The nature of my practice exposes me to stories that you would not believe. Some of them play out like Lifetime Television movies. When the story ran in the New York Times about the Russian adoptee who was simply put on a flight back to Moscow when the adoptive parents decided it ‘wasn’t working,’ it made front page news. Sadly, unsuccessful foreign adoptions do happen and sometimes with horrific consequences.
I am sharing this hypothetical which is based on nearly identical events that have occurred in a number my cases. Despite thousands of miles of distance between the countries of origin, the stories are strikingly formulaic:
1. A loving couple in Phoenix, Arizona wants to grow their family through adoption.
2. They are open minded and willing to adopt older children from other countries.
3. They are willing to adopt a sibling group.
4. An adoption agency presents them with pictures of the sibling group and some rudimentary information about the children. They learn that the siblings have a common Mother but different fathers who have abandoned or are otherwise unable to care for the children.
5. The family flies to an impoverished country to visit with the children they have only seen by picture.
6. The children do not speak English, but they are starved for attention that they deserve and quickly the adoptive family is smitten.
7. The adoption agency, ostensibly in conjunction with the foreign government, provides further information regarding the children’s history.
8. Through the legal process, the children are adopted and come to live with their new families in America.
9. For many of Arizona’s adoptive parents, this is the best decision of their lives. But for some, this is the beginning of a nightmare.
10. Parents start noticing behavioral issues that go beyond the language gap. They ask their pediatrician for guidance and are referred to behavioral specialist.
11. There a preliminary diagnoses such as R.A.D. (Reactive Attachment Disorder).
12. Parents start to reconcile that this is not going to be a problem that is fixable with simple behavioral modification or medication.
13. Then, the parents learn that the older child has been sexually abusing a younger sibling. The police are called and CPS begins their investigation.
14. Quickly it is determined that the younger child is at grave risk while in the presence of the older sibling and CPS will intervene with a Dependency action through the Court.
15. During the investigation the child discloses he has perpetrated not only on the sibling, but on neighborhood children since moving to America. It is also confirmed that he was sexually abused while in his native country.
16. Court hearings for the Dependency/CPS matter will be scheduled and CPS reunifying the family may be impossible.
This story is not meant to discourage adoptions. It is intended to remind parents to fully contemplate the adoption commitment. You cannot simply send the child home as the parents did with the Russian boy. Adopting parents must demand full disclosure. If it is remotely possible that the children were sexually or physically abused, you need to consult with a local psychologist with an expertise in these issues and line up qualified therapists to proactively address the psychological damage done to the child who was likely sexually victimized themselves.
If you are interested in reading the New York Times adoption article, I have provided the link below.