KEEPING THE PROMISE: The Critical Need for Post-Adoption Services to Enable Children and Families to Succeed

This week the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute published a lengthy report calling for improvement in post-adoption services.

The executive summary starts with the following observation:

Several months ago, when the media focused the nation’s attention on yet another sensational adoption story – this time about a Tennessee mother who put her 7-year-old son on a plane back to Russia – all sorts of disquieting questions flowed through people’s minds. They ranged from the rhetorical (“What kind of mother would do such a thing?”) to the important (“Are children in orphanages being adequately cared for before adoption?”) to the inadvertently stigmatizing (“If a child can be so easily `returned,’ is adoption really permanent?”).

Most child welfare and adoption professionals watched the drama with better-trained, more experienced eyes, however, and so they raised very different questions. For example: “Did the mother get accurate information about the boy before adopting, as well as training and education, so she would be prepared for the challenges of parenting a child who had been institutionalized?” And, most pointedly: “Were post-adoption services readily available to her so that she could help her son, and herself, rather than giving up?”

Apparently the well trained eyes of adoption professionals saw something the stupid sheeple overlooked. Yet nothing is further from the truth. Much of the debate among non-professionals was about post-placement services and training. Apparently the professionals don't want to talk about the not so rhetorical question: "What kind of mother would do such a thing" or the not so inadvertently sigmatizing “If a child can be so easily `returned,’ is adoption really permanent?”.

Both questions are not addressed in the report, since it's not so much a scientific investigation into the failings of the adoption system, as it is a policy piece to push for more adoption subsidies.

The question "What kind of mother would do such a thing" is an important one, because it relates to the question, "how did this person get approval for adoption?".

Nowhere in the report is any mentioning of home studies. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute seems to  assume all problems stem from damage done to children in orphanages. While this is certainly a factor that plays a role in the outcome of adoption, it seems to completely ignore the role of adoptive families themselves. Was Lydia Schatz beaten to death because of her background in Liberia, or was she beaten to death because her adoptive parents adhered to brutal child rearing methods? Was the life punched out of Nina Hilt because she couldn't love her adoptive mother enough, or because Peggy Hilt couldn't control her all consuming urge to be a beloved mother? Did Lacey Whisenhunt somehow ask for her sexual abuse, or was she really adopted by sexual perverts? Could it be that some adopted children rightfully don't trust the family they are placed with?

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute doesn't address these questions. Nor does it address the other important question “If a child can be so easily `returned,’ is adoption really permanent?”. Adoption agencies are all too eager to present adoption as something rosy, calling adoptive families "forever" families. So if something started the stigmatizing, it's the adoption industry itself. The Adoption Institute may want to brush off the question, by calling it stigmatizing, but it actually is a relevant question to ask. Are adoptive parents willing to step up the plate when it is necessary? Would Tory Hansen have dumped a child born to her at the local orphanage if things hadn't turned out so great. This issue too boils down to how are people screened before adoption. Those people not willing to make a huge effort, shouldn't be allowed to adopt in the first place.

As usual the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has delivered a report entirely written from the point of view of adoptive parents and adoption service providers. The recommendations are therefore predictable: pump more money into a failing system, and hope for better outcomes. In the mean time nothing is being done to prevent idiots and abusers from adopting. When will the Evan B. Donalson Adoption Institute start taking the best interest of children as their focal point, or is that too much to ask for?

2010_10_20_KeepingThePromise.pdf1002.55 KB


The one thing that struck me was how it was presented. I can almost picture the EBD people reporting their findings with a 'please don't get upset with us for saying there is anything wrong in adoptionland' voice and then they quickly throw in how most families are doing just fine.

Maybe they are and maybe they're not--how do they know?



Trouble in Adoptionland....

