Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Parents Want to Return Adopted Child

It’s a shocking story: Tony and Melissa Wescott of Oklahoma want to change the laws to allow them to return their adopted child. The boy was unnamed in the article, but let’s call him “John”.

John, an 11-year-old, has been diagnosed with several severe mental health issues and this family is living in fear of him. They’ve found several knives under his mattress and he had set a trash can in his room on fire.

John had been in foster care, and when they adopted their son, documents disclosed by law from the Department of Human Services indicated that the boy "has no difficulty with attachments and he knows right from wrong .... He does not demonstrate any significant behavioral problems which would be considered abnormal for a child his age.

"(The child) has not received counseling services and these services have not been indicated as a need for him at this time. (The child) is developmentally appropriate."

"We were told he was a normal boy who would have the normal adjustment issues any child in foster care would have," Melissa Wescott said. "We have been his biggest advocates and strongest fighters. But we are scared of him, and that hurts us."

Problems arose shortly after the adoption. Doctors diagnosed John with reactive detachment disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The Westcotts sent him to a psychiatric hospital and he is to be released next month, but the family wants him to be returned to the Department of Human Services so John can get additional help. This family cannot afford the kind of help John needs.

The family joined a group that is lobbying the state to allow adoptive parents to return custody of foster children to the state in special circumstances. Advocates say adoptive parents should not be punished if children have major disabilities that were not known or disclosed prior to adoption.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) indicates that when one adopts from the public foster care system, kids can have “…a multitude of significant, lifelong problems including: reactive attachment disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome and/or effect, learning disabilities, sexual aggression, and mental health diagnoses. Most adoptions are successful; however research shows that three to ten percent of all older child adoptions will end in dissolution.”

Sometimes it’s in the child’s best interests to be removed from the home and provided with residential treatment or therapeutic foster care, and there are times that one must have a legal dissolution of the adoption placement.

People who adopt via the foster care system depend on honest and accurate reports from the Department of Human Services, and when the DHS does not provide an accurate picture, they should be held responsible.

That’s the story, and here’s my input.

I’m an adoptive mom and have been in touch with a lot of people over the years and asked about this topic. When I was writing my book, several people contacted me about various issues they were facing and I did a lot of research. Many adopted kids seem to adjust well and not have major issues, but some have some very deep problems that can’t be predicted.

Our adoption was from birth and our son only knew our home and our family. Whatever happened after that, well, it’s our responsibility. People who adopt assume certain risks. When you adopt, you have to take the birthmother’s word for it that she did not drink, do drugs or engage in other dangerous behavior while pregnant. You hope the birthmother is honest about her medical history and, if you’re lucky, you learn the birthfather’s medical history, too.

Two families have been in touch with me regarding their adoptions. One family has two children adopted at birth from different birthmothers. The older child has some minor issues, but the younger one is already a danger and he is 6 years old. He has extreme tantrums and has tried to harm each member of the family. The parents have hidden whatever they feel may be dangerous and locked up kitchen knives. They lock him in his room at night and lock their own doors against him so they can sleep, but they worry about what may happen if there’s a fire or other hazard. They’re living in fear of this child and the last few years have included visits to all kinds of experts to diagnose and treat him.

The second family has a 12-year-old son who was adopted at 8 from the foster care system and another child who was 2 when adopted, is 10 now. They turned to this option as it seemed a financially viable way to build a family and they are good-hearted people. The younger child has needed a lot of therapy but seems to be on a good path, but the 12-year-old may be returned to the state. Like the family in the story, this family was told the boy had some issues but treatment would help him. They later discovered that both parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol; he’d been placed in 12 homes in a 4 year period and had already been through 2 failed adoptions. The past 4 years have been a nightmare for this family. He has threatened them and pulled knives on them - when they locked up the knives he used forks. Almost anything can be a weapon, and they are more fearful the older he gets and the bigger he becomes. They are terrified of him and living with fear and regret. This is destroying their family. Isn’t the DHS responsible for this mess by intentionally withholding information that would have altered the decision to adopt?

What is your opinion?

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