughout the Adoption Process and After
Although the number of cases of dissolution may be small, each adoptive family that faces separation is met with many challenges that will have a lasting impact for everyone involved – especially the child. So, how can one avoid adoption dissolution? Education is key. It is vital that every prospective adoptive parent is well-informed of the child they are interested in making a part of their forever family. Remember, you can never have too much information. Entering into an adoption openly with all knowledge of the child’s background will make a world of difference in the long run. Knowing the child will be the right fit within your family will contribute to his well-being and yours alike.
The truth is while the child in your care legally belongs to you and is now a part of your loving family, there is an entire back story and previous life that he has experienced. Since he is no longer living with his biological parents, there is some mending within him that needs to take place. Like in any family there will be trying times, so it would benefit every parent to be aware of, and utilize, the support systems in their community. Your personal recipe for adoption success will involve knowledge, patience, caring and the ability to know when to seek assistance. If you blend all of these ingredients together successfully, you will have a greater chance at maintaining a forever home and moving your new family forward on that new and fulfilling journey you have always envisioned.