The way I see it, many of the adoptees needing the most help are usually sold to those AP's who don't or won't use subsidized adoption services anyway.  Complicating sensitive matters even more, many children with special needs are being adopted by those with very strong religious beliefs... fundamental religious beliefs that neither encourage nor allow 'outside' professional support.  The end-result can be tragic, since many times, it's the unwanted professional outsider who can best act and serve as an objective and appropriate child advocate.    Based on my own personal observations and confessions shared with me by other abused adoptees, many less-than-fit adopters will turn to fellow (child-beating) church parishioners for guidance, teaching, and support, or they will take difficult/overwhelming matters in their own hands, keeping very serious and concerning problems and troubles to themselves.  
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Adoptionland - a place and practice that extends well past US borders - other agency approved adopters are simply not willing to acknowledge the fact they cannot handle the challenges parenting itself presents. For instance, let's look at a very recent case posted within our abuse pages, describing the fate of three children adopted by a childless professional couple living in the UK:

The court heard how Newcome-Buley had given up her work as a chemist but failed to cope with life as a mother and housewife. 

What did Dr Jill Newcombe-Buley do to her adopted children?  According to news reports, the Dr/Mom-figure

  • punched, slapped and suffocated the youngsters and even stamped on one while wearing stiletto heels
  • plunged the youngster into ice-cold baths
  • smothered them during years of 'systematic' abuse
  • used a dust bin to smash a child on the head, causing an inch-long gash in the crown.
    frequently used a pillow to suffocate the children when they would not go to sleep.

Pharamceutical company director, Dr Nicholas Newcombe/Dad-figure, admitted 'child neglect' after he failed to report his wife to proper authorities. 
Sadly, I don't think this failure to report the actions of an abusive/negligent AP is either rare or as uncommon as one would want to think. I think this is especially true if the abuser is 'the mother'.  [ often does a husband rat-out his chosen dominating abusive wife/partner to others?]  This inaction leads to various types and levels of neglect and abuse an adopted child is forced to endure if/when a PAP/home-study is investigated superficially, not thoroughly and extensively.  In the above case mentioned, the wife was "later" diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.   [Just how much 'later' was this diagnosis made?  When, exactly, did her behavior become unstable?  Before or after the children?]  This begs the question -- what happens in those cases where the parent-figure has an undiagnosed or well-hidden dysfunction/mental disorder that worsens during periods of stress?  What happens in those cases where the seemingly perfect camouflage (well-functioning marriage/family-life) is actually fronting the secret-life of a (violent or non-violent) mentally ill individual, or worse, pedophile?
Simple facts existing in Adoptionland need to be addressed, especially since the end of gay adoption bans will increase the pool of prospective parents.  Some of the cases we have already collected these past few years prove just how lenient home-studies can be, and how resistant AP's can be to 'additional family services'.  The obvious question has to be asked -- Why?  Why are home-studies not more comprehensive and standardized and why would a partner or spouse  'fail' to report' an abusive Aparent to appropriate authorities, especially if that other parent-figure has a mental illness?   Is it because these should-be reporting individuals fear the adoption will not be granted, or once adopted, the much wanted child(ren) would be taken away, and placed somewhere else? What dark-truths are should-be-reporting individuals hiding, and what is it they fear, and wish to avoid, most?  Last but certainly not least, WHAT is being gained when any form of child abuse goes ignored, dismissed, and allowed to continue?  Seriously folks, after all an adoptable child has been through, doesn't that potential adoptee deserve 'better', through comprehensive adoption services?
The Evan B. Donalson Adoption Institute wants to pump more money into services that benefit AP's first, children second.  I'm not so sure adding more additional funds for adoption subsidies are what children in trouble-filled Ahomes need most.  [Given the way some Aparents choose to spend their government-issued subsidy checks, I seriously think giving self-serving AP's more money to support own a neglected/abused child will only add more profound insult to serious long-term injury.]
What seems to be lacking most in Adoption Services is quality PAP pre-screening and extensive Afamily follow-up investigation and study.  What does The Adoption Institute say about any "preventative measures" in their latest report?   What is this (paid, respected, and supported) study-group from The Adoption Institute suggesting, so negative outcomes for parents and their adopted children can be minimized or prevented? 

post adoption services

I know, I know you are sick of me saying this.... but all that it usually ends up being is attachment therapy anyway....  you know face licking, holding therapy

there was also a program here locally that just seemed to go out of its way to just remove the child when the parents asked for help

I am always a little weary of any free public service though...



More, like you

Opinions, based on your own personal experience, deserve to be heard, written, and shared, over and over and over again... even if some within the adoption industry find that opinion real bad for business.

Personally, I wish Adoptionland had more outspoken AP's like you.

Pound Pup Legacy