When Adoption Ends

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It’s not uncommon for adoption to land in the news when it involves someone famous. Headlines usually give happy, cheerful one-sentence introductions like:

“(Actress) adopts daughter from foster care” 

“(News anchor) adopts a baby”

However, there are times when adoption makes news for another reason. In 2020, YouTube Influencer Myka Stauffer and her husband, James, made headlines for “re-homing” their 5-year-old internationally adopted child. The most common question in response to such a story is "How could this happen, and why? Isn’t adoption permanent?" The truth is that articles and headlines only offer a peek into these complicated situations that are painful for all involved. Adoption seems so permanent, right?  To help you better navigate these stories, let’s review two terms that are commonly used when adoptions fail.

What is adoption disruption?

Disruption is the end of an adoption placement which was still in process. The adoption has not yet been legally finalized. You may also hear this referred to as a failed adoption, one that does not go through to completion for one reason or another. 

What is adoption dissolution?

Dissolution is the end of an adoption. It is a legal break in the tie between adoptive parent and adopted child. Dissolution happens after legal finalization of the adoption. When the child is then placed with a new adoptive family, you may also hear this referred to as re-homing a child.

Why do adoptions fail?

Some families who choose to adopt do face enormous struggles and barriers to obtaining needed services, not to mention the cost of those services. There are many reasons adoptions might fail, here are just a few: 

  • Birth parent changes their mind.
  • Adoptive parents change their mind.
  • Family member comes forward to adopt.
  • Paperwork being incorrect or documents not being processed.
  • Some children are allowed to say whether or not they would like to be adopted.
  • Unethical practices by an agency.
  • Death of a child and/or adopting parent.
  • Presence of emotional and behavioral issues. 
  • Presence of physical disabilities.
  • Lack of social supports.
  • Unrealistic expectations or inadequate parental preparation and training.
  • Inadequate or insufficient information on the child’s history.

Adoption dissolution and disruption are both accompanied with feelings of great loss. Families facing either should work directly with their adoption professional to discuss the legal aspects of their situation. Additionally, they should lean on family and friends to see them through what is, assuredly, an unexpected turn in their family’s adoption story.

When adoption ends, a family may feel judged by countless people who are not aware of the details of the situation. But the reality is that these families have often come to the conclusion that a new home, with a different dynamic, would be in the best interest of the child. 

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Michelle Vernon


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