By Kathy Brodsky,L.C.S.W.
The recent Huffington Post article on “Re-Homing” detailed the stories of several American families, who, after adopting children from overseas, found they could not parent them. Instead of turning to the adoption community for assistance in finding new homes for these children, they turned to the internet for a solution.
To use such a tool to find homes for children is dangerous, reckless, and heartless. Parents posted information about the child they were looking to “place” and other families responded that they would welcome the child into their home. There were no professionals involved -- little or no vetting of the new homes and transfers of children took place in parking lots, playgrounds, and other public locations. The stories in the article included those of children being transferred to families with histories of child abuse and neglect. The children had no preparation regarding the change of homes. They did not know their new caretakers. They were devastated and further emotionally damaged.
For many years, the adoption community has stressed the importance of post-adoption services. Parenting is tough. Add adoption to the mix and there may be more day-to-day challenges. When children come from overseas, many have unknown histories and early childhood experiences that can affect their daily functioning and trust, of a new family. Some families are afraid to let the adoption professionals who helped with the adoption know of their struggles, for fear they will be looked upon as unable to parent. Some communities still don’t have trained professionals, causing families to look far and wide for help. When assistance is not readily available, the family may consider disrupting the adoption. In these instances, if contacted, the adoption community will help find a suitable new home for a child. In rare instances, a child may be returned to their country of origin.
The adoptive parent(s) may not have been sufficiently prepared, or planned for a difficult adoption adjustment. Their expectations may have been too high. They may not have received full background information on the child. They may not possess the ability to adjust their lifestyle, or have the flexibility to parent they thought they had. They may have provided months and years of academic or psychological services for their child, but don’t see enough progress. They may not feel they are getting sufficient support once home. None of this provides an excuse for the inappropriate re-homing of a child.
All children deserve a loving and stable home. Some children may be harder to parent. Some children require a multitude of assessments, a variety of supportive services, residential placement, or even hospice care. It may take more time and diligence to find the right home, but they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. They deserve to receive services with recognition that transitions are difficult. For children who have been uprooted from their birth families, who may have experienced multiple caretakers or settings prior to adoption and then experience the transition to a new family in a new country with new traditions, foods, habits and language, additional changes are complicated and have consequences.
As an adoption professional who works with families before, during, and after the adoption, I have seen a majority of successful adoptions. We know some families struggle with initial and long-term adjustments and that some turn to professionals in their communities for help. It is important to stress that in my 29 years of experience, re-homing is the exception to the rule. I knew when I read the Huffington Post article there would be a backlash from overseas. I knew we would see countries reacting and suspending adoptions to the United States. I knew this would be disruptive to all those in the process of adopting. I knew the waiting children would be waiting longer to see their adoptions completed. Unfortunately, within a week, we did. Countries reacted by delaying or suspending adoption proceedings.
We must make sure there are services available to all families, adoptive and others, so that no family is torn apart. There are many steps adoption experts can take. First, we must train mental health professionals on the implications of adoption and how to work with families before, during, and after the adoption to ease adjustments and prevent disruptions. Second, we must ensure that families receive pre-adoptive training regarding behavioral, emotional, academic, and social reactions and techniques to help all family members adjust. Third, we must encourage our politicians to enact laws that create a system that protects the children and provides help for the families.
As the Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of Jewish Child Care Association, we have a mission of “tikkum olam” -- the value within Jewish tradition that calls upon all of us to repair the world”. Every child deserves to grow up in a loving, caring, and secure family. May we work together as a world community to make life better for every child.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW, has been Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA since 1992. Kathy is an Advisory Board Member of AFA, was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001, and is the main contributor to Ametz’s monthly e-news. She formed her family through adoption. Kathy can be reached at or www.jccany.org/ametz. You can also follow her on TWITTER http://twitter.com/ KathyAnnBrodsky.