Parenting is forever: Contemplating adoption in the news

So, I'm sure you have heard the latest shocking story to rock the adoption world. This couple walked away from their 9-year-old child, whom they had adopted from foster care when he was an infant. They claim he had threatened them and their other children with a knife. They are being indicted on charges relating to the abandonment of the child.

This story, following on the heels of the Reuter's series that investigated the "re-homing" of adopted children, has sent shockwaves through the adoption community, dealing harsh blows to both domestic and international adoption programs.


I remember our early days of family-hood. The days when Little Man had just come home and I was scared to death and worried that I didn't have the tools I needed to care for this hurting, grieving child.

There's been plenty of tough times since then. Yes, sometimes parenting feels like too much. More than we can handle. It's hard, no doubt about it.

But these stories...I wonder, were these parents ill-equipped? Poorly informed? What could have been done to prevent the dissolution of their families?

We all know bio families gone wrong. Where the parents kick the kids out or the children run away, are taken away, or placed in foster care. Unfortunately those stories are pretty common and hardly shocking anymore. We might view the parents with disdain, but they aren't typically the subject of the contempt and rage that people are aiming at the adoptive parents who have stopped parenting.

In the media and in the public, being a bad adoptive parent is a much more egregious act than just being a bad parent. Adoptive families are held to a different standard---and rightly so. We made intentional choices to care for these children (not that bio families don't also do this). But our children come to us with deep hurts. We know before they arrived how vital it was (and likely difficult as well) that we give them a safe forever home. That we love them despite the hurts that sometimes make loving them difficult. That we never give up.

We chose them. They didn't choose us. And so, it's our obligation to keep that commitment. It's absolutely imperative that we do.

So what happened to the families that chose disruption? That chose to meet in a parking lot and let strangers take their children? That dropped their child off, saying they were finished? Were these just flawed parents from the get-go? Were they inherently not able to parent? And if that's true, how in the world did they get through the adoption system?

I'm not judging here. Just really trying to understand what happened.


Why should we (as adoptive families) care about these situations? While these type of stories represent the outliers in our community---the vast majority of adoptive families do not look like this---we still must acknowledge that this happens and that there will be long-lasting effects on all adoptive families when adoptions fail.

Due to recent cases Americans are no longer able to adopt from Russia. The international anti-adoption communities are using the "re-homing" story as yet another reason against international adoption and many countries are looking at their policies when dealing with American adoptions.

In addition, parents who have abandoned their children are being charged criminally (rightly so) and in turn, this could make some people fearful of parenting a foster child. No one goes into thinking that it won't work. But if you think there's even a chance that you could be criminally charged...that might give people pause. (Then again, perhaps if you are slowed down from adopting because you fear being charged criminally, you might not be a fit adoptive parent.)

In our day-to-day lives, news reports like this contribute to the "othering" of adoptive families---the belief that that we fall outside the norm. The notion that "you can't possibly love adoptive children as your biological children" is supported, because if adoptive families loved the children as "their own" they wouldn't be surfing the web looking for someone to hand their kids off to.

And the misconception that adoptive children are more likely to be problematic, unable to accept love, difficult to manage, etc., is supported by the reasons that the parents gave for giving up their children.

These stories set adoptive families outside the norm. They are one more thing that stick in the back of people's minds. One more way they classify us.

Lastly, when stories like these come up in the news, we need to talk with our kids about them. Even a whisper of a child being abandoned by their parents could terrify an adopted child, fearing that they too could be abandoned not once, but twice. We need to be open with our children that they are safe and secure.


Here's the reporter in me---don't hate the messenger. The Reuters investigation was important. For all the painful after-effects of the story, it's vital that light is shined on this horrible practice. No matter the parents' rationale, there is never an excuse for abandoning a child like this.

Adoptive parents, don't turn your back on this. It's easy to say "I'd never do that" and walk away. But if we do, we give way to the anti-international adoption groups who will hold this up as yet another reason that international programs should be closed.

And mostly, we turn our back on kids who need help.

