The Loss of Adoption

When a child is adopted, you’d think someone like me would be thankful.  And really, I am, but what you may not know is that someone like me is also terrified the family adopting a child forever won’t last forever at all.

In my time working in adoptions, I remember the face of every child whose adoption failed.  I remember the pain, the guilt, and the unrelenting anger I felt.  I remember the sleepless nights.    

And I remember devoting myself to doing almost anything to keep that kinda thing from happening again.  In case it’s not clear, that’s why Stand Up Eight was created. 

Because the adoption process is hard, y’all.  Hardest of all for the kids.

One adorable seven-year-old comes to mind immediately.  Let’s call him Jack.

Jack was funny, athletic, friendly, and loving.  He had a sweet smile, liked motorcycles, and hated bath time.  He was also manipulative, moody, and explosive. 

Jack was removed from his biological mother by Child Protective Services for abuse and neglect when he was four years old.  His mom had struggled with substance abuse and addiction for years already when Jack was born. 

She was unable to protect him, and he was physically and sexually abused by her boyfriends and other random strangers.

Even at four years old, Jack was moved from foster home to foster home for all sorts of reasons, but when he was placed with a foster mother who had been fostering for years, things changed for Jack. 

This foster mother was different than those before her.  Her heart was made for the Jacks of the world, and there was nothing he could do that would make her stop loving him. 

She would not give up on him like the others did, and he began to thrive in the midst of his heartbreaks.

Fast forward two years.  Jack’s biological mother couldn’t prove to the court she could care for him, and sadly, her parental rights were terminated.  As a result, Jack was available for adoption.

An adoptive family was selected for him, and by most accounts, they were perfect.  They had big hearts, a steady knowledge of how to care for kiddos with trauma history, parenting experience, the list goes on. 

They met Jack on multiple occasions and couldn’t seem to make him part of the family fast enough.  Jack moved in and called them mom and dad.

But, like other families, this family didn’t feel equipped to love Jack and realized caring for two children rather than one was more work than they really wanted after all. 

And so, after only two months, Jack was told, “You can’t live here anymore.  We’re not your mom and dad anymore.”

Another adoptive family was selected for Jack, and by some accounts, they were perfect.  They had big hearts, years of experience as foster parents, a biological child, an adopted child, an understanding of the hurt caused to Jack, the list goes on. 

Jack was told, “We’ll never give up on you!  How dare those other people let you down!”

But then, they gave up, too.  Just like that. 

Jack “wasn’t what they’d signed up for,” and they realized they didn’t believe he was a good fit for their family after all.

That meant that by the time he was in second grade, Jack had been abused, neglected, and abandoned by every adult in his life, other than that one foster mother. 

Unlike everyone else, she had loved him unconditionally.

I’m not entirely sure what happened to Jack, but last I heard years ago, he had been adopted by a kind couple who devoted themselves completely to his healing, no matter the cost, and he was thriving once again with his forever family.

And of course, that’s the post-adoption happy ending we all want. 

But adoption never happens without significant loss.  Jack’s losses were immeasurable, not the least of which were his biological family, multiple foster families, and two forever families.

I can still see the shocked, terrified look on his face each time I moved him from one home to another, and although it doesn’t get any easier as the years go by, it fuels me to do whatever it takes to keep forever families forever.

Jen Reichert