WHAT DOES “DISSOLVING AN ADOPTION” MEAN?

Adjusting to having a child enter your home is different for every family and typically includes some tension, difficulties, and challenges. For some families, these difficulties can be extreme and feel impossible to overcome. Post adoption services are available to assist and support families but sometimes these services are not enough to fully address the issues in the home. Parenting styles, past history of trauma, and individual attachment styles can all have an impact on the success of a placement. If these issues continue to escalate, it can result in crisis in the family and adoptive parents will make the difficult decision to find another adoptive family for the benefit of their child. This is never where an adoptive family thought they would end up but Nightlight offers services in “dissolving” the adoption resulting in a legal, permanent, and safe placement.

If you want information on the Renewed Hope program, contact Kim Letteer at kim.letteer@nightlight.org.

Overview of Renewed Hope Program for Placing Parents

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How do we determine what is best for the child and our family?

Ask yourself: am I having difficulty with the child because of negative behaviors or personality and find we have gotten into a negative cycle? Can the cycle be broken if I, as the parent, change my attitude and do not view all the child’s behavior as negative. Or is this child’s behavior so bad that my family is in danger? If a child puts your family in danger, then most likely it is time for at least having a break from each other and finding a safe place for each person.

Sometimes families do not feel attached to the child. This can happen when a child is first adopted, and the family believes that with time, the feelings of affection will grow—as is often the case. Perhaps you feel that these feelings are not developing and wondering if the placement is right for the child. If a parent does not find some level of joy in the child, then the parent and child cannot bond.

Other times, a family realizes that before adopting a child, the decision seemed so right; but upon having a child in the home, the experience is very different from what was expected. If you do not feel attached to the child and do not believe that you and the child can make the effort for your child heal, then it may better to consider a new family.  If no progress is being made, it may be better to find a new family as soon as possible.  As a practical matter,  the younger the child, the easier it is to find a child another home and for the child to make a transition.

Most parents who are struggling truly love the child but at times feel unattached and certainly cannot tolerate the child’s negative behaviors and attitudes. These parents want help but are unsure if the child can heal and if they as parents have the resources and wherewithal to make the placement succeed.

There are many resources for families who are determined to continue parenting—even if it involves the child having more outside care, counseling, and in-home intervention.

What if we are having problems but do not want to dissolve the adoption but need help and perhaps some respite care?

If you need help, we encourage you to first contact your home study or placing agency. If this is not feasible, please call us. We can provide confidential counseling by phone or in our office to see where your needs are and what resources are available to you. Counseling/coaching sessions can be set up

Additional resources for parents facing a child with attachment and behavioral issues can be found on the Creating a Family website. While books and online resources may be helpful, some families may require more intensive counseling—not just for the child—but for each member of the family, which is why it is best to discuss your case with your adoption workers. In addition to the resources found at Creating a Family, there are workshops, conferences, and retreats for professionals and the parents with children who face these issues.

What happens when the child must leave the home?

If a situation is intolerable to the child, the other children in the home, and to the parents, dissolving the adoption, although a last and often very sad solution, is sometimes an option that must be considered.

In general, the process is one in which the placing legal parents complete information on the child, submit the child’s psychological, social, and medical background information for professionals at the agency to review. The agency also interviews the placing adoptive parents to determine the child’s strengths and the factors that have led to the parents’ wanting to have the child live elsewhere.

The staff will also ask the placing family what type of family they seek for the child and what family constellation do they believe would be best for the child.

If possible, the child will remain in the home until another family can be found. Some situations are more extreme, and the child may have to live in a therapeutic foster home, a residential school, or be in respite care until a new family can be found. Often a respite home gives us a better idea of the child’s behavior as the negative cycle can deescalate and the child gets a fresh start. Often the respite home can provide a more objective view of the child’s challenges.

The child will be prepared for the next family and counseling can be offered to the placing family and child. Sometimes the parents and child have already been in counseling and the adoptive parents no longer wish to continue in counseling. Regardless of the first family’s commitment to continued therapy, the child will most likely need some counseling to help in the transition.

If the child is older or has more serious medical or psychological issues, the child’s profile may be featured through various sources such as an email to a specific group of prospective adoptive parents. Of course the child’s identity will not be given and limited background information will be provided to the public.

Once a seriously interested and qualified potential family is found, this family will be given all information about the child, including all medical, psychological, and educational reports as well as information from the foreign country if the child was adopted internationally.

The placing family will be informed of this new family and provided details. We will encourage the families to talk with each other as well. From there a transition plan will be put into place based on the parents’ locations, the child’s situation, and legal considerations. The child’s foreign paperwork, including documentation of citizenship will also be obtained for the next family.

Once a plan is in place, we highly encourage both sets of parents to proceed with an adoption and not a guardianship. Please note: A guardianship is not means to avoid going through Interstate Compact on the Placement of Child and can be illegal. Nightlight can guide you to make arrangements that are safe and legal.

How are families found for children of disrupted adoptions?

Finding a new family is not always easy. The adoptive families open to adopting children from a disruption often believe that they are taking greater risks than average adoptive parents adopting an older child. After all, these children have displayed behavioral problems, and these new parents are apprehensive, fearing that they may also find themselves in the same situation as the first adoptive family. This is simply not true. In virtually all situations in which the second family was well screened, well-educated about adoption related issues, and open to a child who may present certain challenges, the children have done very well. In fact, at Nightlight our experience is that the parents and the children adjust well. In nearly all instances, the children do not show the reported pathological problems that were noted by the first family.

It is not that the first adoptive parents were wrong. Instead, the needs of the adoptive child are not a good fit for the abilities of the adoptive family. Children present different needs, and parents have different abilities. The goal of successful adoption is to find a great match between these two.

What about the child’s history? Is the child more likely to disrupt again?

Although adopting a child from a dissolved adoption may seem frightening, parents entering into these adoptions actually know more about the child then most parents adopting children from other countries. Parents may be frightened by the “known” problems but have the advantage of more knowledge. This can help in the success of the new placement.

Who may not be able to place a child for adoption?

  1. If you have an open Child Protective Services case.
  2. If you have guardianship of the child without a finalized adoption, you will not be able to place the child for adoption.

dissolve adoption

FAMILIES SEEKING TO ADOPT A CHILD FROM A DISSOLUTION

Overview of Renewed Hope Program for Adopting Parents

Would you consider adopting a child from a dissolution?

Adopting through the Renewed Hope program  is not unlike adopting a child from the foster care system, who may have experienced several placement transitions. Adoption education regarding attachment issues, transitioning a child from one home to another, and how to parent a child who has experienced trauma is necessary to receive such a child into your home.

You will need to have a completed home study.

This home study needs to approve you for the age child/ren you are seeking to adopt. As discussed, the home study must address your preparation for a child from a dissolved adoption.

You must be willing to take part in the transition of the child to your home.

How a child transitions to your home varies depending upon the needs of the child.  You should be prepared to travel and spend time in your child’s state of residence.