Preventing Adoption Disruption

No adoptive parent plans to send a child back  into the system.

No one argues that keeping foster or adopted children in one stable environment is best.

And yet,

the rate of disruption is up to


especially for older children.


Here are some ways we—as parents, social workers and advocates—can change the odds.

  • Get help/support in school. Involve the educators.

A good school system can make all the difference for a child on the edge.

When children do well in school, disruption in foster family placement is less likely. Conversely, studies show that behavioral challenges leading to frequent school suspensions and expulsion cause greater lengths of stay in foster care and disruptions in placements. That, in turn, leads to more school changes and more involvement with the judicial system.

When children experience greater school stability and success, foster parents feel supported and better equipped to help the child in their home, not only with school related activities, but with other issues. This increases the likelihood of permanent, stable placements.


Education can be a critical component to improving outcomes for youth served in the foster care system as you heard from the studies I cited, and it is critical to, at a minimum, share data between systems to track outcomes. Education, the courts and child welfare agencies can and must work together to achieve improved outcomes.

David Sanders, Casey Family Services, delivering plenary address at the Third National Judicial Leadership Summit in Austin, Texas. (Emphasis mine.) 

Alternate options may be necessary. Not all children of trauma can survive in mainstream school environments. On the other hand, some children must acquire socialization in order to survive.

We considered homeschooling in the beginning, but our entire support team (in-home and in-office counselors, psychiatrist, psychologist, occupational and speech therapists) recommended we keep the kids in a traditional school setting.

Within a few weeks of enrolling the kids in their first school with us, the administration was ready to cut our boy’s Kindergarten day in half. “He’s just not ready for this.”

We fought to keep him in school; obtained a one-to-one behavioral aide, applied for (and received) mentoring and in-home counseling services. I volunteered at the school for hours every week to be on hand if he had issues. His Kindergarten teacher and the Assistant Principal joined “our side” but everyone else…not so much. Those two years were grueling.

Then, we requested approval to move schools. The new principal denied my request to volunteer and wouldn’t allow an aide in her domain. I was shocked (and terrified) but she assured me, “we’ve got this.”

And they did.

Principals, teachers, guidance staff and paraprofessionals met with us. They asked questions. I brought handouts outlining RAD, PTSD and how to deal with children coming from trauma. They listened. Teachers and staff dispensed necessary consequences with grace and care.

The children learned boundaries. They began to recognize school as a safe place.

Hubby and I are thrilled with the level of support and understanding. The kids are thriving. I can’t imagine where we’d be without such amazing people behind us.

Seek out specialized education that fits the child such as alternative schools, home schooling or a school that excels in understanding and serving the educational needs of children who have special needs.

MN Adopt Fact Sheet

  • Extended Visitation with New Family

Extended visitation: meeting with the new family for dinner, spending a few hours with the new family in a neutral setting, touring the new home and neighborhood, spending a night, then two.

This kind of gradual introduction to the new family is not always possible.

Several of our friends adopted from other countries. They were able to send scrapbooks of pictures and descriptions to their new child, but communication was difficult. In-country visits were required prior to adoption, but this did nothing to acclimate the child to new surroundings.

In our case, the agency lost our background checks (requiring re-printing). In the meantime, the kids needed a month of respite housing.

Because we knew the family providing interim care, we saw the children several times and they even visited our house—albeit with no idea we were possible new parents.

If not for that mistake (or God’s providence), our kids would have been dropped off with us: outright strangers in new, unfamiliar surroundings. As it was, they were terrified. I can’t imagine how they’d have felt if they’d never visited our house or met us.

Sure, giving the children time to get used to new surroundings and mentally prepare themselves for a move takes more time and money at the outset than plopping the kids into their new lives. However, disruption requires even more resources. Encourage your agency to consider extended visits prior to moving the kids, if possible.

Extended visitation is even more important for older children. No (sane) adult moves into someone else’s house during a first date, but this immediate commitment to live with strangers is required of many foster kids.

Visitation gives the child a chance to get familiar with his or her new neighborhood, see his or her new school, and perhaps make friends with some of the neighborhood children. It allows for a gradual “getting used to” all the new people and places that will be a part of the child’s life in the adoptive family.

Making a lifetime commitment like adoption should not happen quickly or under pressure. In many ways, adopting the older child or a child who has special needs is more like entering into a marriage than becoming a parent. Especially with older children, adoption brings together individuals with unique experiences, ideas, habits, and values, and asks them to suddenly live together in a family unit., Thoughtful Visitation Practices Prevent Disruption


Click here for Part 2 (and to learn two of the most important ways to prevent disruption).

About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'm determined to give my kids the chance they deserve. Adoption isn't always easy. I promise, you're not alone in this. Join me at - we're in this together.

Posted on February 28, 2016, in Adoption, parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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