It takes more than love: What happens when adoption fails

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By Diane Mapes

Famous moms like Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Charlize Theron have brought adoption into the limelight, and perhaps even made it look easy. But what happens, and who’s to blame, when an adoption doesn’t work?

In as many as a quarter of adoptions of teens, and a significant number of younger child adoptions, the parents ultimately decide they don’t want to keep the child, experts say.

Writer Joyce Maynard revealed on her blog that that she’d given up her two daughters, adopted from Ethiopia in 2010 at the ages of 6 and 11, because she was “not able to give them what they needed.”

Other cases have been more outrageous, like the Tennessee woman who put her 7-year-old adopted son on a plane bound for Russia in 2010 when things went south. Recently she was ordered by a judge to pay $150,000 in child support.

In the adoption world, failed adoptions are called “disruptions.” But while a disruption may seem stone-hearted from the outside, these final anguished acts are complex, soul-crushing for all concerned and perhaps more common than you’d think.

“It’s heartbreaking when disruption occurs and I want to prevent it as much as possible,” says Zia Freeman, a Seattle-area adoption counselor who in her 20 years in the field has dealt with at least two dozen disruptions. “We [give parents] a huge list of behaviors to expect and they’re not fun. But I’ll have parents come back and say to me, ‘I sat through those classes and heard you say that, but I still believed it wouldn’t happen to me. That I wouldn’t get a kid that wouldn’t respond to my love.'”

On her blog, Maynard wrote that giving up her two adoptive daughters was “the hardest thing I ever lived through” but goes on to say it was absolutely the right decision for her – and the children.

She has been “severely judged by some, yes,” she told TODAY Moms in an email interview. “But I have also received well over a hundred letters of a very different sort from other adoptive parents – those who have disrupted and those who did not, but struggle greatly. The main thing those letters tell me is that many, many adoptive parents (and children) struggle in ways we seldom hear about.”

If interested in discussing family law matters, you can contact Keith Berkshire, Certified Specialist In Family Law, State Bar of Arizona, at kberkshire@roselawgroup.com

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