Conversations surrounding failed adoptions — or “disruptions” as they are more formally referred to — usually contain an avenue back to Tory Hansen. The adoptive mother accrued many a headline after she notoriously sent little 6-year-old Artyom Saveliev on a flight back to Moscow by his lonesome with a single note. Tory specifically cited her concern for “the safety of my family, friends and myself” when deciding to pop the child on a plane. She was ultimately ordered to pay quite a hefty sum for her vastly irresponsible judgement call. But her deep sense of helplessness and fear “after giving my best to this child” is an experience that reportedly defines adoption for some parents.
TODAY Moms describes adoption disruption statistics as varying, but did dig up a 2010 study by the University of Minnesota and Hennepin County which determined the following:
…between 6 percent and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted before they are finalized. For children older than 3, disruption rates range between 10 percent to 16 percent; for teens, it may be as high as 24 percent, or one in four adoptions.
Adoptions can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to become final – and that window is when most disruptions occur, experts say. While some families do choose to end an adoption after that, those cases are rarer (ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent, according to the study).
Zia Freeman, an adoption counselor from Seattle, says that disruptions can be pretty rare for infants. But for those older kids, disruption can range from five to 20 percent. Her reasoning for why disruption increases in children of this age bracket is pretty obvious:
“…It’s significantly higher because of the complexities of parenting a child who already has life experiences and certain behaviors. When we’re rejected and traumatized early in our development, it changes the way we function and respond to people.”
But not all families are likely to throw in the towel equally, it seems. Younger adoptive parents without much experience with children, who both have jobs outside the home, are more likely to give up a child that they have adopted. And money apparently can’t buy you patience — or whatever other resources you may need — as wealthier, more educated mothers are more likely to reconsider an adoption. Yet, I don’t think I’d be comfortable sticking a helping of mommy guilt to adoptive mothers like Sage, a 38-year-old SAHM who witnessed the following after she and her husband adopted a 4-year-old girl from Ethiopia:
“I’d be washing dishes and she’d stick her hand into my crotch,” says Sage. “Or I’d have her on my lap and she’d stick her hands down my shirt. And once she learned English, she started telling my 18-month-old daughter ‘Your mommy doesn’t love you’ and pushing her into walls. I watched my little one’s behavior completely change. She went from loving me to being scared of me.”
Sage and her family eventually decided to go about finding a new home for the girl not after learning that she had reactive attachment disorder, a serious condition that can account for such aggression, but after the girl began sexually abusing her 18-month-old. At that point, we’re looking at more than just family counseling as well as therapy for the little girl being abused. Any parent in their right mind would put as much distance between sexual threats and their child as humanly possible, regardless of if the abuser is family or not. Sage describes the experience as “awful,” but finally saw that her adopted daughter ultimately “needed a special kind of parent.” The little girl is now apparently “thriving” with a family that doesn’t have young children.
Removing a threat from your family that is family however, can take on various degrees of difficulty depending on if the adoption is final or not. If the adoptive parents have yet to get the child legally recognized as their own, the kid most likely goes into foster care. If the child is adopted internationally, tossing them on a plane and returning them to their original country is not a viable alternative either — just for future reference. But if all paperwork is final, the courts are involved:
“A dissolution – or annulment – takes place after a child is formally adopted by a set of parents,” says Jacoba Urist, a lawyer and TODAY Moms contributor. “As you can imagine, the law treats this very seriously, and while states can vary on how they handle these types of situations, in general, a parent must petition the court where they adopted the child to in effect ‘unadopt’ them.”
“Unadoption.” Try dropping that one into the carpool group next time around. Talk about mommy stigma.