Adoption Disruption And Dissolution: What Are They?


Adoption is a life changing experience for all involved.  It gives people a chance to fulfill their dreams of becoming parents.  It gives current parents a chance to expand their own family with additional siblings.  It also gives children the much needed opportunity to have their own permanent home.  Not all of stories have a happy ending though.  Adoption disruption and dissolution situations do happen when an adoption breaks down and the new family cannot stay together.


Adoption disruption happens when the adoption process breaks down before it is finalized.   The highest statistical category of adoption disruptions are with the adoption process involving special needs children at just over 14 percent.  The rest of the categories of adoption disruption rise with age.  Ages 0-2 have the lowest amount of adoption disruptions while ages 12-18 have the second highest.  It is important to note that the adoption agencies that had higher levels of support and more intensive home visits also had much lower documented rates of adoption disruption.


Adoption dissolution occurs when an adoption breaks down after it has been finalized.  Interestingly, the chance of an adoption dissolution increase by 6% for each additional year of the adoptive child’s age.  Even more interesting is that for each year of experience of the case manager handling the specific adoption, the chances of an adoption dissolution decrease.  The highest category of adoption dissolution occur with children that have been emotionally or sexually abused.  Children in private adoptions were less likely to go through adoption dissolution then children that were in the welfare program.

It is avoidable

Adoption disruption and dissolution clearly increases in homes that experience lower levels of screening and post adoption support.  In extreme cases, children have been placed into homes that were more harmful to themselves then had they remained in their pre-adoption placement.  This is a lack of insight into the individual adoption situation.  Regardless of the reasons for the adoption failure most of these cases are completely avoidable with better pre-placement screening.

Behavioral issues and special needs are an ongoing and difficult situation for both the children and the parents.  Proper care needs to be given to ensure all involved are properly informed before an adoption proceeds.  Extreme care needs to be taken in follow-up support visits after the adoption is finalized.  While some cases are unexpected, many can be detected and avoided before they happen.

It affects us all

An adoption disruption or dissolution is a traumatic situation for each family member involved. For the children, it is the lasting memory that the family that was supposed to love them, didn’t.  For the parents it is the haunting disappointment that they failed as parents.  While in most cases, this is far from the truth, it does not stop the hurt and pain from a failed adoption.  It is not hard to see how easy it is for a child to distance themselves from the next family that tries the same process all over again.  In these cases, it is important not to place blame, it is important to understand what went wrong and to prevent it from happening again.

How to heal

Just as everybody is different, so is their healing process from a failed adoption.  For children, it is imperative that their social worker monitors their post adoption daily life.  They need to be assured that they are simply still waiting for the right family.  There are many factors involved and that they themselves are not the cause of the adoption failure. For the parents, their case worker needs to carefully access what broke down and work with them to find a child that better suits their situation.  They need to provide extra home care visits and monitor their level of ability for the type of child that they would like to adopt.

Those willing to adopt children with special needs or with behavioral issues really need to be sure that they are capable of caring for that child long-term.  This commitment is more than just a mental preparedness.  Parents need to be able to provide both the financial and time commitments that will be necessary in these cases.  Parents with additional children need to ensure that everybody involved, including their own children are able to be matched to a child that they are best able to bond with.  Adoption disruption and dissolution is not the fault of a single factor. There are many factors that lead up to an adoption failing to work.  In these traumatic instances, blame should not be laid; the focus should be on what went wrong, and to prevent it from happening again.

This article was written by Adam Benett, who works for a reputed adoption agency and has seen the fall-out of a disrupted adoption.


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