Adoptive Parents Want To Give Up on Their Kids & It's Hard to Blame Them

adoptive parents back out

If you adopt a child and things go horribly, terribly wrong, is it fair to renege on your parenting agreement? I don’t think there can be any one answer to this difficult question, but recent cases are bringing the matter into the spotlight. Just last week we heard about a family’s heartbreaking ordeal when their 12-year-old adopted son molested all seven of their other children (the couple insist DHS knew about the boy’s troubled past), and today brings the story of a Long Island couple who want a judge to vacate their adoption of two Russian-born children now that they’ve learned the kids are severely mentally ill.


In the case of the boy who molested his siblings, the family isn’t giving up on him, but they’ve moved him into a different home to keep him away from their other kids. In the situation with the Long Island family, the couple wants to back out of the adoption altogether, claiming the adoption agencies lied to them about the health of the purported siblings. It was only after the adoption went through that the couple learned the children weren’t related, and despite claims of being “healthy and socially well-adjusted,” they had been sexually abused and had serious medical and psychiatric problems.

The unnamed couple say the children threatened to kill them many times, and they’re now in state mental health facilities. The kids were 8 and 6 at the time of the 2008 adoption, which the couple wants dissolved as part of their allegations that the agencies — Spence-Chapin in New York and Cradle of Hope in Maryland — pulled a bait and switch.

If the judge dissolves the adoption, the kids, now 12 and 14, will become wards of the state. They’d either remain in mental hospitals or become eligible for foster care, but either way, it doesn’t seem like their futures look good.

It’s a disturbing case that could have long-term repercussions on adoptions, particularly foreign adoptions. One attorney points out,

If agencies had to warranty that children are in good health, agencies would shut down. You can do that with a car but you can’t get a warranty with a human being. That’s a dangerous position to put an agency in.

Alternately, the president of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency says,

So many kids from institutionalized settings come to us abused and neglected. If the rec­ords are not accurate, parents are not prepared for the challenges they will face. They don’t get sufficient training. And they don’t get the support and services they need.

I can see many sides to this, personally. Maybe the agencies didn’t know about the children’s history. Even if they did, it’s not the children’s fault they were traumatized at a young age and that may have created severe, lasting damage.

But if the parents didn’t know what they were in for, they couldn’t have decided whether or not they were ready to take on the difficult burden of caring for children with such intense special needs. Then again, there are no guarantees in life — any child who was born healthy could certainly suffer a tragic incident later in life that permanently changes them, and as parents, adoptive or biological, it’s our job to love them and care for them the best we can, no matter what.

I don’t have any answers to these thorny issues, but I feel so bad for everyone involved. I’m sorry for the children, who didn’t ask to be put through terrible circumstances that changed their psyches. I’m sorry for the adoptive parents, who were thrown such painful curb balls and had to make unspeakable decisions none of us should ever have to face. I don’t think any of us can really judge, without knowing what everyone’s going through.

What do you think about this issue? Do you think it’s fair for an adoptive parent to back out of the agreement if things fall apart this badly?

Image via pixydust8605/Flickr

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