So don't shrink away from this. Because it hurts the overall view of adoption when the thriving stay silent in fear of being grouped with those that are failing.

Rise up, I say. Let the voices of the masses of successful adoptive families ring out. Let those who are committed to giving children a safe place to grow, and to help them work through the myriad of emotions and pain related to adoption. Heck, related to life in general.

For those of us that are dedicated to serving our kids and going to the mat for them---speak out. For us adopted parents who see "adopted" not as a permanent adjective for our children, but just the way that we came together as a family---speak out.

Let our voices be the loudest in the uproar that follows these stories. We need to be the face of adoption, not those that are failing. We shouldn't try to drown out these type of stories, but to demand solutions to these unacceptable actions.


  1. This is right-on!! I really appreciate your voice and stance on this. It can be too easy for uninformed people to have a stereotypical view of adoption to cloud any desires they may have. Also, yes, it IS hard at times, but we must be the bigger person and always choose LOVE for these precious souls that are our own!

    I also agree with you on wondering how said families got through their home study approval. Either way, I find that you as I parent it's vital to have a support system, regardless of being an adoptive family or not.

    1. Thanks, Leslie! And thanks for reading! I think as an adoptive parent our first reaction is to shrink away from these stories and silently thank goodness that it's "not our family". I've read some blogs from other parents who have responsibly (if there can be such a thing) dissolved their adoptions. I just really don't think we can understand until we are in their shoes. But it is important for adoptive families to make sure people know that ADOPTION WORKS! It's not an easy journey for child or parent, but there are WAY more examples of wonderful families than the types of families we are hearing in the news today.

  2. Sorry, Typo: "I find that as a parent.."

  3. Hmm...I didn't end up being an adoptive parent, but I am part of a family with adopted siblings. Both adoption "experiences" were night and day different from each other. One abandoned at a few days of age and fostered until becoming part of our family at 18 months. The other abandoned at 3 YEARS of age and in an orphanage until he became part of my family at age 4. As you can imagine the latter had a very hard time transitioning. It was clear that he experienced things in those first three years that no child should ever experience and it shaped who he became as an adult.

    I think many people not familiar with international adoption especially (adopting an older child from an orphanage system) think that love will fix everything. It doesn't. I know that first hand. I know what it's like to live in a house where you don't feel safe. I know what it's like to have a family torn apart by stress. While, I can't imagine ever under any circumstances reforming my child, I can see where the stress of living in a dangerous situation and feeling you have nowhere to turn could make someone consider doing something they'd never thought they would do. My family had the resources to get through things, but not all families do.

    It is not a black and white situation. Far from it, although the media is hard pressed to show it that way. I think if you read many of the adoption blogs out there today think everything is all roses. People rarely talk about the really hard adoption related stuff that comes up. They just reference "challenges" in a generic sort of way and gloss over to the good stuff. I'm not sure why that is really, perhaps because they don't want to seem ungrateful in some way? Either way, talking in the media or blogging about how hard some of these things are might make a better support system for adoptees and their families.

    1. I absolutely agree, Heather. These issues definitely need to be discussed. Things are definitely not all roses in adoption, and I know that we cannot fully understand what these parents might be pushed to.

  4. A couple of years ago these stories would have outraged me too. I'm still outraged by the abuse, but I think I've grown a thicker skin about being an adoptive family and being lumped in with these awful crazy people who do terrible things to their adoptive kids. I guess I'm just tired. I could scream and rail for the rest of my life, but there will always be trolls in the news articles on this stuff, always be someone with an axe to grind, and I think our national media is lightyears away from facilitating a nuanced conversation on this stuff. My new tact is just to raise my kids, be an example of an alternative family, be open to questions and to educate people when there is real possibility for an honest dialogue.

    1. You are right, Sarah! But this is just what I'm saying to do. Be open and out there for people to see. You don't have to go screaming and shouting about how great adoption is. (Cause we know it is!) But my fear is that families will shrink away in fear that we might be guilty by association with these awful folks. Thanks for reading and sharing!!


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