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Adoption = Disruption

Disruption of adoption (failure to adopt when adoption is in process, but not finalized) is more common than you think. One qualification: if you are a foster or adoptive parent; this may be no surprise.

In most cases, disrupted adoption happens quietly. The children are “moved” with little fanfare.

Dissolution of adoption (failure of adoption after finalization) is less common but highly publicized. If you’ve never heard of the TN mom who sent her 7-year-old son back to Russia alone, call a moving company and find a house built on a rock, not under one.

As you may imagine, statistics for disruption are much higher for older children (listed as anywhere between 6 and 25%) than for children under 3 (several sources linked here noted that these stats are lower, but did not provide actual numbers). Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the likelihood of disruption rises 6% for every year the child’s age increases. The chance of disruption also rises with multiple siblings of 2 or 3 (but surprisingly, drops when there are 4 or more siblings adopted).

A child older than four is 13 times more likely to have a disruption, compared with an infant. Placement instability (the number of times a child is moved) also greatly affects a child’s ability to succeed in adoption.

Our kids have multiple risk factors, beginning with (but not limited to) the following: they were placed as a group of two siblings, they were older children (now age 8 & 10) and were moved at least seven times in two years (three of those moves within the 40 days before they arrived with us).

We not-so-affectionately dubbed our first two years, “HellonEarth” and “DefCon1,” respectively. Three years from D-Day (D for Drop-off), we’re finally able to relax and “be a family” most of the time.

Hubby and I both readily acknowledge that we, at times, contemplated disruption. What saved our family? He and I never freaked out at the same time. During HellonEarth, we had weekly “step away from the cliff” discussions. These conversations became sporadic during DefCon1, then obsolete after we finalized adoption about a year ago.

Throughout the summer of HellonEarth (I stopped working to be with the kiddos), I called Hubby every day around 4 pm, angry, frustrated, frazzled and tearful. He joked darkly to a friend that one day he’d come home to the three of us drowned in a bathtub. Although drowning was never a true danger, there were definitely times I empathized with families who disrupt.

Thanks to multiple counselors, support from our family and church, Hubby’s tenacity and strength, my hyper-vigilance and an unshakable faith that God put these kids in our lives and will continue to give us grace to deal with their (now occasional) insanity, we survived HellonEarth and DefCon1. I’d like to name this third year “Cautiously Optimistic.”

There are still days (and weeks) of frustration, but we’ve invested our hearts. We tell our kids, “There’s no such thing as ‘un-adoption’ in this family.” 

In heated moments, we remind each of them, “No matter how horrendous your behavior, regardless of what you say and do, and even when you destroy things like a wild hyena, we will never, EVER let you go. We will always love you.”

I think they finally believe it.

Up yours, statistics.

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