Buyer’s remorse: that’s when the anticipation of purchasing a big-ticket item is greater than the event itself. It’s a crude comparison, but many adoptive parents experience a fair amount of disappointment after an adoption, either because of the stark realization that the adoption is now final or because new behaviors of the child arise after the completion of the adoption that the adoptive parent was not prepared for. Whatever the reason, the feelings of “wanting a refund” can be pretty powerful. Can you give your adopted child back? Can adoption be reversed?
There are two options, depending where you are in the process. One option is called a disruption, when the child is placed in your home during a trial period before the finalization. The second option is called a dissolution. This is a legal term that involves the termination of parental rights, basically reversing the adoption. Either option can be heart-breaking for you as well as the child. Every time a child has a move, it sets him or her back about six months in emotional development. Please consider your decision carefully. In any case, consult with child welfare professionals, as well as an attorney, if you get to the point of a dissolution. But before you move to either decision, please consider the following:
1. Get respite
Don’t feel guilty for taking a break. Everyone needs to recharge his or her batteries—after all, we are not Energizer Bunnies! Respite is a time when another person cares for your child for a few hours or a few days. You take time off from work and time away from your partner, so why not take time off from your child? Find one or two consistent, trustworthy, reliable people who understand the complexity of trauma, and set up regular times when they will assist you with your child. If your child is enrolled in a behavioral health clinic in your state, she may be eligible for behavioral health respite. These respite providers are specially trained in the individual needs of your child. Agencies like CASA or Big Brothers/Big Sisters also have mentorship programs that can really assist your child. Respite also provides a change of pace for your child; sometimes she needs a break from you! When she returns from respite, spend quality and quantity time with your child and let her know you missed her and she is loved.
2. Get support
Adoptive parents can be tempted to become Lone Rangers once the adoption is finalized. The thought many adoptive parents have is, “If I admit I need help, I may not be viewed as a good parent.” I know that first hand, because I used to think that way. We were tempted to disrupt on more than one occasion. Our first child was defiant, stomped his feet at us, spit at us, and had terrible night terrors his first year. Realizing that we could not do it alone and reaching out to counselors, teachers, pastors, and God for help gave us the boost we needed. Find a foster/adopt support group in your area that is sensitive to your needs and the needs of your child. Finding a community of like minds helps when everyone shares the burden. Also, with the proliferation of information on the Internet, online support groups are all the rage. Podcasts, radio programs, books, and magazines that focus on adoption are also becoming more abundant. The greater the special needs of your child, the greater the support you will need.
3. Get counseling
Get counseling for your child, yourself, and your family. Adding a child to your home can be a daunting task. Adding a child with special needs can be incredibly daunting! He may have needs that you are not prepared to handle. He may have emotional needs that need to be addressed such as, “Why didn’t my family want me?” or “Why did my family hate me?” Those questions need to be addressed in counseling. Search for a counselor who specializes in post-adoptive attachment issues. Play therapy or family therapy may prove beneficial. If raising a traumatized child has brought back memories of your childhood, you may need counseling to deal with unresolved issues. If you go through with the removal of the child, your family may need counseling as well. Don’t feel bad. It’s characteristic of a strong, humble person to ask for help.
In the end, you have to do what is best for your family. But keep in mind that adopting a child is disruptive in and of itself. Your life will be changed one way or another. Do not make this decision lightly. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who know and understand attachment and trauma. Also, develop a plan for post-removal: Where will the child go next? How will you explain to the child what has happened? Will there be any contact afterward? Remember, this move has tremendous implications not only for you, but also for the child.
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.