Saturday, October 18, 2008

Disrupting an Adoption

Disrupting an adoption is brutal. It is something I am familiar with and I have seen happen, most recently in my own home with the adoption of my new daughter, Genea.

Disrupting an adoption is a subject going around blogs at the moment, so I decided to jump on in. To "disrupt" means that adoptive parents have gone to court and had their parental rights terminated forever. The child is then without parents and goes to any of several possible places, with another family, to a group home, to a foster home, etc. Sometimes the child is re-adopted, sometimes not.

Like many people, I had never even heard of the idea, and I never knew it was possible. About 10 years ago I was in charge of a treatment group home in a large city for young girls who had been sexually abused. To be placed in this home, the children who were between 5 and 12, had to be so damaged they were un-placeable elsewhere and could not remain in their homes if they had one at all. This was the last stop before institutionalization. Most of the girls were in CPS custody, there were a few that still had parents but most had been taken from conditions of abuse and neglect and parental rights had been terminated by the state.

One of the little girls was named Laney. She had been placed as an infant with her adoptive family and by the time she got to the group home she was 12. Without going into a long history, her parents terminated their rights saying that when CPS placed her 11 years earlier, they never told the parents that Laney's birth mother had abused drugs while pregnant. I judged this family with every bit of anger and degradation I could throw at them. Not that I ever met them because they came to the house exactly one time, and that was to drop her off. Every bit of hatred and bile and frustration and helplessness that I felt for the abusers of all of the children I aimed at this family. For a long time.

Fast forward many years and I am living in the midwest, I have had Teena who is about a year old and I see an ad in the paper for volunteer guardians. It is a program in the state to provide guardianship for adults with disabilities who have no one willing or able to take care of them. Elderly people with no family left, ''incompetent'' adults who have mental illness, people like this. My ward, as is the terminology, is an 18 year old young lady who was adopted as a baby after suffering abuse so horrid it damaged her mental capacity permenantly and put her in a full body cast. As a baby. No member of the family, who placed her in a group home at the age of 14, not one is willing to be her legal guardian when she reaches legal adulthood.

Then comes Genea and I have written about her and Teena and our family many times so this blog contains a lot of information and little stories about them and how they became sisters and how Genea became our daughter. There is no secret that Genea lived with another family who legally terminated their parental rights so that she was free to be adopted again, by us. She was adopted by this family from Ukraine when she was about 15 months old and lived with them until she turned 4.

It is easy to take aim and fire at the first family. What kind of horrible person does this? How could anyone be so wretched as to un-adopt an orphan? It is so vile of a thing to consider you want to wash your brain for the thought to disappear. But.

They did everything. And when everything failed, they did more. And when more failed, they stuck with it and still tried. No one spends $35,000 and a year of their life to give up. No one spends thousands and thousands of dollars and a year if they are lucky, two years for some to bring a child into their home and then change their mind when the child cries.

I have Genea's medical records. I will not go into all the details but I am going to summarize. Something was not right with Genea from the beginning. They took her to the pediatrician. They took her to specialists. They took her to 5 different medical professionals before they got a diagnosis from a Pediatric Endocrinologist which turned out to be similar to Addison's syndrome. Her body did not make a certain hormone it needed.

At the same time they knew she was having emotional problems that went WAY beyond what they had been told to expect. They called their agency. The agency told them to go for counseling. They went. And when that didn't work, they went to another clinic and tried again. And when that didn't work they were sent to a specialist in autism where she was diagnosed with moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder. They went to yet another clinic to get help for the autism. But by now they are done. They cannot do it. They have gone so far past what they are able to handle that they are destroyed. Literally. Genea is re-diagnosed with anaclymic depression and has been labled with failure to thrive as well. She had not grown for 2 years.

They went looking for another family to take Genea into their home. We were not looking to adopt a child, but became aware of the situation and decided to do it.

The original adopting parents had been devastated and they seperated soon after the termination hearing and are planning to divorce. They have been wiped out financially and emotionally. Their families have turned on them. Her parents tried to intervene and cost us thousands of dollars in trying to stop the adoption. Having a child with multiple disabling conditions can be isolating, and they no longer had any friends. Genea looked, and still looks, on the surface to be an average ordinary little girl. From the outside it was obvious where the problem was, squarely with those parents. And wouldn't it be nice if it was that easy.

Genea is working, and we are working, hard. The changes in her have been termed, more than once, a miracle. She is in kindergarten and acts just like the average child. Her problems are far less severe but they are still there. What made the difference? I don't know for sure really. I suspect that the neurological was driving the physiological was driving the emotional was driving the neurological. If that makes sense. Her little body had created this impenetrable cycle. I will write about that in another post because there is a lot to it and I have learned so much in research.

I remember early on being in the grocery store with Genea when suddenly she went into one of her hard core tantrums. The kind where a comparison could be made to a wild animal, and I am squatting down trying to calm her and a woman walks past us and gives me the fake sympathy look and says, awwww. And I thought lady, you have NO IDEA what you are judging. None.


  1. Hi, Essie! I found your blog from Christine's and enjoyed your last few posts. Just wanted to say hi and let you know I was reading.

    I really appreciate your note, it makes my day!

  3. Essie, I'm so glad to find another mother like you, walking through a similar path. I'm honored that you wanted to link my blog to yours and I will do the same. Thanks for finding me!

  4. Hoover Mom you seriously wipe me out! I have freaked out Teena more than once by laughing so hard I get tears. I am considering new nicknames for my girls. Dyson for sure, and maybe Dirt Devil for the other?


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