Thursday, October 12, 2006


This week, I met a nice family of four who are missionaries and lived in South America for 10 years. This past summer, they visited friends who still live there. They were introduced to a four year old child whose family was killed earlier this year. Over the past few months, they have been undergoing the process of adopting this child and bringing him to our community.

I talked with the family and they told me of the very detailed process that they have to go through - endless paperwork, at home visits from state agencies/officials, etc. Even though it seems like a lot of hastle to me, the family is very happy that they are going to have a new edition.

Last night, I read a story about a Virginia couple who is trying to "unadopt" a child after caring for him for six years (BBC). The background of this child is troubling. His birth parents abused drugs. There were issues of physical abuse and suspicions of sexual abuse. All of these were believed to cause mental illness in the child which required medication treatment.

This foster mother stated that she became concerned three years ago when the child sexually abused a six-year old and a two-year old. She also states that this is when she learned of the child's troubled past. What's interesting is that she could have filed a "wrongful adoption" lawsuit, but did not. Instead, she has chosen to "dissolve the adoption" which requires the child's consent. The child has not consented.

This foster mom states that she was not informed at all of the child's troubled past during the adoption process. I find this difficult to believe. With the patients I have talked with in the past, all kinds of information about the foster family and about the foster child are learned, processed, and shared with everyone involved.

The concept of "dissolving an adoption" is fascinating to me. Can someone really divorce their foster child? How would that work? A child is in foster care and then a family decide to legally adopt the child. Then, maybe years later, the family decide to divorce the child? I'm really confused about this whole concept.

Update - Like a Foster Mom: I was talking about this Virginia story earlier today with someone at the hospital and she mentioned that pop star Madonna is in the African nation of Malawi visiting that impoverished nation. According to Times Online, Madonna and her husband just today have taken custody of a 13-month old boy and are going to adopt.
Malawian law does not allow for inter-country adoptions, and generally requires people who want to adopt to spend 18 months being evaluated by Malawian child welfare workers. But it seems even this is no obstacle for the Material Girl after Malawian officials, who refused to elaborate, indicated that such restrictions would be waived for the couple.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think this is a bad idea. In light of what I've learned today about adoption (thanks to your comments), I wonder what this child will be like 5-10-15 years from now. A Material Guy for the Material Girl? We'll see.


Mother Jones RN said...

This isn't the first time I've heard of parents not knowing the background of a child they've adopted We get kids like this on our unit all the time, and the parents don't have a clue why their kids are acting out. The foster care system is overwhelmed, and some state agencies will say or do anything to make these kids someone elses problem. In the case of foreign adoptions, the problems are worse. Many fly by night agencies, anxious to get into the deep pockets of Americans desperate to adopt a child, will hide the child’s past. I’ve care for foreign-born children with horrific backgrounds who will always require mental health services.

Susan Miller said...

I have worked in the mental health field and fairly extensively with horror stories just like the one you are speaking of. These kids get lost in a system more times than not. So what do we do? I don't know...I'm not that smart but I know that these kids no matter how damaged need love, also.

Anonymous said...

I am a foster mother in the process of adopting 3 foster sons ages 3, 6 and7. I knew some of their past but not everything and the key to knowing is asking. These agencies should be willing to give you every bit of past and trouble these children have had in their pasts. We have had these children in our home for 2 years now and are still learning. We know we have a rough road ahead of us with some of the problems they have, but we cannot and will not give up on them. They don't deserve another let down--no matter what. If you plan to adopt a foster child, aquire everything of their past and their parents past that the state and adoption agency can give you, because once your adoption becomes final, you have no more rights to any information. Just Adopt Wisely.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend that adopted two kids one who had horrible medical problems and died an early death. The fostercare system tried to hide the extent of the health issues from her. The peditrician that was seeking the kids hinted at this to my friend but nievely she continued with the adoption. It does happen.

The Curmudgeon said...

After we got past the Dickensian first day lead on the story, it came out that the would-be un-adopter was a long-time foster parent who'd won awards, etc. etc. Because of this kid, she can no longer care for other foster children -- something she apparently still wanted to do, this experience notwithstanding.

Damages for "wrongful adoption" if the cause of action might actually fly -- and I wouldn't bet the rent on it -- wouldn't get her back to the point where she could continue to be a foster parent.

On the other hand, she got state money while a foster parent, so that was cut off, too. And she owes child support until this kid is "unadopted." So I suspect that this may not be an easy problem to solve.

Motherhood for the Weak said...

This is the dark side of adoption. Some families spend upwards of $40k to adopt from Russia or Guatemala. They get the kid home and decide they don't want (or can't parent) him/her.

Whether from misrepresentation of the child's backround or a personality defect on the part of the adoptive parents, it happens.


Anonymous said...

Does it ever happen that a child wants to be unadopted. Have you ever heard of this?
Once adopted is there any escape?