Alumni Perspective

they turn 18 and their adopted family puts them out on the street and moves away without sharing their new address (like one of the youth I’m currently working with). I’ve also had cases where the adoptive parent still collected adoption subsidies for a child that they put out of the home; the child suffers from mental retardation (or MR as they call it) and was homeless at the age of 17 (another young person I’ve worked with).

Now listen, I believe that if a child is blessed enough to find a family that wants to accept them as they are and love and care for them through the most difficult times in their life, then that is a beautiful thing. However, there are a lot of young people who are victims of failed adoptions due to neglect and I believe this warrants further research and investigation to identify the reasons this occurs and ways to prevent it.  I understand that adoptions disrupt for a number of reasons that may be beyond the control of the adoptive family (the child decides they don’t want to stay, legal issues, etc.).  I am NOT speaking of those.  I’m speaking of the cases where children are abandoned, abused and even killed by an adopted family, returned to the child welfare agency or left on the street.  You may say “that doesn’t happen or if it does it doesn’t happen often” and I’m telling you it does and the only reason there isn’t the official data is because it is not being tracked.  

I’ve asked the question of “why do agencies that pay adoption subsidies feel they do not need to continue to check on the children to ensure the placement is stable and nurturing?”  I understand that adoption is SUPPOSED to be permanent and you don’t want to breathe down a family’s neck after they’ve made the ULTIMATE commitment; however if they continue to collect agency funding there should be measures put into place that will allow the monitoring of the child’s well-being. If a family does not want this, no problem- no subsidy.

There should also be a way to report these families/individuals so they are held accountable and even criminally charged with child abandonment/neglect when they leave a youth they promised to love forever – in place of their own family – out in the cold to fend for themselves with little to no concern of whether they will survive.  

For the child’s emotional safety, I also believe it is unrealistic to suggest that adoption is permanent as no relationship is individuals who work with youth in foster care can improve on how they communicate the natural progression (or regression and happen. When you use the word permanent for a relationship that has the capacity to dissolve, disappointment is unnecessarily amplified should it happen.  Being that it is more likely than not that foster placements will change, schools will change, friends will change, and possibly adoption placements may dissolve for foster youth, it would be more helpful to explain these possibilities than to pretend they will not occur.  Now, I’m not suggesting to be a “Debbie Downer” and tell youth that no relationship will ever work; I’m just saying there needs to be a more realistic approach and healthy balance to how relationships are explained to youth in foster care.  Again, I do not mean to convey that adoptions should not disrupt, as I’m sure there are cases that this may need to happen; I am specifically referring to adoptions that disrupt due to neglect, ignorance, and abandonment on the part of the adoptive family and leave the child further traumatized.

So, for those looking to adopt, you should move forward knowing that you have the power to alter the life of a young person and you are doing so intentionally.  You can alter their life for the better or you can alter it for the worst.  If you are not ready to commit to this and endure ALL of the ups and downs and challenges that are SURE to come with a child who has been disappointed and traumatized (and sure to come with ANY child for that matter and EVEN babies adopted from foster care), please DO NOT adopt.  Adoption isn’t for everyone, just like fostering isn’t for everyone.  There are other ways of getting involved that can make a positive impact on the life of a child (mentoring, volunteering, donating money/resources to an org working with this population) without overcommitting yourself.  Adoption isn’t about helping a poor little charity case or about making you look or feel better.  It is about making a real and LASTING commitment to a child who has the potential to be great and do great things; a child who needs the support of a family to guide them in the direction they were meant to go; a child needing nurturing and motivation to flourish into the great human being they were meant to be.  You are a facilitator that has the life of a child in your hands.  It is a great responsibility.  Please adopt for the right reasons.

To all those Adoptive Families who have welcomed children into your homes and have nurtured and supported them as they are growing (or have grown) and have stuck around through the good, the bad and the ugly because you genuinely LOVE them- I believe there’s a special place in heaven for you.  To those adoptive families who have further damaged the vulnerable children they’ve chosen to take into their homes by abusing them, leaving them on the streets to fend for themselves or “giving them back to foster care because you can’t tolerate them” – well, I believe there’s a special place somewhere else for you.